Olive, with only 28 seats, has risen to prominence in Dayton behind the no-holds-barred creativity of its kitchen crew and their commitment to serving real food
With its reliance on locally grown ingredients and insistence that all food be prepared fresh daily and with maximum creativity, there is nothing ordinary about Olive, which calls itself, with hipster irony, “an urban dive.”
The buzz about this tiny restaurant is huge and well-deserved. There is no head chef at Olive. There are six cooks, and the lead cook for each of the three shifts is responsible for developing that day’s special, based on what local growers deliver. And the cooks are perfectly happy to modify any dish on the standard menu, or even create a new one on request as long as they have the ingredients in their miniscule 280-square-foot kitchen.
One of the lead cooks, LeeAnne Hause, who recently developed a popular Mediterranean grilled cheese sandwich, says, “I wanted to be here because of the opportunity to work one-on-one with local farmers. My favorite part of my job is working with the awesome veggies.”
Owner Kimberly Collett opened Olive two years ago at Third Street and Wayne Avenue in the downtown arts district, in the old Wympee diner. Collett kept the exterior Wympee signage intact, which only adds to the delicious irony: Where burgers and fries once reigned supreme, much of the fare is now “gluten free, paleo, vegetarian and vegan friendly.”
There are still burgers on the menu – made from Ohio grass-fed beef, of course.
Collett and her staff work with more than 80 local farmers and produce growers to secure the freshest products. The restaurant also grows some of its vegetables on its own small farm. Collett has even put one chef through a beekeeper class and will soon put hives on the farm.
Other menu specialties have included Swiss chard and pancetta bread pudding, deconstructed potato salad with truffle and golden beets, and breakfast tacos. Standard fare includes such cozy items as chicken pot pie made with local vegetables and free-range chicken, and meatless lasagna served with roasted vegetables.
Cooks Zackary Weiner and Tyler Lee love how the staff has become a tight-knit family. “We have a lot of fun, but we work very hard to get everything done,” says Weiner.
Olive’s menu informs diners that the work is indeed rugged: The staff wash all the dishes by hand, and “we don’t even own a can opener or microwave.” Moreover, “We compost all veggie scraps and coffee grounds and recycle absolutely everything we can.” Proudly. Collett says, “We will never stop expanding our concept – even if we never get to expand our building.”
Consequently, you will need to call for a reservation in advance to ensure a taste of this Dayton gem. But most patrons don’t mind. They also don’t mind bringing their own alcohol, as the restaurant hasn’t yet secured a liquor license.
Olive provides a two percent discount to customers who pay in cash. All of the restaurant’s vendors are paid cash on delivery and larger suppliers are paid once a week, also COD. Equally impressive is the fact that Olive put more than $76,000 back into the community buying direct from local farms last year. In a recent Facebook post, Collett shared the 2012 financials for the restaurant, a bold move for a new business.
The restaurant is open for brunch on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., lunch Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner Thursday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Call 937-222-DIVE (3483) for the day’s menu or to make that necessary reservation.