Springboro – It’s a picturesque weekday evening, and the open space that leads from the patio to the dining area at Mr. Boro’s Tavern stirs with activity. A local musician strums his acoustic guitar outside as patrons soak in the sounds and sunshine under the umbrella-topped tables. Inside, TVs broadcast the NBA playoffs and guests gather around the bar trying cocktails like the Miami Valley Mule and craft beers that include selections from Warped Wing, Yellow Springs Brewery and Springboro-based Crooked Handle. This is the type of night Rick Baarlaer and Marci Johannes envisioned when they opened the destination in March.
Mr. Boro’s Tavern features a menu adorned with comfort-food items like rustic-style flatbread pizzas, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dog sliders, soups and salads among other options. Everything is baked, including the Buckeye-shaped pretzel bites. Craft beers, domestics, bourbons, specialty drinks and wines are among the spirited beverages available. The tavern recently introduced a few new selections like the Avocado Goat Cheese BLT, which features avocado goat cheese spread made from scratch. Mr. Boro’s has a Happy Hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m Monday through Friday with specials like the avocado goat cheese spread with tortilla chips, parmesan tater tots with housemade ranch dressing and the pretzel bites.
Made from scratch ingredients that are not found at most taverns compose several items on the menu. Marci prepares the avocado goat cheese spread and the black bean corn salsa. She also creates special handmade cocktails that are placed in 2.5 gallon glass pitchers for special events and occasional weekends. The Miami Valley Mule, Main St. Maple, Tropical Rum Punch and Strawberry Basil Gin are top sellers. Mr. Boro’s also prepares its own pepper bacon and smokes its chicken breasts. Dorothy Lane Market bakes the bread for the grilled cheese sandwiches.
“Craft beer and cocktails are a draw here, but our menu has a variety of choices that bring our guests back,” Johannes said. “Mr. Boro’s is not a restaurant, but a tavern that serves freshly made food.”
Rick and Marci envisioned a casual neighborhood tavern and felt drawn to the spot at 495 N. Main St. in Springboro at first sight. The building formerly housed a wine bar called Bella Vino but was vacant for around two years. Once they decided on the location, the couple spent a year transforming the interior into a farmhouse rustic atmosphere that appeals to business professionals, blue collar workers, Millennials, retirees and parents alike. The 21-seat bar is handcrafted, as are the tables, made from reclaimed barn wood. Natural light spills into the tavern through tall windows and a garage-style door that is opened when the weather is comfortable. During warmer months, the patio brims with activity, including outdoor acoustic performances and themed cookouts.
The main conversation piece at Mr. Boro’s Tavern is undoubtedly the Ohio Stadium mural that spans an entire wall and gives guests a feeling that they are watching the Buckeyes on a fall afternoon. Football season will be a popular time at the tavern, Johannes believes.
“The mural was not part of our original design plans, but we are glad we added it because now it is a spot where people get photos taken, and many people are drawn to it because of the detail. We even get positive comments from non-Ohio State fans, who are impressed by the visual appeal” Marci said.
“With the ambiance, our selection of beers and a menu that is ideal for football watching, it is going to be a fun atmosphere for college football and NFL games,” Rick added.
Brewers in Dayton and Cincinnati are gaining national recognition for their selections, and Mr. Boro’s Tavern always highlights offerings from a collection of them. Warped Wing, Crooked Handle Mad Tree, Figleaf, Dayton Beer Company and Lucky Star are some of the regional beers that are rotated on tap. The tavern also makes sure to keep domestics on hand.
Craft beer is in demand, as is grilled cheese, and Mr. Boro’s has four signature sandwiches. While grilled cheese is considered standard fare on diner menus throughout the country, several establishments have been tweaking “the perfect grilled cheese” with unexpected additions and artisan ingredients with significant success. Baarlaer and Johannes experimented with a variety of possibilities in their kitchen at home. The Boro Favorite (with Cheddar, Mozzarella, Provolone, peppered bacon and fresh tomato) is the trademark item. The Pigskin is a big seller (braised pulled pork, BBQ sauce, Swiss cheese and dill pickle chips). The Great American (butter grilled sourdough and cheese) and Buffalo Chicken (buffalo chicken dip, cheddar cheese and sliced tomato; served with Ranch or Bleu Cheese) are featured items as well.
Sliders are another food trend that attracts diners, and Mr. Boro’s has its own take on the new classic, an item perfected by Rick. Bleacher Dog Sliders include three mini Nathan’s 100 percent beef hot dogs served with parmesan kettle chips. Three options are the Stadium Dog (mustard, sweet relish, onions tomatoes & dill pickle), Chili Dog (chili, cheddar cheese, mustard & onions) and the Sauerkraut Dog (sauerkraut and spicy mustard)
“We love sliders and grilled cheese, and we were confident that our guests would like them, too, especially since they are an ideal complement to beer and cocktails,” Baarlaer said. “Our menu is flexible, so we change it with the seasons, and for themed events, like on Memorial Day with our house smoked bourbon chicken sandwiches, blueberry infused Buckeye Vodka lemonade drinks and special spiced cupcakes with almond icing for dessert, made by Marci’s mom”
Mr. Boro’s Tavern has received a warm response from the Springboro community and south Dayton regulars, who have voiced and written numerous complements about the service from the team of 14 employees. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., families of all ages are welcome. After Happy Hour begins at 3 p.m., guests must be 21 and older.
“Our patio and are dining area are good places for families to have lunch,” Johannes said. “After Happy Hour begins, it becomes an adult environment and we do not think it is conducive for children, which is why you just be 21 and older after 3.”
Through the summer, a variety of special events are slated at Mr. Boro’s, and the tavern also caters parties and events. On June 24, Mr. Boro’s will be part of the Sliders, Sides & Suds Festival at the Fraze in Kettering. The organizer of that event – the Miami Valley Restaurant Association – recently had its Restaurant Raiders event at Mr. Boro’s.
“We believed that Springboro needed a neighborhood tavern like Mr. Boro’s, and we are listening to customer suggestions. We have ongoing plans for more events, menu items, and beer and cocktail selections,” Johannes said. “It was a long journey to get where we are, and now that we are experiencing it, we are excited about what is ahead.”