Saturday, May 4th, 2013

A strange incident on Olive’s patio (plus some food porn)

Today for lunch I headed over to one of my favorite places in Dayton, Olive, an urban dive. I like Olive in large part for the food, of course. I also like that it’s near where I live and work. I like its atmosphere, both its cozy tasteful interior and its cheerful patio. I especially like the people who work there, a friendly hard-working bunch (hi Kim and Sandy and Laura and Betsie!). I’ve been eating at Olive about once a week, more or less, since they opened in the summer of 2011.

Olive, because its building (a former Wympee’s) is small, can be difficult to get into. You definitely need reservations for dinner and also for lunch if you go during peak time, the noon hour. I don’t usually make reservations, though. For lunch I drop by around 1 p.m. and can usually get in with little or no wait. For brunch on Saturday I’m often there when they open at 10 a.m. and never have a wait. Today I arrived about 12:30 and inside was pretty busy but the patio was wide open, so I snagged a nice spot in the shade, at the long table in the foreground of the photo to the left.

Visit Olive on Facebook to see their specials
and lots more food porn
Something to know about Olive’s is that it’s not a place to go if you’re in a hurry. If you’re in a rush, go get fast food. The pace at Olive is laid back. It can take some time for the food, but it’s made fresh from good local ingredients and worth the wait. I’m never in a hurry at Olive because I either have gone with a friend or two and we chat as we wait, or, often as not, I’ve gone alone and brought a book.

A trick, however, that you can use to your advantage is to know what you want and to order it when a server asks what you’d like to drink. Makes things easier all around and speeds up the process a bit. Another trick is to like Olive on Facebook because there you can see enticing photos of their daily specials. Today I took advantage of both tricks. Having seen the special online, the meatloaf sandwich (pictured to the right), I knew what I wanted, and as soon as Laura seated me, that’s what I ordered.

Armed with an iced tea and the latest copy of Granta, I settled in on the patio on this nice spring day and awaited my lunch.

While I was waiting, I overheard some people on the other side of the patio fence as they discovered my gay car parked there (“How cool is that!” they said) and took a picture of it. But that wasn’t the strange incident.


The strange incident involved a pair of couples who joined me on the patio for lunch.

The first couple to arrive was two lesbians. One might have suspected from looking at them, but one of them was wearing shorts with a rainbow graphic on them. Laura had set the high top (middle of the photo to the left) for them and the couple they were to meet, but the one lesbian wanted to sit in the sun (table at the right of the photo). No biggie—both tables were open, Laura didn’t mind where they sat, and they helped Laura to move the napkins and flatware.

The lesbians’ friends, a heterosexual couple, then arrived to join them, but oh, they weren’t sure they wanted to sit in the sun. Oh, that’s okay, we can sit back at the high top in the shade, the lesbians said, laughing a bit and explaining they’d just moved from that table. No, no, you want to sit in the sun, the straight couple said, we don’t mind, although the wife said she’d have to get her hat and asked her husband for their car keys.

All this negotiating and maneuvering and fetching of hats took some time, but soon enough the two couples were settled in and I had my lunch.

And this is where the strange incident happened.

I had my book propped open, my sandwich in my hands, my mouth full of delicious meatloaf, and the wife looks over at my table and says, “Oh that table would be perfect for us. Would you mind moving over there (pointing at the high top)?”

Would I mind? Yes, of course, I’d fucking mind. I’m already in the middle of my sandwhich, babe, and why should I move for you?

I didn’t actually say that, of course, but instead said, “Um, I’m already settled here,” but the wife didn’t take the hint. “Could we join you?” she asked. “Um, sure,” I said, and over the four of them came, introducing themselves. The husband put out his hand to shake mine but then realized I was holding a sandwich and not really in a position (or the mood, though he didn’t notice that) to shake hands.

I returned to my reading (trying to ignore their conversation right on top of me), and Laura came out to take their order, a bit surprised that they’d moved yet again. “Oh, here at Olive’s you have to be friendly,” I said, which is true, especially inside where the tables are close together, although out on the patio I hadn’t expected there to be two other empty tables and then have people insist on sitting next to me.

The wife remarked that in Europe people share tables all the time. Yeah, I’ve lived in Europe, so I know that’s true but not when there are empty tables to be had.

The silly foursome chattered on, puzzling over the menu (“What’s a socca?” and “I don’t understand the benestacks”), talking about everything they’d done so far today (they get up early!) and everything they were still going to do. Friendly people but a bit queer, and I don’t mean the lesbians.

I enjoyed my sandwich very much though, as well as the champagne vinaigrette dressing on the salad (usually I do patio herb). Not wanting to be rushed off from my little corner of the patio, I also got a scoop of salted caramel Jeni’s ice cream, which Laura knew is my favorite.

What better way to end this post about Olive than with some food porn? They have tons of food porn on their Facebook page, where I stole the above photos of their patio and their meatloaf sandwich, but the following photos are one I took myself of food I especially appreciated at Olive:

Warm scallop salad

Scallops with pasta

Eggs benedict benestack

Triple layer French toast with cream cheese and Nutella

Alfredo socca with pancetta

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Olive, an urban dive

Olive, an urban dive, is a great new restaurant in the historic Wympee building downtown at Third and Wayne
I’ve been following the saga over the past several months of the hurdles Kim Collett has faced getting Olive, an urban dive, her new restaurant, up and running, but it wasn’t until today that I was able to make it over to check things out for myself. They had a very successful sold out “Dive into Olive” preview week, and David Esrati, in his review of Olive, warned that it might be difficult to get in for lunch given how good the food is and how small the restaurant is, but Kim posted on Facebook yesterday that people shouldn’t “worry that we’re too packed,” and so my best friend and I headed A view of the historic Wympee building, spruced up a bit A view of the historic Wympee building, spruced up over for lunch today, a bit after 1:00. They were doing a good business but still had a couple tables available inside, and we were seated right away.

The outside of the building looks pretty much like it always has, with the historic Wympee signs, but it’s been spruced up a bit with plants and benches in front and an inviting patio in back with outdoor seating and with herbs growing that Olive uses in items such as the scrumptious patio herb salad dressing.

Looking at the inside of the building, you’d be hard pressed to know it once was Wympee’s because everything’s been completely redone, with amenities ranging from fabulous handmade wooden ceiling tiles to a new cork floor to custom lights and other great decor. Head over to Olive’s Facebook page (you can read there about some of the hurdles they faced getting started), in particular their photo gallery which has tons of photos documenting all the hard work they put into their business and building. A view of Olive's fashionable dining room A view of Olive’s
fashionable dining room
Keeping the historic facade of the Wympee building honors its past, but the totally redone interior, suitable for a first class restaurant, hardly goes along with Olive’s so-called “urban dive” moniker.

The wait staff, in addition to being very friendly, is also very knowledgeable about Olive’s unique mission to strive to use local ingredients. Not only did our server explain how Olive’s grows their own herbs out back (and invite us to be sure to check out the patio), but she also told us about what, if I’m remembering correctly (which I may not be), are young herbs—for example, radishes that are cut before they bloom so they impart hints of radish flavor. As you can see from Olive’s soft open “lunchish fare” menu, they have a lot of choices for a small restaurant that makes everything from scratch, and our server was good about explaining all the options.

My friend and I both got the same thing, tuscan grilled cheese sandwiches served with the house salad (of course with the famous patio herb dressing) and cups of tomato bisque. This is not your traditional grilled cheese and tomato soup, although it was delicious and comforting. Our meals were served very stylishly on long rectangular white plates that you wouldn’t expect to find at Wympee’s or an urban dive. Tasting the tomatoes in the sandwiches makes one appreciate fresh, local produce, and the house pesto on the sandwiches was also a tasty addition. Topping it all off was the patio made sun tea, lightly sweetened with agave (our server brought us sugar cubes, but the tea was perfect without any added sugar).

Olive has a very relaxing atmosphere. At our corner table my friend and I had a pleasant conversation as we enjoyed our meal, but near us were some single people eating alone, one reading a book and another just taking in the scene. I’m glad Olive is finally open and glad that I was able finally to visit. I plan on going back often, and you should check Olive out too—you won’t be disappointed!

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