I have enjoyed both Azra and her fantastic food for the two decades she has been serving it and have known each time I’ve had it just how special it is.
There’s no better fresh Greek salad, the spanakopita melts in your mouth, the cabbage rolls and Shepherd’s pie are hearty and packed with the kind of flavor that love for cooking and sharing it with others can infuse into a dish; the paninis and gyros are filling — exactly what you would hope for with flavor and execution; dolmades and side salads are bright and zippy and help you feel better about gorging later on the fantastic desserts she offers.
It’s no secret that our local restaurants and kitchens were decimated during the pandemic and have continued to struggle to recover with increased costs, staffing issues and razor thin margins.
Chef-owner Maria Walusis of Watermark and Backwater Voodoo has long shared that the struggle for restaurant owners locally and around the country is real and incredibly challenging for local independent owners.
“We are losing more and more local places and it’s heartbreaking. Many places are fighting so hard to stay open. Please support our local restaurants, they need you more than you know,” Walusis wrote on Facebook this week.
Azra’s Mediterranean Cuisine joins a litany of recent announcements from other restaurants announcing their closings. Basil’s downtown Dayton location, the Wellington Grille in Beavercreek, the kitchen at Angie’s Firehouse Tavern in Belmont, KJ’s in Germantown and the Sugar Guild near downtown have all recently closed leaving a hole in our local dining scene.
The Heights Cafe in Huber Heights closed its doors just last week. The closure was announced Thursday on the business’ Facebook page: “After 12 years of serving the community, the Heights Cafe will be officially closed after Saturday, Aug. 20,” the post reads. “Thank you for letting us serve you over the years.”
While there are plenty of restaurants and businesses opening locally, hearing about some of these long-time favorites that have been feeding us for decades is hard to stomach.
There’s no magic answer about how to prevent it from happening — each closing is a story of wrestling with different issues. Closings are brought on by different combinations of health, rent, finances, retirement, staffing, inflation and other outside forces coming together to create the perfect storm for that business.
Still there are things we can do to help support and help out the restaurants, kitchens and staff we know and love.
Here are just a few ideas of small acts that can have great impact when we come together to support.
It’s hard work being in the business of food. If you have a favorite bartender, waiter, chef or restaurant owner, show them the love and check in to see how they are doing.
And if you need to find me in the next two months head to Azra’s Mediterranean Cuisine at the 2nd Street Market where I will be working to eat through the menu as many times as I possibly can. It will be an exercise in pure joy because her food is just that, and an exercise in sadness knowing at the end of the year that particular joy will be going away.
Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at [email protected] with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.
How to go
What: Azra’s Mediterranean Cuisine
Where: 2nd Street Market, 600 E. Second St., Dayton
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays