Harissa carrots at  Little Fish Brewing Co.’s Dayton Station (photo by Sarah Blankemeyer)
Food + Drink | Craft Beer

Little Fish Brewing Co.’s Dayton Station

The Athens brewery puts roots down in a second location that offers beautifully crafted beers and a food menu by executive chef Becky Clark.

Since opening in 2015, Athens’ Little Fish Brewing Co. has made beer that celebrates and supports Ohio agriculture. It employed that same mindset for the food menu when the brewery’s taproom opened a couple years later.

Little Fish’s location in Dayton’s historic Webster Station neighborhood opened in 2022 and brings that same sensibility to the Gem City, creating a second home for the farmhouse-inspired brewery rather than merely a cookie-cutter satellite taproom. That philosophy permeates the food menu created by executive chef Becky Clark, who in January was named a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio).

“My background is in fine dining, and we want to bring that quality to this menu but in a comfortable manner,” says Clark. “It takes the pretentiousness out of fine dining but is still rooted in those techniques where everything is from scratch and driven by what’s in season from local farmers.”

Becky Clark of Athens’ Pork & Pickles (photo by Sarah Blankemeyer)

The well-curated menu at Little Fish Dayton Station includes small plates and entrees, ranging from the rustic but refined (beet pickled deviled eggs on the happy-hour menu, risotto as a rotating pasta dish) to the more exotic but still approachable (PEI mussels, spanakopita). While Clark uses as much as she can from local providers, she says she doesn’t like to overuse the L-word. 

“I even shy away from saying ‘local when possible’ because a lot of people say that but aren’t actually doing it,” she explains. “Define ‘possible,’ right?”

Clark works with local growers when she can, leaning heavily on area farms for meat and poultry and working with excellent providers farther afield when it’s appropriate. She says winter is a great time to use ingredients like pineapple or jicama that can never be grown locally. Clark and co-founder Jimmy Stockwell are quick to praise the mushrooms they get from Guided by Mushrooms, a Dayton-based provider.

“We’re getting these amazing chestnut mushrooms from them, and that’s something that wasn’t really available in Athens,” says Stockwell.

Opening a second kitchen a few hours’ drive from Athens has expanded the ingredient options for both locations, Clark adds. Rather than two entirely separate supply chains for local produce and meat, they have created one larger network to supply both kitchens.

“We’re really getting the best of both communities,” she says. 

Little Fish’s beer, created by co-founder and head brewer Sean White, perfectly complements Clark’s menu. Although the brewery produces a wide range of styles, including lagers, IPAs and stouts, its focus is on elegant, mixed-fermentation farmhouse ales such as Woodthrush, an amber biere de garde; and 1872, a brew based on a recipe from that year found in an Ohio farmhouse attic.

The brewery’s Dayton taproom space reflects both the rustic inspiration that shapes its beer and food menus and the refined polish of their execution. Prominent wood accents were made using felled trees from both Athens and Dayton, and exposed brick speaks to the building’s history as a train depot. The brewery hasn’t opened a soulless second location in the Gem City. Both in menu and in spirit, it has grown a second set of roots. 

116 Webster St., Dayton 45402, 937/949-3055, littlefishbrewing.com