Nearly two months ago, my wife and I adopted a Great Pyrenees puppy — now 10 months old and heading past 55 pounds — from the Humane Society of North Texas’ Regional Adoption Center in Keller. He had a shelter name, but we redubbed him Oliver.
In an attempt to socialize Oliver, we have taken him to several places with dog-friendly patios: Woodshed Smokehouse (tip: hold out for one of the picnic tables rather than one of the dog-level ones, especially if you want to keep your potato chips), Taco Heads (where Oliver tried to set his personal barking record), Shannon Brewing Co. in Keller (home to Arlo, a brewery dog nearly twice Oliver’s size — for now), Liberty Burger and more.
But even such big dog hangouts as Woodshed (which has a dog menu) and Shannon are not quite as forward about their dog-friendliness as Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, a California-based chain that just opened a location in Euless’ Glade Parks development (there are also locations in Addison and Plano, and the company has its eye of Fort Worth).
Lazy Dog was founded 13 years ago by Chris Simms, who is also its CEO.
“We’re really a restaurant that’s focused on scratch cooking, innovative cuisine and a great bar program,” Simm says. “We’ve found that the dog-friendly atmosphere is a complement to the restaurant as opposed to the only thing we focus on.”
Simm says that when he started the restaurants, the concept of dog-friendly patios wasn’t that common, and his organization worked with California and Los Angeles officials to get dogs allowed onto patios. They’ve worked with health departments in cities such as Las Vegas to help officials understand how to safely do a dog-friendly patio.
Obviously, Simms is a dog person — as is every employee I encountered. Food-service rules mean that servers can’t pet or touch the dogs, but every Lazy Dog worker — and a customer or two — cooed over Oliver, who was a little barky (to my surprise, there was only one other dog on the patio, who was the major distraction) but overall, kept it mellow. OK, so when the servers brought Oliver water in disposable bowls, he tended to tip the water out and chew up the bowl, but that’s mellow for him at this stage. We are working on training.
“I’ve had dogs all my life,” Simms says. “It was actually my mom’s dog that inspired me to call the restaurant Lazy Dog. My dad and I were sitting there and trying to figure out what to call the restaurant and my mom’s dog was just lying by the fireplace. ... When we were coming up with a concept, we didn’t want it to be too serious. We wanted it to be approachable and friendly. ... When your name is ‘Lazy Dog,’ you cannot be taken too seriously.”
Although the restaurant is open to the public, I was there for a media “preview,” in which I was apparently the only member of the media who brought a dog, which meant that we had to eat on the patio — good thing it was something like 75 degrees. The one media dog got to partake of the dog menu, which consists of hamburger or chicken with white or brown rice (Oliver preferred the hamburger, without rice, and even ate it before destroying the bowl).
But the Euless location will not have a dog menu — at the start, at least.
“We’re working with the local government now to try to get some sort of variance for that,” Simms says. “Because we’ve successfully done it at 20 restaurants, and we know how to be dog-friendly the safe way.” (Addison is the only one of the three North Texas Lazy Dogs that currently has a dog menu.
There is much, however, more for humans to sample. Quite a bit, in fact.
The vibe: Aside from the dog-friendliness, it’s rustic — and not hipster rustic, either.
“I wanted to take people away to Jackson Hole, Wyoming,” Simms says. “My parents bought a house there when I was 7 years old, and I spent my summers up there. Any time I wasn’t in school, I was up in Jackson Hole. There’s this sense of relaxation, this sense of awe you get there.”
So Simms is going for a mountain-lodge look with Lazy Dog, and on the patio, that comes through most clearly with the fire pit in the center, which also had some of the lowest seating. The patio itself is about 1,300 square feet, covered but with a skylight over the fire pit. While a helpful employee watched Oliver, I took a quick walk-through inside, where the walls featured dog photos and Wyoming-inspired cowboy art. Restrooms are dubbed “good boy” and “good girl.” Good thing we’re housebroken.
Music seemed designed to give every dog its day — it ranged from Garth Brooks to Jessie J to Stone Temple Pilots to deep-cut Van Morrison ( Bright Side of the Road from 1979’s Into the Music; thank you, Shazam and Google). I have noted in other posts a tendency among restaurants to play music that doesn’t fit their ambience, but somehow this scattershot approach worked, maybe because the volume wasn’t at conversation-destroying levels.
And, of course, the vibe is dog-friendly — but most of the people on the patio were dogless, simply enjoying a nice day for patio dining with this restaurant’s menu, which is almost as eclectic as the music.
The food: Media got to sample three small plates: a Hatch chile bacon mac n’ cheese ($6.25), cast-iron turkey meatballs ($6.50, inspired by a recipe from executive chef Gabe Caliendo’s grandmother), and a “Dirty Dog” (a $6 happy-hour item consisting of a bacon-wrapped Nathan’s hot dog inside a King’s Hawaiian bun, topped with potato chips, bleu-cheese dressing, Buffalo sauce and slaw). Of these, the mac n’ cheese was easily my favorite, with good chile flavor, a dash of heat and a good mix of textures. The meatballs were also good, if a little less dazzling, and while the Dirty Dog has its virtues, it’s just a little too over-the-top for my tastes (a bacon-wrapped Nathan’s is good without all the stuff on top).
Sampled entrees included sticky ribs and umami fries ($17.25); bacon-wrapped BBQ bison meatloaf with red-skin mashed potatoes, sauteéd spinach and haystack onions ($17.50); and bone-in pork schnitzel with red potato and bacon salad, as well as apple-cider cabbage slaw ($15.25). The schnitzel was the winner here: It’s a seasonal item that Simms says proved so popular that it earned extra time on the menu, bread with crushed pretzels for some nice crunch and served with a mustard sauce with a good bite to it — but the pork flavor of the schnitzel stands on its own.
A note about the entrees: They’re big. Especially that meatloaf. With a little will power, you will take some home in — is “doggie bag” the right terminology here?
Sampled desserts were standouts: Butter cake ($6.50), shortbreadish but with a softer texture, topped with minted strawberry compote and vanilla-bean ice cream and with a sweet-balsamic drizzle on the plate; and the new Simms Family S’More ($6.95), which has the usual marshmallow-chocolate-graham cracker components, along peanut butter and crushed peanuts. The large marshmallow is house-made — Simms says it was the only way to get the brulée he wanted on it right — and the chocolate comes from a rich brownie and an even richer fudge sauce.
This only scratches the surface of the menu, which has sections for meat, fish, chicken (Simms says the chicken pot pie has been popular in Euless), soup, greens, sandwiches, eight burgers (inculding turkey, tuna and portobello burgers), pizza, pasta, wok dishes and “nutritious and delicious.” There are a few vegetarian items, but the kitchen will adjust orders on meat items to make them vegetarian.
Most entrees are in the $15-$20 range; below that range are the $12.25 Mahi Mahi fish tacos and above it is a $26.95, 14-ounce New York steak. Other menu items, aside from small plates, happy-hour items, desserts and some starters, are at least $10. Craft beers, including some local brews, cocktails and a sangria flight are among the drinks available.
The verdict: The extensive menu, more than anything else (well, more than anything besides the desserts), is what will get us to return: There’s a lot to try here. The dog-friendliness of the patio makes the restaurant attractive to dog lovers, but it will be even more appealing if the restaurant and Euless can work things out so that the restaurant can serve a dog menu. (And there are already some pretty strong rules about where dogs can sit — your lap dog, for instance, can’t use your lap here.)
Oliver did seem to enjoy it, though. He gave it about 100 barks.