As for the whites Jeff, I'm not sure if they are any more "bland" white America than the Great Lakes cities. Chicago, Detroit, Toledo, and Cleveland all have lost a lot of their white ethnic roots IMHO. Ethnically and religiously speaking, Dayton is more Appalachian than the Great Lakes cities of course, and very similar to Cincinnati. Daytonians (and Natians of course) have a noticeable southern accent to someone like me who speaks in a typical Toledo/Michigan dialect. It's amazing the range of dialects in Ohio!! I've said it before, and I'll say it again, we are THE microcosm of America.
Interestingly, I've heard that Michiganders think Toledoans (and northern Ohioans in general) have a slight twang. I never caught it until my friend from Temperance, Michigan had a weird combination between "nasal" and "Appalachian." That might be true. Dayton, generally, has two kinds of accents: Appalachian and "Standard Midwest." The Appalachian accent can be heard heavily on the city's east side and eastern suburbs (and some southern ones) while the standard Midwest ones are in the southern and even places like Troy and Englewood. Cincinnati, linguistically, is also a double: "Westsider Twang" and "Eastsider Proper" if that makes any sense. I-75 is amazing in terms of how areas are just split up; granted, there are eastsiders with twang and westsiders with proper, but this is just a generalization.
Interestingly, Mansfield is perhaps the only city in Ohio where I've met people that sound straight UP southern on a continuous basis. And that is 45 min north of Columbus (oy!).
I wouldn't say Dayton is "no different" from other Midwestern cities regarding ethnicity. The Midwest can basically be cut in two. The Great Lakes cities are similar (and I count Buffalo in this) and then there's what I call the "True Midwest" which includes everything else.
Arguably, Dayton has a "Great Lakes" feel as well, in terms of architecture, working-class, and Burnham-style boulevards. Cincinnati is an anomoly, mainly due to history (of it being older than the Great Lakes; re: Pittsburgh).
In general, the Great Lakes cities have a higher percentage of Latinos,
Actually, Kansas and Kansas City have a very high percentage of Latinos, as does Omaha and those Great Plains cities.
higher percentage of Catholics,
I believe the Cincinnati-Dayton Archdiocese is one of the largest in the nation.
and higher percentage from the Middle East and Mediterranean than the other midwestern cities.
I would just say Detroit ;).
Germans and English are populous pretty much everywhere, but a place like Nati really shows a strong heritage to this day. I'm shocked to hear there is no German restaurant in Dayton!! I find that hard to believe, but I'll take your word for it Jeff. I just figured every larger city had at least one.
Dayton may have little German pubs/bars but on a whole, it does not have a large or decent German restaurant. Dayton is definately a steak/potatoes type of town (with good Indian :D).
Dayton's connection to Cincinnati and the south gives the region a nice mix of culture overall, but there are certainly differences when compared to the Great Lakes cities. I actually think Dayton is more of the northern/southern mix than Nati is (as I consider Nati the south),
I would say opposite. Cincinnati never really embraced the South (if anything, it shunned it) while Dayton was an Appalachian magnet. But then again, it's arguable that Appalachian equates with the south (as West Virginia and Kentucky are both "MidSouth" or maybe their own region). Columbus also had a high immigration of Appalachian and I'd argue that Columbus is probably just as southern (if not more) than Dayton. Particularly, the city's west and south sides.
but this is just my opinion. I see the strong Polish and Hungarian roots as more of a Great Lakes characteristic, and then a lot of other things seem "southern" (accents, religion, etc.). Any other thoughts?
Religion throughout Ohio seems pretty steady. All of Ohio has a large Catholic fanbase with other protestant groups around. Though I do assoc. eastern European with the Great Lakes (along with the horrendous nasal accent and wood-frame A's).