Bob Mendenhall is a proud “publican,” and he is not being political.
“A publican is the guy who used to greet people when you came in the public house, and the public house is where you would go to drink and eat,” the Detroit native and co-owner of Blind Bob’s and Lily’s Bistro in Dayton’s Oregon District said. “I adopted the title publican trying to make it my job to talk to people, and certainly it is a good way to get feedback about my business.”
The business specializes in craft beers, rock shows and great food — killer stuffed burgers; fried mac and cheese and even a few healthy options like Mediterranean Pizza and hummus and pita chips.
Its name comes honestly.
“I really think the idea of public discussions in taverns in the old days is getting a rebirth, and we are seeing it with all the taverns,” he said. “There is a place I can go after work and have a pint or two — that’s what they say in England. Here they say a couple of beers.”
Bob’s career has taken his family around the Midwest.
The family has lived in Chicago and throughout Michigan.
They lived in Beavercreek between 1989 and 1997, when Bob worked at the Dayton Social Security office. The family then moved to Cincinnati and eventually to Mason.
People often assumed Bob was in the military due to all the moves.
“My wife would shoot back ‘No, we move more often,” he said. “I promised her when it came time for the last move she would get her choice of where we were going to go, and she chose Dayton. I am really comfortable with Dayton. I really enjoyed living in Dayton, Ohio, when we were here. The idea of coming back to Dayton and doing something else really appealed to us.”
The married couple of 36 years moved from Mason to a brick home in Dayton’s Oregon District constructed in 1882 four years ago.
“I knew more people here in 6 months than I did there in 13 years,” he said. “We live so close to each other, you have to know your neighbors; you really have no choice, which also forces you together alone which is something you miss out on when you live somewhere else and you drive in and your garage door goes open and your car goes in and your door goes down and you don’t sit on the front porch because you don’t have a front porch and you don’t see people walk by on the sidewalk because you don’t have a sidewalk. But you have a very nice deck out in your backyard and privacy fence, so you don’t have to see anyone. That is not what Dayton, Ohio is. Dayton, Ohio is a city. It is urban and a lot of people seem to enjoy that, and if you want to get engaged you can make a difference Dayton, Ohio. “
The family opened Lily’s Bistro at 329 and 333 E. Fifth St., the former site of Cafe Boulevard in 2013.
Bob is considering what to do next.
“I am beholden to this community, to this neighborhood for being here. And I appreciate them, and I often feel like they appreciate us, too. I don’t pour beer, and I don’t make a burger, but a lot of my staff has been here since we opened. People tell me that there is huge turnover in the restaurant business. We don’t have huge turnover, and I feel very fortunate about that."
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