In 1831, Benjamin Disraeli wrote the book The Young Duke. It is a book about a young orphan who comes into a vast sum of money and starts to squander it before the love of a woman shows him the error of his ways. During his party days, he spent a good deal of time at the track, betting on the horses as he drank and wooed the ladies. There was some excitement at the track that day; “a dark horse which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.” Disraeli penned the first written usage in history of the term “dark horse” to describe a victory that comes from an unexpected place. The book became a bestseller, and the phrase entered the English language. Daytonians don’t think of obscure British literature when a friend mentions a dark horse. They reflect on some of the best barbecue in the city, well-prices drinks, and an experience that they thought they had lost three months ago.
The Dark Horse Tavern (209 Byers Rd, Miamisburg, OH 45342) closed abruptly at the end of July when owner Dennis Williams discovered the difficulty of operating a thriving bar and a construction company. Something gave, and unfortunately for their loyal patrons it was the Dark Horse. However, people saw the potential of a favorite bar and restaurant in its just-off-the-beaten-path location. Nikky Vontz was an employee there many years back, in the heyday of the restaurant. She knew that with the right people in place, it could get back to those glory days. In the three months they were closed, she negotiated with Mr. Williams to get the Horse up and running again. Her persistence paid off; on November 19th, the Dark Horse Tavern was back and ready for business!
Patrons who were familiar with the previous incarnation of the space would not notice anything was amiss. The upstairs was clean and ready for patrons, and there were few cosmetic changes to the bar or restaurant area. The big smoker in the back was getting the meat ready as quickly as people were ordering it, covering a menu that is “tailored after the forerunners in the cowboy cooking method.” That method provides a little something for everyone, from fantastic sandwiches to plates covered in hickory smoked deliciousness and smothered with sauce. They have lighter fare if you are looking for a good piece of fish or a light salad for the evening, and a kids menu for the younguns. From what we tried, and heard from others, the food was fantastic. We heard that even some visiting Texans were impressed by the brisket and ribs the Dark Horse was serving. That says something about what you are about to experience when you eat here.
The drinks are where you may start seeing some differences. The whole staff here is new, and that is the way Nikky Vontz wants it. As the general manager, she is responsible for the smooth running of every aspect of the restaurant. She wanted a clean slate to work from, and she has it. Nikky is making sure that the cocktails, beers, and wines that flow from her staff are appropriately portioned and not too stressful on the wallet. The talent she is working with has hit the ground running. The bottles behind the bar are neatly lined up and ready for efficiency, and she is going to be running specials over the next few months to introduce us to the new menu. The first specialty: The Bad Lands, their house margarita. There are six taps and a wide bottle selection that will appeal to every palate, from Bud Light to local craft IPAs and stouts. The taps will constantly be rotating with the seasons and the tastes of the patrons.
Moving forward, Ms. Vontz has big plans. She is currently booking bands for spring of 2017, and the spots are starting to fill up. Karaoke has come back to Tuesday night, and trivia will be returning on Wednesday nights. Ladies’ Night will occupy the Thursday night slot and some low-key musical acts on Friday nights. Large groups (up to fifty people) can use the upstairs space, complete with your bar and a food selection that you create from their menu. If you can’t make it to the tavern for the food, have the tavern bring it to you! They will cater off-site events. Ms. Vontz is looking forward to the Dark Horse Tavern offering their room for charity events, with one or two in 2017 that she already has in the works. The new management gives new life for this Dayton staple, and they are going to make the most of it.
When a restaurant closes that abruptly, it is a long shot that it will reopen. The new blood running the bar and ownership took that shot, and are going to work hard to make sure they are successful. The Dark Horse Tavern is open for business again. Everything has changed there, but nothing changed. Welcome back to the Dayton restaurant scene Dark Horse Tavern!
The Dark Horse Tavern is located at 209 Byers Rd, Miamisburg, OH 45342. They are open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 AM to 12:30 AM, and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 AM until 2 AM. You can contact them at (937) 866-6960, or through their Facebook Page.