The Van Buren Room in Dayton (photos by Matthew Evans)
Food + Drink

Behind the Bar: The Van Buren Room and The Flying Pepper Cantina

One is a single-room cocktail bar alongside a Dayton distillery. Another is a fun downtown spot in Bellefontaine. Both are well worth a visit.

All across the state you’ll find unique bars and restaurants with surprising cocktails, great food and vast collections of spirits that are destinations all on their own. These spots in a historic district in Dayton and thriving downtown Bellefontaine are two destinations worth seeking out. 

Belle of Dayton: A Cocktail Bar with a Presidential Pedigree

Belle of Dayton’s cocktail bar, the Van Buren Room, is a cozy enclave in Dayton’s historic Oregon District, surrounded by beautiful homes and brick-lined streets. When you step in through the front doors, you’re greeted by a portrait of Sarah Angelica Singleton Van Buren, daughter-in-law to President Martin Van Buren. Because he was widowed, she took on the job of First Lady during his time in the White House, and she was known as a consummate host.

That same sense of welcome imbues the single-room cocktail bar that looks into the distillery. Guests can sidle up to the bar or tuck into a booth while friendly bartenders showcase their menu of signature creations, classics and house cocktails that feature the distillery’s spirits. First-timers should try the Detrick Rye Manhattan, built on Belle of Dayton’s Detrick Straight Rye Whiskey, or the Joe and Ginger, made with house Habana Joe Spiced Rum, lime and ginger ale from Dayton’s Warped Wing Brewing.

The Van Buren Room is the ideal spot to taste their massive whiskey selection or work your way through Belle of Dayton’s spirits, from their spiced rum and rye whiskey to their aromatic Belle of Dayton Gin and their fiery Hell’s Vodka, made with seven different types of peppers.

122 Van Buren St., Dayton 45402, 937/250-1837,

The patio at The Flying Pepper Cantina in Bellefontaine (photo courtesy of Small Nation)
The Flying Pepper Cantina: Margaritas and More a Draw at This Downtown Spot

Even before settling in downtown Bellefontaine in late 2020, The Flying Pepper was well known all around the area. Owners Humberto Nieto and Laura Haverkos launched their food truck in 2016 at the Logan County Farmers Market, taking it around to Urbana, Springfield and Yellow Springs. The food truck continues to make the rounds, but now guests have a brick-and-mortar destination for their authentic tacos, enchiladas verde, grilled poblanos and tortas — not to mention their notable selection of spirits.

The Flying Pepper took over a beautiful, red brick storefront in Bellefontaine with a modern but comfortable interior, highlighted by a brightly lit backdrop to the bar and a colorful mural covering one of the focal walls. Patrons can also enjoy their meals with a margarita out on the front patio.

One of the big draws is The Flying Pepper’s cocktails and spirits. Sip on guava margaritas, palomas and a hibiscus fizz, or try a few tequilas. The eatery makes a name for itself with its selection of nearly 40 tequilas and mezcals. Sample your way through tequila blanco (unaged), reposado (aged 2-12 months) or añejo (aged more than one year), as well as the delightfully rich and smoky mezcal. Order flights featuring a curated trio of one-ounce pours from The Flying Pepper’s offerings. 

137 W. Columbus Ave., Bellefontaine 43311, 937/210-5042,

Proof Magazine is for Ohio spirit lovers. It is produced by Great Lakes Publishing three times a year. Dont miss an issue by subscribing to Ohio Magazine. View a digital version of the Proof Magazine Winter 2023 edition here