10 Iconic Restaurants in Ohio

Ohio Restaurant Association celebrates 100 years of good eating.

In 1920, the Roaring ’20s began the economic boom following World War I. The United States became an engine frenzied with progress in all areas social, artistic and cultural. With an increase in consumer demands, the idolization of celebrities and the beginning of a 13-year prohibition of alcohol, the restaurant industry began to expand. This expansion resulted in explosive growth in the 1960s and beyond due to changes in the workforce and dual-income families.

Fast forward to 2020: The Golden Age of Restaurants – where eating establishments range from fine dining, quick service, fast casual, food trucks and ghost kitchens providing delivery-only meals.

Since 1920, the Ohio Restaurant Association has been around to promote, protect and partner with Ohio’s restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry. The association has been on the front lines, serving an industry that fuels the economy and employs great people serving delicious food, while bringing communities together.

There’s no better way to celebrate ORA’s 100 years than by celebrating the association’s oldest restaurant members around the state that are still thriving and proving always to be young at heart.

The Buxton Inn, Granville

Built in 1812, this gem operated as the village’s first post office and had a cellar where stagecoach drivers cooked meals in an open fireplace and slept on straw beds. If you’re in the mood for ghosts, it is believed that some rooms are still haunted by several spirits of its deceased owners, many of which are often seen – or heard. Relax with a signature cocktail in the 1812 Lounge, enjoy a romantic dinner in the Lincoln Room or kick back with a local microbrew in The Tavern.

Spread Eagle Tavern, Hanoverton

The building is one of the finest examples of Federal-style architecture and it served as an essential link in the Underground Railroad. Since 1837, this historic location welcomes guests to any of its seven dining rooms, including the formal William McKinley room. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the Patriot’s Dining Room or the Gaver’s Rathskeller, where 12-foot-high vaulted brick ceilings and hand-chiseled stone walls offer patrons a taste of 19th-century style, entertainment and good cheer.

Arnold’s Bar & Grill, Cincinnati

The building itself dates back to 1848, but Simon Arnold didn’t open a saloon there until 1861. Legend has it he left the bathtub on the second floor to be used for bathtub gin during Prohibition. Three generations of the Arnold family lived upstairs and operated the tavern for 98 years. There have been only four other owners, including the current proprietor Ronda Androski, who runs Arnold’s as a family business. Arnold’s is a historical and legendary destination in the Queen City, known for good food served in friendly surroundings. It stands today as Cincinnati’s oldest tavern.

Bun’s Restaurant, Delaware

Since 1864, Bun’s Restaurant has been serving, well, buns, with roots tracing back to Bavarian immigrant George Frederick Hoffman. In 1927 the bakery moved to a dining room next door. The business was eventually bought by Vasili Konstantinidis, a Greek immigrant serving the community cutout cookies, fudge cake and their signature Bun Burger. An arson in March 2002 destroyed the bakery and restaurant, nearly destroying the future of the landmark restaurant. But backed by the Delaware community, the restaurant reopened two years later. There was no room to keep the bakery.

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, Columbus

Born near Frankfurt, Germany, J. Fred Schmidt settled in south Columbus in the early 1880s to open a meatpacking house in the heart of German Village, with products now sold in grocery stores around the country. His son, George L. Schmidt, kick-started the family’s first venture into the restaurant business when he opened a food concession stand at the Ohio State Fair in 1914. J. Fred Schmidt’s grandson, George F. Schmidt, is the one responsible for opening the iconic German Village restaurant, complete with its renowned monster cream puffs. The Schmidt’s concession stand at the fair still stands as well, making it the state fair’s second-oldest concession.

Bender’s Tavern, Canton

Established in 1902, the rooms at Bender’s showcase marble, tin ceilings and paneled oak walls that hold memories of the past with satisfying food, drink and hospitality for the nourishment of body and soul. Some of the first meetings for what later became the National Football League were held in a room in the upstairs part of the restaurant that served as a great drinking spot. Football player and Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe was known to frequent the bar. Enjoy their prime beef and fresh seafood from Boston, along with wine, craft beer and cocktails.

Kewpee Hamburgers, Lima

Kewpee Hamburgers, the home of the Mity Nice Hamburger, had its start in 1918 in Flint, Michigan. In 1928, Hoyt F. “Stub” Wilson and his wife, Julia M. “June” Wilson, built the first Kewpee location in Lima. As curbside service shifted, the downtown location became a drive-through, with a turntable installed to spin cars around in order to exit the lot. The final location opened in 1981 on Bellefontaine Avenue, seating up to 180 customers. With fresh beef ground daily, this favorite earns fans far and wide. You’ll love its famous slogan: “Hamburg, pickle on top, makes your heart go flippity-flop.”

Mancy’s Steakhouse, Toledo

The Mancy name has been synonymous with the promise of quality, honest value and family service since 1921. Founder Gus Mancy was born and raised on the Isle of Crete, moved to Toledo in 1916 and brought with him the tradition of cooking with only the freshest and best ingredients. Through the hard work and dedication of his grandchildren, the Mancy’s experience has become a living legend and combines the best of land and sea.

White Castle, Columbus

In 1921, in Wichita, Kansas, Billy Ingram and Walt Anderson launched White Castle with $700 and an idea. They sold five-cent, small, square hamburgers that were so easy to eat. They were dubbed Sliders and were sold by the sack. Today it sells the same original slider – 100% beef patty with onions and pickle – as well as countless other types of sliders creating memorable moments for “Craver” generations everywhere. It also recently became the first fast-food chain to offer the Impossible Burger and built its new Home Office in Columbus.

Young’s Jersey Dairy, Yellow Springs

This favorite began in 1869 when the Young family built the red barn. Then, Hap Young bought a 60-acre farm shortly after the end of World War II where they produced grain, raised hogs and milked cows. In 1958, they sold Jersey milk directly to the public using glass jugs, a refrigerator, cash drawer and the honor system. In 1960 they opened their first real dairy store and started dipping ice cream, later adding their famous fried cheese curds and other baked goods. Today they run two restaurants and many family-fun farm activities to enjoy.

Enjoy a night of fine dining at one of Columbus, OH’s top restaurants you won’t want to miss. Contact a travel agent for more information on planning your next trip out.

Homa Moheimani is the manager of media and communications for the Ohio Restaurant Association.

3 Replies to “10 Iconic Restaurants in Ohio”

  1. My gosh! Mancy’s is just one of a dozen great places in Toledo! You forgot Packo’s on the east side or La Linda’s out by the airport! The food at Sam’s in Blakeslee is worth the trip too!
    And how could you forget The Golden Lamb in Lebanon? It claims to.be the oldest in Ohio!.

    1. I was thinking The Golden Lamb, as well.
      It has existed for so long and has hosted Presidents, dignitaries, celebrities and athletes, Ohio restaurants really do not become any more iconic.

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