Unique Restaurants in Ohio: 12 Extraordinary Eateries in The Buckeye State

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Ohio
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Our guide to unique restaurants in Ohio takes you through a journey of culinary wonders, each with its own distinct character and flavor. You’ll encounter everything from historic inns to whimsically themed eateries, showcasing the rich and varied dining landscape of the state. Prepare to explore a world where each restaurant offers a memorable dining experience!

Welcome to a culinary adventure in Ohio, where dining transcends the ordinary and enters the realm of the extraordinary. In this Midwestern gem, you’ll find a collection of restaurants that are not just about great food but are also about offering an experience that’s delightfully different. Each of these eateries stands out for its unique charm, making them must-visit destinations for anyone looking to spice up their dining routine.

Here, you’ll encounter eateries that defy convention. Think of dining in a repurposed space that whispers tales of the past, or enjoying a meal in an environment where fantasy and reality blur. These are places where the ambiance is as captivating as the menu, and where each visit promises something new and unexpected.

So, prepare to be intrigued and delighted as we embark on a journey through Ohio’s most extraordinary dining spots. Buckle up and get ready to embark on a culinary adventure that will leave you craving for more!

The top restaurants to visit in Ohio right now

Unique Restaurants in Ohio: 12 Incredible Ohio Eateries

Ohio’s unique restaurants offer a feast for both the eyes and the palate, each with its own special charm. From historic settings to creative themes, these dining spots provide more than just great food; they create unforgettable experiences. And for an even more elaborate dining experience in OH, be sure to check out these top spa resorts!

Join us as we journey through Ohio, uncovering these culinary gems that are sure to delight and surprise.

1. Mike’s Place

Mike’s Place in Kent stands out as one of the coolest restaurants in OH. It offers a dining experience that’s as eclectic as its menu. Opened in 1987 by Mike Kostensky, this restaurant has evolved from a country dining theme to a treasure trove of whimsical decor. Imagine dining amidst hand-painted signs, a tiki bar, a train car, and even a bus, each space telling its own unique story. The exterior is just as intriguing, featuring an X-wing fighter plane that’s a nod to Star Wars enthusiasts.

The menu at Mike’s Place is a delightful mix of classic and inventive dishes. With nearly 100 items, it caters to a wide range of tastes. Breakfast lovers, burger aficionados, and fans of the classic Reuben sandwich will find themselves spoilt for choice. Their triple-decker Reuben, loaded with 10 ounces of meat, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing, is a crowd favorite. For those seeking a cure for the morning after, the ‘Loaded Diaper’ – a burrito stuffed with homemade pulled pork, raw onions, chili, and homemade queso – is a must-try.

Family is at the heart of this unique restaurant in Ohio. Mike’s wife Deb and their four children have all contributed to the restaurant’s success. The management and kitchen crew, many of whom have been part of the journey for years, add to the familial atmosphere.

Mike's Place is one of the unique restaurants in Ohio.
Mike’s Place is a uniquely eclectic restaurant, featuring diverse dining spaces with whimsical decor.

2. Buckeye Express Diner

At Buckeye Express Diner, you’re in for a treat without needing a ticket. This family-owned gem, nestled in a vintage steam engine diner car, offers a menu brimming with homely classics and hearty burgers. The diner car was brought all the way from Virginia in 2008, adding to the restaurant’s unique charm.

This unique place to eat in Ohio is more than just a diner; it’s a tribute to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Every corner of the diner is decked out in Buckeyes memorabilia, creating an atmosphere that’s both quirky and spirited. It’s a haven for fans and a delightful discovery for those new to the Buckeyes’ legacy.

Adding to its appeal, especially for families, is an impressive play area outside. It’s a thoughtful touch that keeps the youngsters entertained while adults can indulge in the nostalgic and flavorful experience. Buckeye Express Diner stands out as one of the unique Ohio restaurants, offering both a visual feast and a culinary one.

Buckeye Express Diner, housed in a vintage steam engine diner car, serves homely classics and hearty burgers.
Buckeye Express Diner, housed in a vintage steam engine diner car, serves homely classics and hearty burgers.

3. Pier W

A landmark in Cleveland since 1965, Pier W is one of the most scenic places in Ohio to eat. Its architecture, designed to mirror a luxury liner, offers diners a unique experience along Lake Erie. This contemporary seafood restaurant, known for its critically acclaimed menu, provides a sophisticated setting in Lakewood, Ohio. The minimalist design of the dining room, coupled with breathtaking views of Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline, creates an unforgettable dining atmosphere.

The restaurant’s fresh fish menu and knowledgeable staff have established Pier W as one of the best places to eat in Ohio. Its five-star dining experience is complemented by an urbane environment. It’s perfect for enjoying the elegant natural finishes of the 165-seat dining room or the vibrant 50-seat bar and cocktail lounge. The live piano adds to the lively ambiance, making every visit a celebration of fine dining and exquisite views.

Whether it’s for lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch, guests are treated to artistically presented seafood. The service is also as impressive as the panoramic views. It’s a place where every meal becomes a memorable lakeside event!

Pier W boasts a sophisticated dining experience resembling a luxury liner.
Pier W boasts a sophisticated dining experience resembling a luxury liner.

4. The Schoolhouse Restaurant

The Schoolhouse Restaurant in Camp Dennison, Ohio, is a unique dining destination housed in a historic 1860s school building. This establishment stands out for its rich history and traditional homemade favorites. Today, it welcomes visitors with a menu that includes classic comfort foods like fried chicken, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes.

In this themed restaurant in Ohio, the menu is displayed on a chalkboard in the main dining room. This adds to the authentic schoolhouse feel. A standout dish is the country fried steak, served with St. Patrick’s Day-style mashed potatoes and green beans. The food, reminiscent of home-cooked meals, is served family style on a Lazy Susan, creating a cozy, communal dining experience.

The Schoolhouse Restaurant is more than just a place to eat; it’s a culinary journey into the past. It’s a unique restaurant in Ohio where history and hearty meals come together, offering a dining experience that’s both nostalgic and satisfying.

The Schoolhouse Restaurant offers homemade favorites in a historic 1860s school building.
The Schoolhouse Restaurant offers homemade favorites in a historic 1860s school building.

5. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus

Situated in the German Village of Columbus, Schmidt’s Sausage Haus is a culinary landmark that has been delighting guests since 1967. As one of the best restaurants in Ohio, it offers a taste of German tradition in a cozy, old-world setting. The restaurant, started by J. Fred Schmidt in the early 1880s, initially as a meat packing business, has evolved into a beloved dining spot. Its charming brick streets and quaint shops add to the allure, making it a perfect blend of the old and the new.

This unique restaurant in Ohio for dinner is famous for its Bahama Mama sausage, voted one of the top ten entrees in Columbus. The menu also features other German specialties like bratwurst, sauerkraut, and spatzle. The food is served hot and delicious, with each dish showcasing the authentic flavors of Germany. The restaurant’s commitment to traditional cooking methods and recipes has made it a must-visit for both locals and tourists.

Dining at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus feels like immersing yourself in Columbus’s history. The comfortable setting, combined with delicious German cuisine, makes it a standout dining experience.

Schmidt's Sausage Haus offers German tradition in a cozy setting.
Schmidt’s Sausage Haus offers German tradition in a cozy setting.

6. Thirsty Pony

Offering a thrilling combination of dining and entertainment, Thirsty Pony in Sanduskys is one of the most unique restaurants in OH for dinner. This establishment is renowned for its live simulcast horse racing at Cedar Downs, providing an exhilarating backdrop for diners. The excitement of the races adds a unique twist to the dining experience, making it a favorite among both locals and visitors.

In addition to its diverse menu featuring steaks, pastas, and gourmet pizzas, Thirsty Pony is a hub for fun activities. It’s one of Ohio’s best restaurants where you can enjoy laser tag and bowling at Cedar Lanes. This combination of delicious food and engaging entertainment options makes it a standout destination for families and groups looking for an enjoyable evening out.

Thirsty Pony is one of the unique restaurants in Ohio.
Thirsty Pony is a uniquely thrilling dining spot, famed for live simulcast horse racing at Cedar Downs.

7. Jimmie’s Ladder 11

Imagine dining in a place where every bite tells a story. Jimmie’s Ladder 11 in Dayton is just that – a unique restaurant in Ohio housed in a historic 1892 building, originally Firehouse #11. This restaurant, opened on 11/11/11, intertwines Dayton’s firefighting heritage with culinary excellence. The building’s past as one of the last horse-drawn fire companies in Dayton adds a touch of history to every meal.

Jimmie’s Ladder 11 is renowned for its diverse menu, featuring nearly 100 dishes. Highlights include the paisano pasta chips, a delightful twist on Italian nachos, and the Ladder 11 sandwich, a blend of grilled corned beef and pastrami. The menu’s variety ensures that every visitor finds something to love, making it a standout among Ohio’s best restaurants.

The restaurant’s commitment to preserving its historical charm while offering a wide array of delicious meals makes it a must-visit. Whether it’s for a casual lunch or a dinner filled with stories, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 offers a unique blend of Dayton’s history and flavorful dishes, making every visit a memorable experience.

Jimmie's Ladder 11 blends Dayton's firefighting heritage with culinary excellence.
Jimmie’s Ladder 11 blends Dayton’s firefighting heritage with culinary excellence.

8. The Haunted House Restaurant

Ever wondered what it’s like to dine in the midst of a horror movie set? The Haunted House Restaurant in Cleveland Heights is a spine-chilling culinary adventure. This unique restaurant is a hotspot for horror movie buffs, with reservations being snatched up rapidly. Its horror-inspired theme is complete with movie posters and large murals of classic horror figures. This creates an eerie yet exciting dining atmosphere.

As one of the fun restaurants in Ohio, The Haunted House Restaurant serves up a menu that’s as creative as its decor. The offerings include the Chucky Rolls, Southern-style egg rolls with a twist, and the Twilight entrée, a combination of crispy black waffle and sticky fried chicken wings. Each dish is crafted to surprise and delight, much like the plot twists in a horror movie.

With its horror-themed setting and inventive menu, The Haunted House Restaurant provides a unique blend of fright and flavor. It’s a must-visit for those seeking an out-of-the-ordinary dining experience in Ohio, where every meal comes with a side of thrills.

The Haunted House Restaurant offers a spine-chilling dining adventure with eerie decor and a thrilling atmosphere.
The Haunted House Restaurant offers a spine-chilling dining adventure with eerie decor and a thrilling atmosphere.

9. Olde Jaol Steakhouse

Have you ever dined in a former jailhouse? Olde Jaol Steakhouse and Tavern in Wooster offers this unique experience. Housed in the historic Wayne County Jail, built in 1865, this restaurant is a hidden gem in Ohio. The building, which served as a jail and police department for over a century, was transformed into a restaurant in 1995. Its rich history is palpable, with guests even having the option to dine in the former cell rooms.

This unique restaurant in Ohio serves a wide range of dishes, from upscale steakhouse options like Filet Mignon to casual tavern fare. The blend of history and cuisine creates an unforgettable dining experience. The building’s past, including being the last site for a public hanging in Ohio, adds an intriguing backdrop to every meal.

Olde Jaol Steakhouse is not only a place to enjoy a meal but also to immerse oneself in Ohio’s history. Whether you’re in for a steak or a casual meal, this restaurant promises a memorable visit.

Olde Jaol Steakhouse and Tavern housed in a historic 1865 former jailhouse turned restaurant.
Olde Jaol Steakhouse and Tavern housed in a historic 1865 former jailhouse turned restaurant.

10. The Whitehouse Restaurant

Could dining among presidential portraits transform your meal into a historical journey? The Whitehouse Restaurant in Whitehouse makes this intriguing idea a reality. This establishment, a standout among themed restaurants in Ohio, brings a patriotic flair to the dining experience. Located in the Toledo area, it’s a celebration of American history, where each meal feels like a tribute to the nation’s past.

The restaurant’s interior is a gallery of presidential history, with walls adorned with portraits and displays that narrate America’s presidential saga. This setting creates an immersive experience, blending education with enjoyment. The menu at The Whitehouse Restaurant features American classics, seafood, and steakhouse favorites, each dish crafted to reflect traditional American flavors.

As one of the unuqual restaurants in Ohio, The Whitehouse Restaurant offers a dining experience that’s both flavorful and historical. It’s a place where food meets history, making each visit a memorable journey through America’s presidential legacy.

The Whitehouse Restaurant offers a patriotic dining experience among presidential portraits.
The Whitehouse Restaurant offers a patriotic dining experience among presidential portraits.

11. Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop

Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop, known unique loose-meat sandwiches, is a Darke County institution that has been a culinary staple since 1934. But it’s not just the food that draws crowds; it’s the quirky tradition of sticking chewing gum on the exterior walls. This practice, believed to have started just a few years after the shop opened, has turned the building into a colorful mosaic of memories.

The shop’s main attraction is the slightly sweet, steamed loose-meat sandwich, a recipe perfected over decades. This simple yet delicious offering makes Maid-Rite a go-to destination for cheap eats in Ohio. The tradition of sticking gum on the walls adds a layer of community history to the dining experience. Over the years, the gum wall has become a backdrop for engagements and family portraits. Notable figures like Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Speaker John Boehner have also graced the location.

Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop is more than a place to grab a quick bite; it’s a testament to the enduring charm of small-town traditions. It’s a spot where generations of memories are literally stuck to the walls, making it one of the most unique restaurants in Ohio.

Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop is known for its loose-meat sandwiches and for its quirky tradition of gum-sticking on the walls.
Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop is known for its loose-meat sandwiches and for its quirky tradition of gum-sticking on the walls.

12. Black Forest Cafe

Nestled in the heart of Ohio’s picturesque landscape, the Black Forest Cafe stands as a testament to the charm of scenic restaurants in Ohio. Tucked away in the scenic Oak Shade Grove, less than 10 miles from Toledo, this restaurant is a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. Its location in a small forest evokes a fairy-tale-like setting, reminiscent of Snow White’s cottage.

The cafe specializes in authentic German cuisine, celebrating the area’s rich German heritage. The rustic, charming German architecture inside the cafe transports you straight to Germany. Meanwhile, the surrounding nature keeps you grounded in Ohio’s scenic beauty. The menu features German favorites, complemented by a selection of imported beers, perfect for a hearty lunch or a romantic dinner. In winter, a cozy fireplace adds warmth to the experience, while summer offers patio seating amidst nature.

The Black Forest Cafe is one of the unique restaurants in Ohio.
The Black Forest Cafe offers a charming dining experience in a fairy-tale-like setting.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Unique Places to Eat in Ohio

Explore our Ohio restaurant guide’s FAQ section for insights into the state’s vibrant food scene, covering everything from iconic dishes to standout dining destinations.

What is Ohio’s most famous restaurant?

Ohio boasts several renowned eateries, but one that often tops the list is The Precinct in Cincinnati. Known for its fine dining and exceptional steaks, The Precinct has a rich history and a reputation for culinary excellence. It’s a place where both locals and tourists flock to experience some of the best food in Ohio, set in an elegant, historic police patrol house.

What is Ohio famous for food?

Ohio has a diverse culinary scene, with a special nod to its comfort foods. The state is known for dishes like Cincinnati chili, served over spaghetti or hot dogs, and Buckeye candies, peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. These local specialties reflect Ohio’s rich cultural heritage and are a must-try for anyone exploring the state’s food landscape.

What is Ohio’s oldest restaurant?

The Golden Lamb in Lebanon holds the title of Ohio’s oldest restaurant. Established in 1803, it has been serving guests for over two centuries. This historic inn and restaurant has hosted many famous guests, including 12 U.S. presidents. Its traditional American fare and historic charm make it a unique destination for those interested in both history and cuisine.

The Golden Lamb Restaurant is a historic dining landmark, offering classic American fare in a charming setting.
The Golden Lamb Restaurant is a historic dining landmark, offering classic American fare in a charming setting.

What fast food is from Ohio?

Ohio is the birthplace of several fast-food chains, but Wendy’s stands out as a notable example. Founded in Columbus in 1969 by Dave Thomas, Wendy’s quickly grew into a global brand. Known for its square hamburgers and Frosty desserts, Wendy’s reflects Ohio’s contribution to the fast-food industry.

Is Ohio known for pizza?

While not traditionally known for pizza, Ohio has made its mark with a unique style. Ohio Valley-style pizza, particularly popular in Steubenville, features a cold cheese topping added after the pizza is baked. This distinct approach to pizza has garnered a following and adds to the state’s diverse culinary identity.

What are some extraordinary restaurants in Ohio?

Ohio is home to an array of unique restaurants, each offering a distinct dining experience. From the quirky decor and history of The Schoolhouse Restaurant to the horror-themed Haunted House Restaurant, Ohio’s dining scene is full of surprises. These establishments provide not just great food but also memorable experiences, making them standout destinations for both locals and visitors.

What are the best options for fine dining in Ohio?

For those seeking fine dining in Ohio, options abound. Cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus boast high-end restaurants like Orchids at Palm Court and Lola Bistro, known for their exquisite menus and elegant atmospheres. These establishments offer gourmet dishes, expertly paired wines, and impeccable service, ensuring a top-tier dining experience.

Are there any famous food festivals in Ohio?

Ohio hosts several food festivals throughout the year, celebrating its rich culinary heritage. The Columbus Food Truck Festival and the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic are just a couple of examples. These festivals, among many other fun things to do in Ohio, showcase the best of Ohio’s food scene, from local specialties to innovative culinary creations, offering a taste of the state’s diverse and vibrant food culture.

Final Thoughts On Unique Ohio Restaurants

Exploring the unique restaurants in Ohio is like embarking on a culinary adventure. Each establishment tells its own story, whether through historical settings, quirky themes, or innovative menus. These dining spots are experiences that linger in your memory long after the meal is over.

Ohio’s diverse restaurant scene offers something for everyone, from history enthusiasts to foodies seeking new flavors. As you travel through Ohio, let your taste buds lead the way to these extraordinary eateries, where every meal is an adventure waiting to be savored amidst the backdrop of Midwestern charm.

The top restaurants in Ohio for all types of travelers
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