Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Pine Club Connection

The other day I made a late-afternoon trip to the Siasconset Market here on Nantucket to pick up some last-minute supplies for dinner.  It's much closer to where we are staying on the island and more convenient for a quick visit than the Stop & Shop (for supermarket staples) or Bartlett's Farm (for heirloom vegetables and best-quality comestibles).  While I've shopped at these latter two grocers during our visit (Bartlett's has been an almost daily destination), they are too long a distance for a quick run.  Well, about as much of a distance as one can experience on an island as modestly sized as Nantucket.

The Pine Club house dressing,
ready to dress a salad on our deck on Nantucket

The Siasconset Market is a remarkable little store.  For the uninitiated, one would think it would be an unlikely source for a good selection of "gourmet" groceries.  First of all, it's tiny.  And second, it's rather remote, far away from the hustle and bustle of mid-island.  But when one examines what the Market has to offer, one is pleased to find a highly focused selection of edibles and household items that belie a razor-sharp understanding of the Market's affluent, WASPy clientele.

The Siasconset Market

Words cannot express my delight during a recent visit to the Market at coming across a bottle of house salad dressing from the Pine Club, of Dayton, Ohio.  Yes, Dear Reader, you read that correctly.  I'm talking jarred salad dressing!  At first I was drawn to the bottle by its charmingly retro-looking label, thinking "Oh, that looks worth checking out."  But when I stopped to examine it more closely I was surprised to see that the Pine Club referred to on the bottle was none other than a restaurant by that name where I spent several memorable evenings almost twenty years ago, when I visited Dayton on business.  I have thought of the Pine Club fondly ever since, longing to visit it again.  But Reggie hasn't found himself anywhere near Dayton in the intervening years, nor has he figured out a sufficiently suitable justification for going there, except to return to the Pine Club for another splendid meal.

The Pine Club's facade
Image courtesy of

As I drove back to our house I wondered, how did a jarred salad dressing from a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, make its way to the shelves of the Siasconset Market, nearly a thousand miles away?

And then I pieced it together . . .

At the time I visited Dayton I was working as a bond analyst at one of the major rating agencies, where one of my colleagues was a fellow named George M.  I liked George, and he and I shared a love of eating in still-vital old-line restaurants, as well as a fondness for the island of Nantucket.  When George learned that I would be traveling to Dayton on business, he said that I should be sure to have dinner one night at the Pine Club, a beloved old-time steakhouse in the city, known for its delicious aged steaks and chops and a knotty pine interior unchanged since the late 1940s.  It turned out that the Pine Club was owned by a friend of George's named Dave Hulme who had bought the restaurant a decade beforehand, intending--among other things--to preserve its old-fashioned roadhouse charm.  Dave owned a house on Nantucket, too, and George would regularly visit him there during the summer to play golf, and Dave would sing the praises of his restaurant as they traversed the links.

David Hulme, owner of the Pine Club
Image courtesy of the Dayton Business Journal

As can be seen in the photograph, above, the Pine Club derives its name from its entirely wood-paneled interior (walls and ceilings), dating from the 1940s.  It is regularly voted the best steakhouse in Dayton, standing head and shoulders above its rivals, and it serves a menu that its original patrons would likely recognize.  Even though almost twenty years have passed, I vividly recall entering the restaurant for the first time and being thrilled to see its knotty pine interior lighted with table lamps and filled with banquettes upholstered in red vinyl.  I was quite happy to be seated at a table in the middle of the main room, where a waitress delivered a relish plate (Heaven!) and a basket of hot dinner rolls while taking our drinks order ("Make mine a highball, please!").  After starting with a classic iceberg-lettuce-and-blue-cheese salad dressed with the restaurant's tangy and sweet house dressing, I and my happy dinner companion polished off perfectly cooked, juicy strip steaks served with sour-cream-smothered baked potatoes and the restaurant's delicious signature stewed tomatoes.  I don't recall what I had for dessert, but I do remember that we had to pay for our meal with cash, as the Pine Club didn't accept credit cards.  It still doesn't.  To this day its customers must pay with either cash or sign under a house account.

So I figured out that the reason I stumbled across the Pine Club salad dressing on the Siasconset Market's shelves was because David Hulme likely still owned a house nearby and had talked the owners of the Market in to stocking his product, and they must have obliged because he was probably a regular customer.  And the Pine Club's dressing had to be a good, steady seller there, too, given the Market's clientele.  While not exactly an earth-shattering connection to work my way through, it was a pleasant puzzle nonetheless.

A Pine Club salad dressing four pack

And that's how I came to find a jar of the Pine Club's house salad dressing at the Siasconset Market on Nantucket.  I happily brought one home with me in the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote bag that I use when out shopping, and Boy and I enjoyed it that evening at dinner sitting on our deck overlooking the ocean.  While Reggie is not ordinarily a fan of prepared salad dressings, the Pine Club's is really quite delicious, and he highly recommends it.

You, too, can own the restaurant's salad dressing, along with its steaks and stewed tomatoes, since--as I learned when researching this essay--the Pine Club will be more than happy to ship its justifiably-famous delicacies to you.  I've copied several images of options available for order from the restaurant here in this essay.

Now that I know the Pine Club does mail order deliveries, I'm planning on ordering some steaks from the restaurant when my Nantucket vacation is over.  I figure if I can't find my way to the Pine Club any time soon I'm happy for it to find its way to me.

The Pine Club
1926 Brown Street
Dayton, Ohio 45409
(937) 228-5371

Please note, Reggie has received nothing from the Pine Club for his recommendation, except the happy memories of his visits there almost two decades ago, for which he is most grateful.


  1. Its barely 8am and I'm ready to chew my arm off in want of a steak. Thanks for that.

  2. Several years ago, I had a very grand English friend staying with me for a week. Early in her visit, she was complaining bitterly about a mutual acquaintance whom she had just seen, and whom she had decided was "unbearably common". Chief among his shortcomings in her eyes, it turned out, was that he used bottled salad dressing. Well, that evening, I had to sneak into the kitchen and spirit out the three remaining bottles of my guilty pleasure- a Parmesan peppercorn dressing that I would order by the case from the midwest. I hid them in the underwear drawer with the XRated DVD's until she left- and merrily joined in "tsk tsking" our lowbrow mutual acquaintance.

  3. OMG, when I saw the title of the post I wondered, "Can it be the Pine Club I know and love?" My husband and I used to live about five blocks from the Pine Club, and we ate there many times. Wonderful food and atmosphere. I think I'm going to have to order some of that salad dressing. And fix stewed tomatoes for dinner. By the way, the Pine Club has never accepted reservations. If you arrive when the restaurant is full, you have to stand and wait. Or go to the bar and wait. I'm sure that policy drives a hefty profit on drinks. Thanks for the unexpected memory.

  4. I live in the midwest and grew up visiting NYC museums and the very well endowed Cleveland museum. Heard about a good traveling show several years ago and went off to the Dayton Art Museum. Wow, what a small gem of a museum and totally unexpected. Dayton at one time had heavy industry and thus citizens built a lovely museum. Then when we asked the docent where to eat lunch, she said go across the street to the Masonic temple and have a fish sandwich. The sandwich was good in a little lunch place in the basement and everyone was welcome. Then an elderly gentleman asked if we would like a tour as we told him how much we liked the 1930's vibe of the ladies reception area. The building is a monolith and really of another time. Fascinating tour as he took us all through it and several areas can be rented for weddings and proms and such. It is just so large and very interesting facts about its construction. Dying to try your restaurant recommendation and will plan a trip as Dayton is struggling and I am trying to spend money at independent businesses. Google the town of Lebanon and it makes a nice afternoon to explore.

  5. delicious on freshly sliced Bartlett tomatoes - yum!

  6. Brohammas: Reggie admits he could probably eat a perfectly cooked steak almost daily with pleasure. But he doesn't, for reasons that we all know of and aren't worth going in to . . . ah well.

    Magnus: How amusing. What is the name of your guilty pleasure--the salad dressing I mean?

    Sewing Librarian: How marvelous to have lived nearby the Pine Club. I understand that the restaurant once made George Bush Senior wait for a table when he was president, just like the rest of us.

    Anon 7:33: Yes, Dayton once was the proud home of the National Cash Register Corporation and Reynolds Resources, both of which were generous supporters of the town. Sadly, those days are over.

    Quintessence: You nailed it!

  7. It's great seeing the Pine Club dressing so far away. I had not been to the Pine Club in a while, as it can be seen as being "dated', but recently went back (I've lived in the area most of my life). The steaks really are very well done, and there's something fun about the lack of any updates to the menu.

    As to the dessert that you don't remember... That's because they've never served dessert that I've known. However, there is a Ben & Jerry's 2 doors down.

    There's another "old steak house" item I love; you can set up an account with them, so you don't have to have the cash on you, but pay a monthly bill instead. That's not something you see at chains or new restaurants.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails