Scoping out Yellow Springs essentials
By Betsy Marsh
Travelers know how hard it is to gauge a town’s vibe on the first meet-cute. Is it all first-impression gloss, all coy impishness? Or will the town be 100 percent itself through and through?
I’ve been stopping by Ohio’s quirky Yellow Springs for decades, and on each trip I share the village sidewalks with the Birkenstock Brigade, the emerald-dreadlock-and-tat crowd, and the women of a certain age who nonchalantly walk down the street in belly-dancing gear. I know this can only be Yellow Springs and know it’s exactly where I need to be for the day.
The town of 3,500 outside Dayton is gathering more clicks and chatter as native son Dave Chappelle plans to open a comedy club here. He’s bought an old fire house along the Little Miami Scenic Trail to create a restaurant and nightclub, moving his popular outdoor comedy-and-music series downtown.
While we wait for the club, Yellow Springs is ready for local, organic nibbling and a comfy overnight in heritage lodging.
Nosh along the way
Nothing jet-fuels a bracing day of hiking and shopping like a slab of cherry-studded Italian cream cake and some wicked java—a carb-and-caffeine jolt created by Dino’s Cappuccinos and Current Cuisine.
Many of YS’s restaurants and its venerable landmark, Ye Olde Trail Tavern in the original 1827 log cabin, are temporarily closed for COVID precautions. But the town’s markets and delis are rolling along, and it’s easy to create a picnic to leisurely unpack in the village or in the parks surrounding Yellow Springs.
Current Cuisine international deli has pick up or delivery, with hearty mains such as salmon teriyaki, beef stroganoff and rosemary pork loin. For dessert, maybe a dainty slice of lavender cake, with lavender-infused butter cream, or the deli’s best seller, triple chocolate cake. If you’re hanging with a crowd, now’s the moment to splash out for the $35 Chocolate Bomb, a dome-shaped cake filled with amaretto chocolate mousse.
For a meal of memory, The Winds Café is reopening after a winter break. A cooperatively owned and operated cafe since 1977, The Winds continues as an Ohio treasure. The cafe keeps to its mission of European style with an American twist.
Ingredients are as local and organic as possible, paired with a deep wine list that’s sans snootiness. While the kitchen turns out grand walleye, duck and steak, it’s a treat to craft a meal from starters alone: fried Brussels sprouts, Indian-spiced sweet potatoes and Russian beets.
Three miles and two centuries away, Clifton Mill has pared down its hefty menu to such local faves as biscuits and gravy for carry-out breakfast and buffalo burgers and chicken-and-gouda sandwiches for lunch on the go. The earliest mill on the Little Miami stretches back to 1802, and today’s version remains one of the river’s largest water-powered grist mills still turning. You can cross over a covered bridge and, with reservations, tour the mill’s inner workings, a glimpse back to the hard-working pioneers who built Yellow Springs.
Stay the night
Celebrating its centennial, the Arthur Morgan House B&B reigns atop a rise in downtown YS. The house vibe is restorative, free of TVs, radios and phones in your room.
Built by Lucy and Arthur Morgan, the two-story house has had its history interwoven with that of Antioch College. Lucy opened a Depression Food Cooperative to feed Antioch students in the 1930s, and later the school bought the building for offices and a co-op dorm. It became a B&B in 1986. To honor the house’s century-old pedigree, the current innkeeper is offering $100 rates for the second night.
Also striking up the birthday band, this time for an astonishing 200 years, is Grinnell Mill B&B. This 1821 landmark stands on the banks of the Little Miami River, and its serenity is the perfect antidote to the incense-spiked buzz of Yellow Springs.
Within Glen Helen Nature Preserve, the B&B was restored in 2006, with two bedrooms upstairs and—surprising in a bicentennial building—a handicapped-accessible suite on the first floor. Because of COVID regulations, the house is being rented exclusively to families or bubble groups.
And don’t leave town without…
…setting the GPS to delish and dashing out to Young’s Jersey Dairy. Yes, it’s a working family farm that’s mushroomed since 1869 into two restaurants, a bakery, a miniature golf course and petting zoo. But the real draw? The all-consuming FOTW—Flavor of the Week.
It’s worth it to check out the dairy’s culinary calendar online—that friendly cow mooing her hello just makes you smile.
While portions of Young’s are temporarily closed, it’s still possible to roll through for a cone. The week of April 5 kicks off with salty caramel pretzel crunch, a powerful combo. The 12th goes bold with Cow Patty, dark chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie pieces, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and mini chocolate chips.
April 19 embraces a classic, peaches and cream, and the 26th is all about peanut butter cup. May rolls in on strawberry dreams.
Of course, you don’t need to conform to FOTW. The Youngs have dozens more on the board, and many of us can testify that caramel chocolate toffee keeps its promise every time.
When you go
For more information about Yellow Springs, visit yellowspringsohio.org and greenecountyohio.org.
Travel journalist Bytsa Marsh
has reportedfrom more than
100 countries on seven continents.