Inside Dining

Canal Street Arcade and Deli repurposes Dayton’s iconic music venueBy Ginny McCabe

Inside Canal Street Arcade and Deli patrons will find vintage games like Centipede and a minisoccer game from the 1950s as well as dozens of classic and newer arcade games alongside gourmet sandwiches, personal pizza’s, craft beers—and much more. The establishment has brought new energy into one of Dayton’s former iconic music venues—the former Canal Street Tavern.

“It’s been a very positive experience. Obviously, people love the free games and the food. We keep getting busier and busier,” says manager Heather Kelley. “We have good reviews. We focus on being kind and doing a good job.”

Just over two years ago Canal Street Arcade and Deli opened in the former Canal Street Tavern location at 308 E. First St. in Dayton. The building became Canal Public House when Canal Street Tavern closed. Canal Street Tavern founder Mick Montgomery opened the eclectic music venue in 1981 and sold the club in 2012.

“The deli (5th Street Wine and Deli) used to be over on Fifth Street for about 10 years. Rob Strong owned that as well. When he bought this place the two were merged together. So, we’ve been creating these sandwiches for a long time. With it being a bar, too, it’s very new to a lot of people. We still get people every day who say, ‘This is my first time in here,’ and we’ve been open for over two years,” says Kelley.

Of course the food is a huge draw. Kitchen manager Jason Watkins, the mastermind behind the menu, has been with the deli aspect of the business since the beginning—when it was in the Oregon District as well as at the current location.

The deli makes homemade soups, salads and pasta salad. Noah Worthington serves as the assistant kitchen manager. Canal Street Arcade and Deli also has 12 different taps of beer—domestic and craft beers—as well as a full bar.

The Champ is among the popular sandwich selections. The sandwich features grilled roast beef, corned beef, baby Swiss cheese, horseradish cheddar cheese, grilled red onion, banana peppers and Thousand Island dressing on toasted white bread. Sandwiches are available in small (half sandwich), medium (full sandwich), and large (more meat) for $6.25, $8.25 and $9.25.

Some sandwiches are served hot pressed while others are served cold. There are also video-game themed offerings like The Mario, Face Invader and Pizza Jam (pizzas), which cost $8 (gluten-free crust is available for $2 more). House beer from Jackie O’s is $2.50 a pint.

Other specialties include the Hari Curry (vegetarian), Yellow Springs, Nuclear Sub, Summer Jam, Motown Philly, the Reuben and a B.L.T. Guests may build their own breakfast sandwiches, which are served all day.

I tried The Sinatra, which is quite tasty. The sandwich has salami, capicola, mortadella and provolone cheese with diced onion, tomato and lettuce on a sub roll with red pepper flakes and olive oil (served cold). To sample a variety, I also enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich that was equally delicious.

As far as the décor, the corner, wooden pews are gone, but there are other remnants from Canal Street Tavern throughout the building such as a sticker wall, which pays tribute to many of the band’s that have played at the venue over the years.

With the renovations the windows have been uncovered so rays of light beam through. The bathrooms have also been updated. Ms. Pac-Man is painted on the wall in the ladies room.

“We do a lot of vintage things. At the bar there’s a tape player, which plays cassettes when people aren’t playing the jukebox. On one big screen over the bar we always play VHS tapes. We could probably open a Blockbuster with the number of VHS tapes we have now. Customers see it and they bring in their old VHS tapes,” Kelley says.

“This was an iconic place in Dayton for so long. So many amazing bands have come through here. We found vouchers of bands that got paid and lots of old-school stuff. It’s not like it was a run-of-the-mill music place it was ‘the’ music place in Dayton for a long time,” she says.

There are several tables and chairs set up in the deli area or guests can order food from the bar. Customers can also lounge in comfortable furniture, which is set up on the bar’s former stage. Nearby there is a towering, old-time jukebox that features classic and modern music.

Pinball has made a huge resurgence. The arcade features 25 to 30 games, including pinball, a claw game, several multicade games and a big-screen game with 500 games on it. Some of the games are the newest machines, while other games go back a few years. Strong collects some of the vintage games and he’s also a huge pinball enthusiast.

“All of the video games are free. The only thing you have to pay for is pinball and that ranges from 50 cents to a dollar. As far as the deli goes we have daily specials and we feature top-quality products like Smoking Goose and Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. We have our bread delivered fresh every day from Rahn’s Artisan Breads. His bread is amazing,” says Kelley.

Canal Street Arcade and Deli has an expansive outdoor patio with tables and chairs. Neighborhood regulars stop in from Delco Lofts, Lock 27 Brewing or after a Dayton Dragon’s game—it’s a growing area.

Kelley says the clientele is pretty diverse, chill and respectful. There are a lot of repeat customers and some guests get the same sandwich every day. University of Dayton students stop in on the weekends.

Deli hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Canal Street Arcade and Deli is open every day of the year (holiday hours vary and are posted online).