Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Pine Club's House Dressing Redux

Today I am reissuing a post that I put up several years ago about finding a bottle of salad dressing in the Siaconset Market on Nantucket from the legendary Pine Club of Dayton, Ohio.

The Pine Club's House Dressing
as photographed today on Nantucket

I'm back on island for several weeks again this August, and was delighted to find the Pine Club's salad dressing is still stocked on the market's shelves.  I've been enjoying its tasty tangyness almost daily ever since.  Here's my original post about it, which I hope you like, Dear Reader.

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 roadfood.com

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. As usual Sir, a wonderful post. I have heard of the Pine Club from a friend who grew up in Dayton. I have never had the pleasure of dining there.
    I have however had the pleasure of patronizing that fabulous Market...when my wife and I were staying at The Summer House, we walked around the corner every morning to the Market for coffee and papers...a truly timeless and classic establishment.

  2. Twas just in 'Sconset last weekend but too busy to stop at the store. Alas the only people I know in Dayton are vegetarians!

  3. Well this is weird! When friend of mine moved to Dayton a few years ago I asked around a good housewarming gift to send her and several people suggested a gift certificate to the Pine Club! Which was of course a perfect gift when you are new to a city. She happily enjoyed it and wrote a nice thank you card praising the Pine Club for "having an interior like an old Tahoe cabin."
    (In the SF Bay Area I suggest gift certificates to Chez Panisse, but that's a tad different.)

  4. Dear RD,

    Love this post! I just spent a week on holiday with a bunch of "old daytonians" and they agree, the Pine Club is something special...also, did you know that there is a blog called "Daytonian in Manhattan" ? Check it out!


  5. The Pine Club is still there and still the same and still good.

  6. Never one to pass up a new salad dressing recommendation, I have placed my order. I am not sure I understand serving stewed tomatoes with steak, but in checking out the Pine Club's menu, there are plenty of other options for those fortunate enough to dine there. Great post as always, Reggie. I am living the "high life" through you!!


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