Looking to discover new dining venues with character around the City of Dayton? As part of the “Hidden Gems Project” conducted by students at the University of Dayton, this article was written to communicate the uncovering of a few local dining spots and their historical background. We were required to make visits to each place, interview the owners and/or workers, and record our experiences of each “Hidden Gem”. The benefit that came from this project is that it serves as a means to learn about the history of Dayton through restaurants which have been around for generations. It also helps to spread the word that these restaurants are still around and have their own story to tell—along with their food and spirits.
In 1920 Karl Falb opened up a store on 201 Kiser St selling dry goods to the local neighborhood. Residents working at the Dayton Casting plant, as well as General Motors and other tool shops, would frequent the store. One day, a worker entered the store on his lunch break and asked the owners if they would make him a sandwich, to which they happily obliged. This encounter in the early 30’s gave way to the place serving food regularly, and to this day is known as Falb’s Restaurant.
A family business, Falb’s is now owned by two brothers Joe and Dwayne Falb who took over from their father Joseph Falb in 1993. Joseph ran the restaurant with his brother Carl and sister Paula since 1970—Joe and Dwayne’s grandfather Karl originally opened the place along with his wife and managed the business before then. Karl was a carpenter who worked on the Barney Smith railroad box cars. He built the new room for the restaurant right onto his house, originally a double house.
Falb’s has also seen its fair share of tough times. With GM leaving and Dayton Casting gone since the early 80’s the number of workers stopping in went down. Smoking bans and recent economy has also impacted the restaurants business. Despite all this Falb’s has managed to continue its operation. “Having the place attached to the house really helped to stay in business”, Joe said in a personal interview, “there was no additional rent or mortgage that we had to worry about.” Workers hailing from Pepsi and Select Tool & Dye are current local businesses that continue to support the simple restaurant.
The restaurant has really been tailored to operate around the manufacturing setting, “It’s a working man’s place” stated Joe. Workers were attracted to the spot because they could walk into the cafeteria styled set up and get a quick bite to eat within 2-3 minutes, and have plenty of time for the rest of their lunch breaks. A wood floor has been kept so that customers could feel they could walk in without worrying about tracking in mud or dirt from the outdoors. The wood floor allows it to easily be swept out. At the end of prohibition Falb’s also offered more of a “tavern feel” to its customers.
In a visit to Falb’s Restaurant with a few other students we were greeted by both the owners who were working the counter and conversing with their customers. We chose sandwiches for our lunch off of their menu along with a couple soft drinks. “The chicken sandwich is probably one of the most popular sandwiches that people like to get around here” said Dwayne. I chose the swiss steak to sit down and eat at the restaurant and took a chicken sandwich for the road. Both were simple and very good, as well as reasonably priced. Monthly specials are also offered at the restaurant, cabbage rolls were the special featured on our visit. Falb’s Restaurant is a friendly, time tested restaurant of the city of Dayton, and is one of its “Hidden Gems.”