Calling all Dayton Locavores: John Henry’s soft opening

Night time photo of John Henry's

Was walking down to Dolcessa for some evening gelato last night when I saw that John Henry’s had its doors open for bar business.

I’m still missing the Blue Moon, but, it will be good to have another option open in the Historic Oregon District for dining. From what I understand it will be a family steak house. The address is 520 E. Fifth street- and you enter through the side door by the bar, or through the courtyard. It’s run by the same people who own the Trolley Stop, so you should see some familiar faces.

Best of luck!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!

Leave a Reply

25 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
EllaRobinLeighMikeSteve Meyer Recent comment authors
Notify of
Bruce Kettelle

That is something I really miss about living in town. Just walking down a familiar street and discovering something new has opened and being one of the first to savor it!

Phillip Ranly

I’ve got mixed feelings about it so far. I wish something as classy as Blue Moon had moved in but I’m happy a restaurant, not a bar moved in. Their sign turns me off… Is “steaks, chops, seafood…and more” and the weird wine glass really needed? Looks cheap. I reserve all final judgment though until I have a chance to go there for an evening. I wish them good luck (as long as they change that freakin’ sign!).

David Esrati
David Esrati

Phillip, stop being a design snob. Judge the food – not the look.
They said they will start serving food on July 24 07 in todays DDN

Drexel Dave

I think that Phillip pretty much sums up the failure of the effete culturalists residing in Dayton who want so bad to turn Dayton into something “classy.”

Dayton has never been, nor will it likely ever be in our lifetimes, “classy”. And therefore, “classy” restaurants don’t tend to have a real long shelf life in Dayton. Restaurants and clubs who cater to a “classy” clientèle don’t tend to have long shelf lives here in good ol’ funktown.

Of course, the entire idea of “classy” in and of itself is an incredibly laughable notion considering how we homo sapiens aren’t really anything more than a completely fallible species made of flesh and bones with hair in funny places who create stink from our bottoms.

However, I argue that Dayton’s working class heritage is one of Dayton’s strengths, not a weakness. It’s the same reason people loved New Orleans so much before Katrina: It was a working-class, multi-ethnic society that was a funky and unique collage of the cultures that created it. Dayton is very much like New Orleans in that manner. The people here aren’t rich, and they aren’t pretentious in the least. Dayton is the amalgamation of southern blacks, poor Appalachians, immigrant Eastern Europeans, and now, a growing Latin community.

And thank God, there is a very strong anti-pretentiousness vein running through the blood of most Daytonians.

I can go to the Trolley Stop and have a good dinner for under $6, and always have a reasonably priced drink. The people are friendly, and they have great live music there. They are tuned into what Daytonians want, deliver it right, and have been doing quite some time.

I’m sure it will be a smashing success, as is the Trolley Stop. And the designer crowd who longs to live in a hip enclave of Chicago will continue to see the Dayton they dream of never materialize, because the Dayton that is, is much too good to stoop to that level.

Drexel Dave

man, I sure wish this blog had an edit function for paragraph number two, although readers will hopefull refer to paragraph number three, regarding human fallibility.

Drexel Dave



Anybody who has cash is going to eat at the jOakwood Club, cough cough Flemmings, le’Burger, or the private posh clubs around Dayton, you know, the clubs David belongs to…….. Blue Moon was good but overated – sorry. They charged a bit too much, but the food was always good, and they robbed you on wine and booze. To be honest, I go to places that encourage drinking and a lot of it for a decent price – it shows that they are in touch with the common man. Flemmings charge $8.50 for Beefeaters on the rocks, two olives, slightly dirty. I used to a run place like this, and that is what we call OVERCHARGE. Blue Moon used to sell you $12 (wine shop)Pinot Noir for $9.50 per glass. Shit, did not they know some people who do this for a living do show up on their door step time to time. Word got out that they were milking the average guy, but not David, b/c his memeberships to DCC, CCN, NCRCC and Dayton Raquet Club afford him the luxaries of life. Trolley stop is fun, hopefully john henry shall be the same.


John Henry was a steak drivin’ man lawd lawd.

(And nice little rant there by DD )


I still like the Century, but earlier in the evening.

OE is fun on Saturdays. I found out about that scene when I was going to the ballet and opera and such and wanted to find a place after the show to go to and went there and found out about those indy music nights (though I was a bit overdressed).

Trolly Stop is old reliable. One of those place that on a cold wintery night you feel cozy & comfortable stopping in for a beer and some tunes.

Phillip Ranly

Wow, this is a harsh crowd sometimes. I don’t like their sign, allow me my opinion. David, who are we kidding, you’re a design snob as well. But I don’t necessarily mean that as an insult.

Drexel, it’s amazing you can sum my personality up so quickly. True insight into souls must belong to you. You said more about yourself in your rant than you did me. By the way, I don’t live in Dayton.

David Esrati
David Esrati

I went by today- and the menu’s were posted-
$12 for Gumbo- up to around $22 for the most expensive steaks. Bar menu is $6-$12 So- it seems there is something for everyone.
If you eat there- let us know what you think.

steve cohen
steve cohen

Went there September 18 with a party of five. Waited 40 minutes for appetizers, waited another 45 minutes after that for the entrees. Two ordered steaks, both were way overcooked, one was sent back. One ate a little of it rather than wait for another one. Two veal disshes were ok, rack of lamb was good. Service was inattentive at best. Maybe weekday nights are not the time to go. We won’t be going back.

David Esrati
David Esrati

I’m sorry you had such a bad experience-
I’d suggest you call them- relay your story- and see if they are willing to try to make it right. I’ve been in 2x – nothing like that- but I’ll admit- both were off peak hours.
Many small restaurants have a lot of kinks to work out when they start-
I’m leaving your comment here for all to see-
anyone else have experiences- share them here.


We visited at around 6 pm the same night and had terrific service and food – two of the pasta entrees and roast chicken, all delicious. We were also the only non-bar customers in the place during the hour we were there. I really liked the restaurant and hope their traffic picks up

Steve Meyer
Steve Meyer

I have been to John Henry’s twice and love the place. Steaks are great! You won’t be disappointed.


David Esrati
David Esrati

Last night I stopped in and tried the bar menu. Very reasonably priced, with most items from $6 to $10. Had the three mini-angus burgers- with house made kettle chips- quite tasty. Tried some of the clam chowder- a huge bowl for $5, and full of clams- I mean seriously full. Like chewing on a pack of bubble gum- only it’s calms. Really tasty.
Place wasn’t very crowded either- which was too bad. I had gone down to go to Thai 9- but didn’t feel like an hour wait (see, there are success stories downtown)- and Johh Henry’s turned out to be a great alternate- and with easy parking in their side lot.


Bad experience for us, about which I’m disappointed because we are frequent visitors to the Oregon’s restaurants. I think it was our server’s first restaurant job — he was not very helpful in a number of respects.
But the greater problem was that on only a moderately busy night, we couldn’t get our dinners….we were seated at 8:00 pm and were finally served at 9:30 pm; something about “a problem with our ticket in the kitchen.
The steaks (highly recommended by our server) were not cooked as specified, and the gumbo was more like a small bowl of broth with rice added.
The manager provided our dinners at no charge, but wasn’t friendly or apologetic about it. We won’t be going back, a shame.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Sorry Mike-
I stopped in at 10 on Sat night and ate off the bar menu. Got the food pronto- and the hand cut chips are absolutely amazing.
It seems that they are still having spotty service issues.
I’m really sorry they haven’t taken my advice on how to build their site so these comments would be on their own page- where they can do a better job of responding.



You’re a credit to the betterment of local, independent restaurants. Stick with it!


My husband was in the mood for a steak last night and neither of us felt like go to our regular haunts. We were actually on our way to Coco’s and unfortunately we didn’t just go straight there. We decided to try John Henry’s since I saw David comments about it.

We parked and found most of the staff loitering in the parking lot smoking. First clue that we should have kept going. When we went in no one was around to seat us. After calling over a waiter we sat down. We ordered an appetizer that was suppose to be served hot but wasn’t. It was cold and mushy.

Next we were trying to figure out what to have and were interested in signature dishes. Bill decided on the hanger steak and I would have gotten the Salmon but the waiter couldn’t answer simple questions about the dish so I decided not to go there and instead ordered a flatbread pizza.

The hanger steak was raw and cold inside and the flatbread was burnt. Flat out it was a bad meal.

We both really love local and independent resturants but this is one that certainly won’t make it. Lets face it we know the formula for what works – great food, great service and atmosphere. We can’t keep blaiming the chains for taking business away from the locals. I don’t see Coco’s suffering. The owner of John Henry’s might want to stop by there and see how a successful business is run.


As of April 15th, Chris (and Robin) Sassenberg took over running John Henry’s. Our original Chef is back! We are pleased to report that feedback from the customers has been VERY positive.

We opened John Henry’s to provide a relaxing and casual option for going out, with great food, hearty portions, and a friendly atmosphere. Sounds like sometimes that didn’t happen. I am so sorry that any of you had a bad experience. We vow to try our hardest with every customer-and hope to see you there.

Please note that while we are re-building staff, and trying Chef Rob’s creations for our menu, our hours are 3-10 Tuesday through Saturday.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Robin, it’s good to see that you’ve backed up and adjusted.
I’ve been singing the praises of the bar menu here- I’ve never been let down. Hopefully, everyone will come and give you another chance.
I’ve been trying to make the rounds of the new “gourmet” independents- and nothing has been worthy of a mention yet-
best of luck.


No more food at John Henry’s, and it is for sale.

We need new idea for this spot, the OD just runs people out for some odd reason. I hope someone with deep pockets takes it over.

I realize people are a little lighter in the wallet these days, and we need places that reflect that, not another steak house.

Daivd, you sould open a taco bar/ margarita bar in that spot!

Drexel Dave

One of the coolest and most hoppin’ places I went to in NYC last year, was a little spot in the village, that was a game room/bar/grill.

There was a big room, with lots of kitschy thrift store furniture providing the decor, and ping-pong tables, chess games going on, monopoly, etc…A big game/social room that felt like a rec room, but also served as a bar and grill. Lots of “creative class” types enjoying an evening of relaxation in a low-key environment.

I would love to see something like that here. It was obviously pretty cheap to put together, was unpretentious (a big problem with establishments in Dayton), and appealed to a broad demographic.


When working a night shift in this town back in the early 80’s, I drove past a Domino’s Pizza…I ventured in because it seemed strange that a chain pizza parlor would be open at 8am. They were test marketing breakfast pizzas. “Why Dayton?” I asked – since my move here from Toronto, Canada had left me feeling like Dayton was a gastronomic wasteland. They told me that Dayton was frequently a test market for food chains’ new products because if these concepts worked in Dayton, Ohio they would succeed anywhere.
What does this mean for IBO entrepreneurs that try to make culinary miracles happen in this town? It is not enough to serve decent food…part of the elegance picture is good service. Coco’s has the best service of any restaurant I have been to in Dayton. They should launch a server’s workshop – heck make it a weekend retreat!
I have tried to talk academic culinarians into organizing training for wait staff on the “Finer points of Dining” and they are too busy with cooking students. Also tried to talk our token 2nd Street Market “French Savant” – Sabine – into teaching Dayton’s front-of-the-house employees a thing or two…she also too busy.
Someone take up the sword and help restaurantuers that aspire to more class in Dayton. Maybe Miami Valley Restaurant Association could do this … the way Culture Works offers training to the art entrepreneurs. Is this making any sense?…long story short – John Henry’s food passed but they disappointed me with unrefined service!