Corner Kitchen makes high-end food with a homey touch.
By Brian Sharp
So much is happening in the historic Oregon Historic District! There are plenty of dining and entertainment options, but a new one has made its presence known on a corner that needed a fresh touch. And a fresh touch it has gotten in the form of Corner Kitchen, a casual upscale diner-type restaurant that serves up dishes with surprising twists, located at 613 E. Fifth St. at the corner of Fifth and Wayne Avenues.
While sometimes difficult to get into because of popularity, I happened into the restaurant on a Thursday evening recently and was thrilled to be able to get a table close to the open exhibition kitchen. There is something fun about watching the work that goes on behind the scenes as plates are prepped and served.
This restaurant offers seasonal American fare in an environment that the owners refer to as a “finer diner.” I was impressed with the transition that took place from the bar Sloopy’s and then Pulse to this new hip contemporary restaurant that has touches of antiques, making it feel like a great urban home.
This night my friend Ben and I headed in for a late dinner. The menu is full and complete—cocktails, wines, beers, appetizers (known on this menu as toast), small plates, sides, salad, pasta and entrees. And if that isn’t enough, there is a tasting menu that allows you a sampling of best sellers with or without a wine pairing.
The servers were plentiful and available for every need. Natalie Skilliter, one of the owners, offered us an appetizer of Onions and Blue. This vegetarian feature on the “toast” portion of the menu consists of balsamic onions with Point Reyes blue cheese and candied walnuts in a small tart crust. This appetizer is full of flavor—the sweetness of the balsamic onions is offset nicely with the bitterness of the blue cheese and complimented nicely with the candied walnuts.
We both decided the best way to get to know Corner Kitchen was to try the Tasting Menu. Our first treat came from a cup (and I do mean a cup—the delightful touch of mismatched china cups and saucers just like Grandma’s) of soup. This soup was cream of corn soup. Think of your favorite cream-style corn and kick it up about 10 notches. It is totally pureed and creamy. Delicious and flavorful.
The soup was followed by a fish taco filled with salmon, habanero (housemade) aioli, shaved cabbage and onion salsa. This was a taste sensation. While the habanero aioli could always be hotter for me, it certainly had a kick and that combined with the onion salsa are a great compliment to the salmon and cabbage. The fish taco is followed quickly by a BLT. This is not your usual bacon, lettuce and tomato though it includes all three. This seems to be a fan favorite and I can see why! This BLT is served on a toast point topped with tomato jam, bibb lettuce and a piece of braised crisp pork belly.
Our next course was Rigatoni Boo Boo (named for a nickname used for Natalie). This rigatoni is lightly dressed with a spicy tomato meat sauce complimented with ricotta and peas. I say lightly dressed because this was about the pasta. After the pasta we were served a small piece of NY Strip steak, accompanied by mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the moment.
All of these courses were finished up with a chef’s choice dessert—ours was chocolate mousse. Again, this was served in a china cup and full of chocolate flavor.
While the tasting gives you plenty of options it is worth ordering from the other parts of the menu as well. There are things like poutine, French fries served with brisket gravy and cheese curd; Chicken Dinner, egg-battered chicken served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable; and the Corner Burger, a burger served with Ludlow Cheese, onion jam, French fries and house pickles. This menu truly has something for everyone.
I would return again simply for the BLT and the corn soup. However, the menu does change seasonally and Chef Jack Skilliter (Natalie’s husband. She says, “I married him for his soups.”) shared the upcoming menu with me and for you, our readers. There are a couple interesting new “toast” options: a Rueben, housemade corned beef, Gruyere and Russian dressing with spiced cabbage, and chicken liver pate, dried cherry compote, red onion and Dijon on toasted bread. Butternut squash soup has been added to the fall fare as well as nachos (always a favorite), fish tacos have been replaced by carnitas tacos and there are pork belly corn dogs too! There is a mac and cheese that must be tried. Fusilli, Fontina, Gruyere, Ludlow cheese and Parm make for what sounds to be one of the riches mac and cheese dishes ever!
This restaurant is right in the heart of downtown Dayton and absolutely should not be missed. Make your reservation early. Or, take a chance like I did and just walk in.