Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering boasts a rich history, a playful ghost and a delicious and authentic Eastern European cuisine
By Ginny McCabe
A rich history, authentic Eastern European cuisine and a friendly ghost named Chickie are a few of the reasons why a lot of regular customers love Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering. The restaurant is located at 1400 Valley St. in the heart of Old North Dayton.
“We get people that stop in, who said they grew up in the neighborhood. Folks who now live out of town come in for lunch or dinner when they’re visiting. So, we’ve been able to be an anchor to some of those childhood memories. Other guests talk about buying penny-candy here growing up,” says owner Joe Castellano, who worked his first restaurant job at Bill Knapp’s at the age of 16.
Diners regularly enjoy a variety of menu items for lunch and dinner, including German, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian, Russian and Italian dishes. Amber Rose also specializes in custom catering for weddings, parties, business gatherings and other special occasions.
“To be able to do what we do, and make people happy, even if it is just lunch or dinner, I find that rewarding. Or if it’s a big wedding, and everyone had a great time, and a good meal, and they thank you. It’s nice to have a small part in a big day,” Castellano says.
Originally built in 1910 by Sigmund Ksiezopolski, Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering is located in the same building that first operated as Sig’s General Store until the early 1980s. The family ran a general store and deli downstairs, used upstairs as a social gathering space, and they lived in the attic. Castellano says that the National Guard stayed with the family during the Great Flood of 1913.
The restaurant still showcases the original counter that was inside Sig’s General Store. It now serves as the restaurant’s hostess stand. The restaurant also displays a vintage scale on the counter, along with a collection of old photos.
Amber Rose is said to be home of a playful spirit, Chickie, the resident ghost. She was the daughter of Ksiezopolski and has been known to launch glasses from the bar or to move salad dressings off the shelves. Paranormal investigators have also discovered there is a second spirit, Richard, in the basement. Amber Rose has been written about in numerous articles and books, including Haunted Ohio III.
In 1989, Elinor Sluzas acquired the vacant building. She wanted to open a restaurant, but before its official opening, there was a catastrophic fire that destroyed part of the building. The restaurant formally opened in 1990 after the building was restored. Sluzas has since retired, but Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering continues the tradition by offering famous recipes like Elinor’s Signature Turtle Soup.
Castellano has owned the restaurant since 1998. His team is made up of about 30 part-and-full-time staff members, including three chefs, a front-of-house/restaurant manager and a catering manager as well as students from Wright State University and Sinclair Community College.
Today, the main level of the building is used as the restaurant’s dining room and there are two banquet rooms located upstairs. Typically, Amber Rose doesn’t charge for the use of their private rooms. On-site and off-site catering is available. All of the food is made from scratch. Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls and three kinds of Schnitzel—Hunter, Jager and Schnitzel a la Holstein—are always in demand. Homestyle Pot Roast is another favorite. The homemade Italian Sausage originates from Castellano’s family recipe.
“The restaurant has been here going on 30 years. We serve a lot of Elinor’s original recipes, which were in her family. She was from a Lithuanian heritage, so a lot of our foods are Eastern European,” Castellano says
The establishment’s bar is made of imported Turkish marble, which makes it a perfect spot for relaxing over a glass of beer or wine with friends. Appetizers are popular at the bar, too. A few tasty selections include Deluxe Potato Pancakes, Stuffed Mushrooms and Sauerkraut Balls.
I tried the German Bier Cheese, which is described on the menu as “Creamy spread with cream cheese, cheddar-jack and Frank’s Red Hot, with other secret ingredients. Served with fresh-baked pretzel.” The delicious cheese spread combined with the fresh-baked pretzel makes it one of those appetizers that keeps you coming back for more.
During lunch, I tried the Lithuanian Cabbage Roll and Beef Stroganoff. The portions are ample, and I went home with leftovers. The Lithuanian Cabbage Roll ($13) is made with ground beef and pork, rice and special seasoning rolled in cabbage leaves and roasted. Served with mashed potatoes, gravy and fresh vegetables.
Whether you’re feeling a bit nostalgic, or simply want a home-cooked meal, Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering delivers. For more information, or to place a reservation, or a catering order, call 228-2511 or visit theamberrose.com. Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering is also on Facebook at facebook.com/amberrosedayton.