As an (at times) snooty foodie, there are certain restaurants I’ve written off before ever stepping foot within. Unfair, sure, but when you see social medialites vomiting 140 characters of love towards establishments of ill-repute, you start to question all the recipients of their hand-heart updates. So to admit my preconceived notions of Lou Dawg’s – which I assumed to be a Southern-style Jack Astor’s stocked with “only the best” frozen products from Sysco – steered me away from some of the city’s cheapest gluttonous grub is a painful admonition to say the least.
That’s not to say Lou Dawg’s is a religious experience or anything of the sort. Simply put, it’s a no frills, boisterous watering hole that slings some damned fine comfort foods out the pass. I was invited in to sample my way through the newly-launched Big Dawg Menu (think of it as a bigger, bolder version of some of Lou Dawg’s most popular dishes), and though my GP would be shocked and disgusted by the cholesterol-ridden fare that sashayed down my gullet, my tastebuds and uncontrollable hunger went anything but wanting…
A Sweet Southern Tea is served unceremoniously in a Steam Whistle pint glass. It deserves more pomp and circumstance: the honey-tinged, “sweet tea” – which is more akin to a lemonade and which derives its flavours from Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and house-smoked, hand-squeezed lemons – is a dangerous drink.
Similarly, the Bourbonade goes down too smooth; it’s a mix of lemon and lime juices, bitters, and good ol’ Jim Beam (which I likely haven’t bought since my freshman year… that’s some of my snootiness for ya).
The Angry Loutine (sample portion shown) is a fat kid’s wet dream realized. House-cut fries, curds, house-made chicken stock gravy, mayo, and jalapenos all set the foundation for the slovenly starter. Lou Dawg’s house-smoked pulled pork (drenched in a house-made sweet and tangy barbecue sauce) is a hidden treasure at the heart of the unique poutine.
A doubling up of battered fish with slight Cajun spices (a little too slight) does little to elevate the Big Willie Po’ Boy (half portion shown). What makes this dish order-worthy is the too-creamy slaw, the extra ooze from the house-made BBQ tartar sauce, and the supple bun that sops up both – giving that sought-after explosion of sauce in every bite. (The paltry $12.95 price tag also doesn’t hurt.)
Naturally, I ordered the Big Dawg Salad (sample portion shown) thinking there’d be ample greens to balance out the sodium-laden Southern bliss dripping down my chin. Put it this way: Swap the chips out of the Angry Loutine for spring mix, sprinkle in some black beans and corn, slog on a heavy-hand of coleslaw, and you’ve got yourself Lou Dawg’s “healthy” menu option. (The city’s nutritionists would shit bricks over this one.)
Best part of dining at Lou Dawg’s? The place is effin’ cheap. Most items tap out around the $12 mark, meaning a booze-filled, gut-ballooning, palate-pleasing, sweat-inducing meal for two with drinks will likely run you about $80 with tip. (I’ve had lacklustre mains at top fine dining establishments that cost that much.)
You’ll be hard-pressed to fit into your wannabe-hipster skinny jeans the next day, but isn’t that the mark of a good night out…?