Snacking expert and man-about-town Brian Johnson teaches us how to reach snack nirvana.
Photo: Contributed photo / Brian Johnson
Photo: Contributed photo / Brian Johnson

How to snack in the Oregon District

Just imagine... it’s a beautiful Saturday morning, your friend has invited you out for brunch on his 32nd birthday and then you get the text. “Dying. Not leaving my bed. Brunch is cancelled mates.”

Now most people might take the polite high ground and just accept that your friend is too hungover and just needs a little space, but in the circles I run in, there is no phrase more unconscionable than “brunch is cancelled.”

So my buddy Hank and I did whatever two reasonable people would do: we printed out a picture of his head, put it on a stick and took him around the Oregon District snacking, drinking and heckling our friend via social media. Along the way, we stopped at eight of the local eateries and tried out their best snacks with expertly picked drink pairings.

Lily’s Deluxe Disco Fries and A Bloody Mary

“Brunch cannot be cancelled. It is like the sunrise or the tide, it cannot be stopped. Whether you’re a witness to it or not, it’s there.”  -Brian Johnson

As anyone who has waited in line for brunch or breakfast will tell you, it’s always worth it. So of course Hank and I start our snacking adventure at a tried and true Dayton favorite, Lily’s Bistro. Lily’s has fantastic snacks all through the week but there is one snack only available during brunch that tops them all: the Deluxe Disco Fries. Disco fries are a play on poutine, only instead of cheese curds they replace it with a decadent cheese sauce and maple shallot gravy and top it with an over-easy egg. It’s near the perfect food and while you’re actively planning your all day snack bender (work is hard sometimes), nothing is better than a delicious bloody mary with homemade whiskey pickles.

Blind Bob’s Mini Burgers, a Shot, and a Beer

“Snacking is an art and some snacks are deceptive. Just because they are listed 'mini' on a menu doesn’t guarantee it’s true snack size.”  -Brian Johnson

The Mini Burgers at Blind Bobs are actually just a whole burger split into four. What if I said “Ooh don’t worry, they are just mini steaks...just four small 6 oz. steaks.” However, we were in luck! At this point our beleaguered and hungover birthday boy showed up and would you guess what? He was super hungry. Perfect. While Bob’s has a great craft beer selection and the bartenders are very capable of making any delicious cocktail you want, you can’t say no to Jimbo pouring you a shot and a beer. I mean literally, if he knows you, he will already be pouring it when he sees you walking in the door. So you pair your Bob’s snack with Kentucky Tavern and a PBR.

The Trolley Stop’s Herbie Dip and Chips and a Craft Beer

“Snacking and drinking does not exist individually, they are part of the same continuum. If you are feeling the effects of the drink, a few snacks may bring you closer to the center and vice-versa.”
           -Brian Johnson

It is always important to know where you lay in the balance of the drink and snack continuum. If, for instance, you’re at your third stop on an all day snack-venture it may be appropriate for a light snack and a big beer. One thing to note is that Trolley Stop has recently updated their menu and offers many locally sourced, fresh menu items. That being said, we went for one of their classic items, Herbie Dip and Chips. This has been on the menu for as long as I have been allowed in and it’s a light and inexpensive snack that pairs perfectly with a Double IPA from Nowhere in Particular.

Toxic Brew Company and Popcorn

“Free snacks are often the best snacks.”  -Brian Johnson

Snacking doesn’t have to be expensive. Most places will have peanuts or chips available for free or, hey, you can always reach over to your friend's plate of wings, grab one, take a bite, and then ask if it’s okay. They’ll rarely ask for it back. Toxic Brew Co., known for its delicious Belgian-style craft beers, has a popcorn machine tucked away that is the perfect free snack to hold you over while you try to figure out if you’ve spent way too much on your all day snack-crawl. Pair this pocket-saving snack with a Toxic Cap City Hustler and you’ll have the perfect combo to ponder what bad life choices got you to “drinking all day and writing about snacks.”

Thai Nine’s Crab Rangoon and Sake

“If it’s deep fried, filled with cheese and accompanied with a dip, it’s a good snack.”  -Brian Johnson

Let’s be real for a second. Fried cheese is the best. I know, I know, it’s unhealthy and it doesn’t fit in everyone's diet but seriously, wherever you are now in your life now, at one point all you wanted when you looked over the apps was that delicious melty cheese in a deep fried breading or pocket. Right now I am talking about cream cheese in a wonton wrapper from Thai Nine. Crab Rangoon is a great snack from most places, but Thai Nine makes a really perfect one. Pair that with some warm sake and you just punched your ticket to awesome-snack town.

Salar’s Empanadas and Pisco Sour


Here we are, snack number six (and drink number...I can’t remember). A quick stumble from Thai Nine, Salar has a wide variety of snacks to choose from. We went with the empanadas and boy oh boy they’re awesome. Stuffed, like overflowing about to burst, with ground beef sirloin and a blend of spices, these delicious snack pockets were exactly what our overextended party needed. While I am not sure how it got in front of me, their Picso Sour went well with this snack and after asking the bartender if we’d paid and forgetting his answer three times, we were off to our last stop of the night.

Lily’s Bistro’s Peanut Butter Pie and Underberg

“There is no sadder or happier time than the last bite of a snack. It’s the last bite but it also opens up the door to your next snack."  -Brian Johnson

For me, I like to look at every day not as a regimented three-course meal kinda day, but rather a collection of snacks that you encounter and experience. One of my favorite snack experiences is dessert. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise because dessert is always a snack and it’s appropriate at any time or situation. In this instance, we found our way back to the beginning of the snack cycle at Lily’s Bistro. Their peanut butter pie is a snack for the angels. A layer of peanut butter filling in a pretzel crust drizzled with more peanut butter and chocolate make for a perfect ending snack. Pair it with the fairly unknown but delicious digestif, Underberg, and maybe, just maybe, your stomach will live to snack another day.