Tucked into a small, one stoplight town, about 30 minutes from Dublin and I-270, is a tiny restaurant that is starting to get big time attention – The Smiling Daisy Cafe. Focusing on using local, farm-fresh ingredients and making just about everything from scratch, Chef Dale Romp is slowly but surely making a big name for himself, and his brainchild cafe. Continuing my journey to find the best breakfasts in Union County, several readers insisted that I HAD to make the trip to Milford Center and try this cozy little eatery.
Chef Dale is a one man show inside of his little slice of heaven, and that’s just how he likes it. I got to talk with him quite a bit while I was visiting, and got to see him at work, first hand. He takes great care and pride in his cooking, in what he refers to as “oven-lovin’ food fusion”. Almost all of his dishes are made from scratch, and he uses only the freshest ingredients, which he often picks up at the local farmer’s market. He is always eager to make his version of gourmet comfort food for his guests, and he greets every customer as if he’s known them for years, which made me feel extremely welcome. He’s the only cook, the only server, and he even bakes all of his own homemade breads and pastries, too!! His culinary skills are similar to what you would expect to see in a big city restaurant, but Chef Dale is committed to his small town life.
His restaurant is small and quaint, and it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to call it an authentic “hole-in-the-wall” dive. A total of four mismatched tables, and five bar stools fills the tiny space to capacity, but even with the somewhat cramped quarters, it’s still successful at making you feel comfortable and right at home. Chef Dale is completely accessible to his patrons, and often talks across the room with his customers about the food, their lives, the weather, and whatever else you’d talk about with someone you’re having a relaxing meal with.
Here’s a view of the other half of the dining room. Big, bright windows on the front wall let in tons of natural lighting.
The Smiling Daisy is open for breakfast and lunch during the week, and serves several standard diner options like corned beef hash, scrambles, and breakfast sandwiches. But there are also many unique options on the menu such as French toast smothered in peanut butter and Cap’n Crunch cereal, Meat Cakes (sausage and cheese filled pancakes topped with eggs), and Aebleskiver (a Dutch pancake filled with apples, blueberries, peach, or chocolate chips). He also features one-of-a kind specials every day, often times omelettes filled with extraordinary combinations of meats and veggies.
Their pastries and danish are some of the largest I’ve seen, and are baked fresh every morning. Iced cinnamon rolls, and his famous “un-sweet rolls” are readily available to anyone who wants to add one to their morning meal.
They use a locally roasted coffee from Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, and serve it with a small, chilled pitcher of cream. Very nice. Chef Dale makes sure that your cup is always hot and full.
One of the daily specials when we visited was a Pulled Pork and Pimento Cheese Omelette, served with fried potatoes and two large slices of warm, fresh Focaccia toast. The omelette was at least a 3-egger, filled with a pork shoulder that had a wonderful, smokey flavor. The pimento cheese added a creaminess that paired nicely with the egg and pork. Originally, this dish included a jalapeno cornbread stuffing inside the egg wrap as well, but they were out of the cornbread. I sampled the omelette and thought it was very good just as it was, but I think the cornbread would have added another texture and definitely some heat to the dish.
Here’s the Cannoli French Toast, made with the same Focaccia bread, topped with butter and powdered sugar. Savory French toast stuffed with sweet, cheesy filling and rich, chocolate brownie bits makes this breakfast a cannoli-lover’s delight.
Wanting another view of this wonderful breakfast treat, we sliced it in half to show the creamy filling. I tried a bite of this too, and it was sweet and incredibly delicious. If you like a sweet breakfast, I highly recommend this dish. And if you can’t finish the whole thing, Chef Dale will gladly give you a piece of tin foil to wrap up your leftovers to take home with you.
I ordered the other breakfast special that was available this morning, the Steak & Loaded Potato Omelette. It, too, was served with the same fried potatoes and Focaccia toast. I can’t speak highly enough of the taste, and versatility of the Focaccia. It had great flavor, and Chef Dale told me that he often lets it sit long enough for the dough to sour a little, which gives it a uniqueness about it.
My omelette was completely stuffed with well-seasoned strips of tender steak, green onions, potatoes, shredded cheese and sour cream. It was so large that it took up almost my entire plate. The only negative thing that I can say about the entire plate was maybe that my side of fried potatoes were a little over done and some of the smaller pieces were pretty hard and crisp. They could have used a little more seasoning as well. Overall, a very, very good, and extremely filling meal.
As we were leaving, I noticed a sign in the yard advertising The Smiling Daisy’s All You Can Eat BBQ on Fridays and Saturdays. If the pulled pork from the omelette was any indication of the flavor and quality of the ‘cue they serve on a regular basis, I will definitely be back for all I can eat!!
Out front, Chef Dale even has his own produce stand, with a small selection of veggies and fruits available. I’m not sure if these are extras that he buys from the farmer’s market to sell, or if these are products he has grown himself. Either way, you’ve gotta love a small town cafe selling some of the fresh produce that they use on a daily basis to their customers.
I am so glad I finally made it out to visit The Smiling Daisy. With all of the rave reviews I read online, I can tell you that it definitely didn’t disappoint. Chef Dale is happy to talk about his menu and his vision, and is producing awesome food to back up his rising star status in Union County. If The Smiling Daisy were located in the Short North, or Clintonville area, he would no doubt be a very busy man. For now, he’s content with laid back and small town. I can’t say I blame him.
The Smiling Daisy Cafe is located at 27 E. State Street, Milford Center, OH 43045 (Map). They are open Wednesday – Sunday, 7:00AM – 3:00PM, with Friday & Saturday reopening for dinner from 5:30PM – 9:00PM. To find more info about the restaurant, you can visit their website, or to get updates on their daily specials, check out them out on Facebook.