On the southwest corner of Corry Street and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road in Yellow Springs, Ohio, there's a two-storey brick building with an adjacent greenhouse. It's about twenty minutes off of Interstate 70 outside Dayton, Ohio, if you're passing through. It's painted dark red, and most days there's a chalkboard out front with their hours posted. In case you're wondering (and by the time I've finished telling you, you'll be begging to know) the hours are:
- 5:30 to 9:30
- 6:30 to 9:30
- 11:00 to 2:00
When you walk in, someone wil seat you--probably Guy, the manager and head waiter (and possibly also the owner). It's the English pronunciation, not the French, by the way. You'll be seated at a wooden picnic table, or a metal patio table with a hole for an umbrella, or maybe a dining-room table from a yard sale. The chairs are equally assorted--you may even end up on a bench. The main dining room seats 20, the greenhouse perhaps another 20 when it's open. Smile, settle in, and order drinks.
The drinks are the normal assortment of beverages (Vanilla Coke, Coke, ginger ale, etc.) but also include some exotic sodas. Cocorico is a coconut-flavored soda from Puerto Rico, Malta is a molasses-flavored cola from India. Vanilla rum and mint teas are available, as well as a dark coffee. I like Cocorico to start with because its light flavor goes with almost anything. This is important, because at this point, you still don't know what you're having.
When the waiter returns with your drinks, he will tell you where the Gypsy--that's their cook, always called The Gypsy (or simply "she", e.g. "She's been doing strange stuff with potatoes this month...")--has taken the kitchen this week. For dinner, this can be almost anywhere in Europe, South America, Asia, or Africa. Last night I ate a Cuban dish with black beans, three types of sausage, lemon rice, and sweet potato cornbread. My girlfriend had a chicken dish in a spicy peanut sauce. Also on the menu was a vegetarian dish with white beans and rice in a light sauce, and their signature dinner, Cornish Game Hen with jerk seasoning. That's typical: the Cornish Hen, something vegetarian, and one or two more meals. There are only three or four things on the menu on any given night.
For brunch, there are seven or eight dishes that seem to rotate around the menu, never more than four available on a given day. These include the pecadillo, a Cuban meat-rice-vegetables-and-eggs dish; Montezuma French Toast, made from baguette bread and dusted with Mexican cocoa and drizzled with honey, served with creme fraiche; Egg Foo Yung; Parmesan polenta with chicken sausage and Cajun shrimp; Onion and garlic biscuits with sausage gravy; and two or three more that are more rare.
Desserts are available with breakfast or dinner, so save room. You never know what's on the menu, and usually there will be a maximum of three desserts offered with dinner. One is almost always loaded with chocolate, usually in conjunction with espresso; one might include tropical fruits; one I've seen a few times was a pear poached in white whine, stuffed with raspberries, served in sweet cream. Last night I had an olive oil and honey cake with plum sauce.
Hungry yet? Good. Now, a few more things. Service is Parisian, by which I mean "not in a hurry". A meal, with dessert, can take over two hours. Don't even think of eating here if you're in a hurry. Guy has an incredible memory for faces, and if you are a repeat customer, you will feel very much welcome and at ease. Last night I overheard some regulars telling Guy he wasn't charging enough; this is probably true. Your main course will probably not cost more than $13.00 (including salad) and your dessert probably won't exceed $5.00.
I've been living in Dayton for almost three years now, and other gourmet restaurants fall flat next to the Gypsy. I get a different gourmet dish every time, friendly service (not just super-polite, and not faux friendly like a sports bar), and all at a price I simply can't beat. I heartily recommend it.