Venue Review: The Caroline
TROY — You know you really want to be a restaurateur when:
(1) It’s been your dream for a decade.
(2) You take pictures of restaurants and bars wherever you travel so you can borrow design ideas.
(3) Your renovation plans call for removing a 12-foot section of a load-bearing wall in a 140-year-old building.
(4) You open in the depths of winter during the restaurant industry’s slowest period.
Suffice to say, Steve Smith and his wife, Melanie Elsass-Smith, really wanted to be restaurateurs. The result of Steve and Melanie’s determination is The Caroline, on Troy’s town square in the space formerly occupied by Taggart’s. The restaurant is named for the couple’s 10-year-old daughter, and Steve sounds not unlike a proud parent when he discusses his business venture. “We wanted to bring something special to Troy, something different and unique, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” Smith said.
Judging from the healthy crowds in the 120-seat restaurant during two recent midweek visits, Troy-area residents agree. And there’s enough here to like to make it a worthwhile trip for diners from surrounding counties.
Although crab cakes and shrimp cocktail are designated on the menu as signature dishes, the best bet among the appetizers is the Ahi Tuna ($8.95) — assuming you have a bit of tolerance for heat. The tuna is coated in black pepper and sesame seeds and seared crispy-but-stillrare, served with a sweet-and-spicy Asian sauce and a tiny dollop of sinus-clearing wasabi.
The strength of the entrees is in the steaks and chops, and here, the two dishes designated as “signature” excel. The Caroline House Steak coats a 10-ounce sirloin with a Cajun blackening seasoning that complements without overwhelming the beef, then tops it with garlic butter and serves the steak alongside thinly sliced onion rings.
The bone-in, 10-ounce Chipotle Pork Chop, presented artfully after crisscross grilling, is so good solo that it doesn’t need
sauce ( which thankfully, doesn’t smother it). Unlike many restaurants that serve pork, The Caroline asks diners how they’d like the chop cooked, and “medium” brings a perfectly cooked chop, moist and with just a hint of pink.
A salmon entree was a disappointment, slightly overcooked and dominated by the maple glaze.
Save room for dessert, because the restaurant’s signature Caroline’s Dutch Apple Ice Cream ($3.95) is a hit. The ice cream is made exclusively for
The Caroline by Susie’s Big Dipper in Piqua, and it may just make the entire drive worthwhile for out-of-towners. The dessert blends rich vanilla ice cream with apple strudel, caramel and a healthy shot of cinnamon. It is rich, decadent and delicious.
An inviting and attractive atmosphere, well-executed meat dishes and that tempting dessert make The Caroline a worthwhile destination. The owners’ dogged determination seems to have paid off.
For restaurant locations, hours and reviews, check our Web site at DaytonDailyNews.com/ dining
how to go
WHAT: The Caroline WHERE: 5 S. Market St. on the square in downtown Troy HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, closed Sundays and Mondays. COST: Lunch $5.95 to $11.95, Dinner entrees $10.95 to $28.95. DISHES TO TRY: Ahi Tuna ($8.95) appetizer; The Caroline House Steak ($15.95), Chipotle Pork Chop ($14.95); Caroline’s Dutch Apple Ice Cream ($3.95) MORE INFO: (937) 552-7676 or www.thecaroline onthesquare