Like others in the dining area, one member of our group couldn't relax amid the aroma of food, the proximity of four-legged companions and an early afternoon thunderous hailstorm. Only the Pub Dog staff appeared at ease.
"Sometimes it's like a doghouse here," quipped an employee at the Westside restaurant where dogs are welcome inside and out. I suspect my mutt agreed.
In concept, a place where dogs can hang with their peeps who want to grab a meal or savor a cold beer is a fun, why-hasn't-someone-thought-of-this-before idea. In practice, it's easy to see why not.
Granted, the storm caught everyone by surprise and would be a source of distress for the canines even in the comfort of home. Nonetheless, the variety of breeds, sizes and control levels provided distractions to the cuisine.
Perhaps that's intentional.
If dining in one of the dog-friendly zones, orders are placed and picked up at the counter. The staff is friendly, but only the dog-free area has servers.
Salads, sandwiches and pizzas, many with clever and not-so-clever names, are available. The nachos sounded wonderful. Chips "piled high with queso, chicken, cheese, homemade salsa, and avocado" ($12 whole serving; $8 for half). The problem is the name: "Dog Pile."
Other menu items also play off the mongrel motif: the Corgi Cobb, Bow Wow BLTA and the Rottweiler, among others.
Chow is served on stainless-steel dog dishes, which may be taking the pooch premise a bit too far.
The Reuben sandwich ($12) on toasted, marbled rye was thick with pastrami rather than corned beef. It's a subtle distinction. The tangy sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing provided creaminess. Not the best but far from the worst I've tasted.
The turkey club ($12), served on Texas toast, was fine thanks to the addition of basil aioli, which complemented the roasted namesake. The bacon, as always, enhanced it all.
The Mastiff Meat Pie ($12) appealed to my friend because, based on the name, he envisioned a large quantity of sausage, pepperoni, ham and bacon. He was disappointed in the limited meat - and it was a small pizza. The crust made from naan bread adds a creative, albeit lackluster, twist.
I enjoyed the beet caprese salad ($14). Fresh red beets served with slices of creamy mozzarella next to a bed of greens all drizzled with balsamic reduction, a blend of balsamic vinegar and honey.
Two dining areas are inside: one for those with dogs, one for those without. The former feels cramped. The concrete floors guarantee easy clean-up and a cool surface for Fido. Water bowls and a "Doggie Menu," featuring bones, carrots and pupsicles, are available. Several house rules ensure some semblance of order.
I spoke with a woman I often see walking her dog. She said she and her mother wanted to check out the restaurant before bringing her pet. A few days later, we crossed paths again. She said it's probably not a place she'll frequent.
My dog is happiest on a walk, with those he knows and when we're together; we have much in common. Pub Dog fulfilled only one of those for me and my pup. Perhaps after a hike, when a beer would quench my thirst and a shady patio would let him cool down, we'll give the place another try. After all, most dogs want to please their people. Maybe Pub Dog is the same.