River City Resilience Series: Silver Grove | Dari Bar Offers Ice Cream, Coneys, Burgers and Memories (Sponsored by Southbank Partners) – FORT THOMAS MATTERS

The Dari Bar in Silver Grove is summertime in Northern Kentucky. Photos: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters. 

by Robin Gee

Photos by Phil Armstrong

Dari Bar | 5178 Mary Ingles Highway, Silver Grove

Monday – Thursday 11 am – 9 pm; Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. -10 pm; Sunday 11 am – 9 pm | Curbside and walk up, call (859) 781-2221 

1 NZ6 7679
Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters. 

When speaking with people who might not be familiar with his town, Silver Grove Mayor Neal Bedel said it takes only a few minutes for their eyes to light up in recognition and say “Dari Bar!”

Generations of families throughout Northern Kentucky and the entire region count the opening of the Dari Bar in Silver Grove each March as the official start of the season and the harbinger of summer fun and good times along the river. The season for Dari Bar runs from early spring through Labor Day.

12 NZ6 7730
Dari Bar owners, Ollberding, Baker and Hutchinson. Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.

A family business serving generations of customers

Dari Bar has been serving up ice cream, burgers and more through a traditional “dairy bar” walk-up window for 70 years. Owner Diane Ollberding said she and her husband became the fourth and longest-running owners of the establishment 25 years ago. She’s been running the Dari Bar with her family ever since.

In fact, daughter Theresa Baker started as a teenager and worked eight years for the Dari Bar’s previous owners. Her parents told her to ask the owners if they ever decided to sell to let them know. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today Diane still runs the show with Baker, daughter Jennifer Hutchinson, and some of the next generation of Ollberdings.“Mom and dad bought Dari Bar when their first grandchild was born, and any grandchild over the age of 14 has worked here,” said Baker.

A truly family operation, Ollberding said she feels that is what keeps her employees coming back as well as her customers. About 30 people work at the Dari Bar now, most of them young people on summer break, who return year after year, she said. It’s a second home to many.

She noted, too, that not all her employees are kids. Ages start at 14, but their oldest employee is an 87-year-old woman who has been with Dari Bar for 40 years. It’s hard work, she said, but it’s also fun.

While the Dari Barn draws people from all over, Baker said they have strong local base, and many of their customers have been coming there for years. “We love our customers. We get folks from out of town but a lot of locals, too, have been coming to us for 30-40 years, and they bring their kids and their kids bring their kids.”

14 NZ6 7741
Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.
13 NZ6 7736
Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.

Ice cream, of course, but much more

A trip to the Dari Bar does feel like a trip back in time with its decor, traditional walk-up window, outdoor seating and family service, but it serves more than nostalgia. Ollberding said when she and her husband took over, the menu was mostly ice cream—cones, sundaes, shakes and floats but the menu has grown significantly over the years.

11 NZ6 7727
Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.

The Dari Bar sells a lot of ice cream in all its forms, but the coneys, hot dogs, burgers and other fare are equally popular, said Baker. “Sometimes I tease that maybe we should really be called the Silver Grove Food Bar.”

The menu includes burgers and foot longs, chili, chicken and fish sandwiches and more. They serve fries, but the munchers, potato rounds filled with cheddar cheese, are a big hit. The Dari Bar is always busy. Baker notes that there is a rush on food items especially at the start of the season. “It seems people have been missing our burgers!” she said.

Dari Barn has been well-established in Silver Grove, but native Ollberding said she loves her town, and it’s a great place for the Dari Bar. The city “has evolved from a railroad town. The railroad built Silver Grove, and just seeing the changes over the years where they put in Pendery Park and things like that. You ask me if I like it here in Silver Grove — of course, I do!” she said.

The Dari Bar is far enough from the bustle of the town and larger cities along the river, but close enough that it’s a short drive for many, she said.

Customers come from all over, but one big draw during the season, are people coming to Dari Bar before and after baseball and other sporting events, said Baker. Pendery Sports Park in next door Melbourne has many fields and many teams. City parks, including Chief Saylers Park and others also host games. It’s a regular occurrence for a coach to show up at the window to buy everyone on his team ice cream, she said. 

9 NZ6 7715
Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.

When COVID hit

Dari Bar had just opened up for the season when the worst of the COVID pandemic hit. Because they did not have indoor seating, the establishment was not shut down, but Baker said they had to change things up quickly.

“Prior to COVID everything was walk up…but when COVID hit, we were afraid of the crowds out front so to avoid everyone gathering together in close proximity, we kept everyone in their cars, and our employees just went out and took orders, kind of like a drive through. When outdoor dining was  allowed, everybody could park if they wanted and sit at the picnic tables, and we’d bring their items to them there,” said Baker.

The curbside service is something they hope to continue as an option. “Now we do a combination. For day shift we do the walk-up window because the crowds aren’t as busy then and people really like it… Then on nights and weekends, when we have a busier crowd, we are doing curbside….We wanted to give our customers both options.”

The owners found that offering curbside helped add even more customers to the mix. “We now have grown a customer base that enjoys curbside, but we also have an older customer base that really enjoys the walk-up service through the window. So our best combination for customers was to offer both.”

Dari Bar offers 12 picnic tables outside for guests and hopes to add a few more. They are working on adding additional parking to accommodate those who want to park, come to the window and eat outside. People love the outdoor setting, Baker said, and she often sees people tailgating, setting up chairs in the back of their trucks.

For the future, the owners are looking forward to the new parking, but beyond that are “throwing out ideas,” Baker said. For now, the focus is on a summer of great food and ice cream treats at the Silver Grove Dari Bar.

Silver Grove, a quiet place with some notable gems

While many know Silver Grove for the Dari Bar, there’s more to be discovered in this small quiet river town, said the mayor. The city recently made improvements to one of its city parks, Chief Saylers Park, named for a retired Silver Grove police chief who had a 56-year career with the city.  


20 NZ6 7752
Construction at Chief Salyers Park in Silver Grove. Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.

The park hosts a series of band concerts each year in its large pavilion. The work includes major improvements to the park’s ball field, named in honor of the city’s former school, “Big Trains Field,” where they host many youth baseball games. And, Bedel said, people should watch for news of “Sunday in the Park with Silver Grove,” a celebration of the city planned for this fall. The date is September 18 and new activities are added to the event each day. 

“It’s blossoming into something really nice,” said Bedel, and a great way to introduce people to his city.

Bedel listed several other establishments worth a visit including Pelle’s, a longtime tavern and grill known for great food and, this fall, people can get some great pizza at Pepperoncinis when it reopens from summer hiatus.

Brent’s Landing along the river is fast becoming another Silver Grove summer favorite. “They are on the river at the old ferry landing on Mary Ingles Hwy underneath the railroad trestle. I can’t emphasis enough the awesome setting. They’ve got a food truck down there and serve great burgers. It’s right there on the river, shaded, a really cool setting. It’s just a neat little place that served me the best burger I’ve ever had,” he said.

Silver Grove is not large, only four streets, and the pace is relaxed, he said. “You can play some basketball or baseball in one of the parks, or you can just relax here. Silver Grove is the place if you want to just come out for an evening stroll in a very quiet setting, walk around town and meet a lot of friendly people,” he said.  


21 NZ6 7753
Photo: Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters.

Photos by Phil Armstrong. Fort Thomas Matters. 


8 NZ6 7709

7 NZ6 7708

5 NZ6 7697

4 NZ6 7692

2 NZ6 7688

19 NZ6 7750

17 NZ6 7747

About Southbank Partners

Southbank Partners, Inc,, is a community and economic development organization that coordinates activity with the cities that lie along Northern Kentucky’s bank of the Ohio River. Their purpose is to support the cities through promoting and coordinating development activities, fostering teamwork and collaboration, and providing a unified voice for the partner cities in advocating common positions to state and federal government, as well as to other communities. Members are: Bellevue, Covington, Dayton, Fort Thomas, Silver Grove, Ludlow and Newport.