Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Co-owner Brandon Hutchens and co-owner and chef Johndavid Bartlett serve up the comfort food at the Dog until Elvis leaves the building and/or the fat lady sings.
Black Dog Café
Pot roast po’ boy $4.95
Four-cheese French
bread pizza $5.95
Dirty Dog $3.95

Inside the Black Dog Tavern lurks a café whose bites are extremely tasty.


Black Dog Café

2933 Crockett St, FW. 817-870-9002. Sun-Fri 4pm-1:30am, Sat 6pm-1:30pm. Cash only.

A hipster joint like the new Black Dog Tavern is a nice fit for Johndavid Bartlett the musician. Back in the 1960s, Bartlett recorded for the Houston-based International Artists record label, home to the most famous/infamous psychedelic rockers of the era, including The Red Krayola, The Moving Sidewalks (where ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons honed his chops), and Roky Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators. The Cowtowner doesn’t seem out of place among the youngish musos, scenesters, and fellow ex-Flower Children who populate the Dog on a regular basis.

But for Johndavid Bartlett the chef, the arty blue-collar bar seems completely against type. An award-winning gourmet cook who helmed the classy kitchens of Arlington’s My Martini and the Cultural District’s Shiraz, Bartlett made his reputation on fancy dining, not finger food.

Yet here he is, sweating over the flames at the Black Dog Café, the new dining component of the freshly relocated Black Dog Tavern. So how does a guy like Bartlett go from composing sesame seared tuna with wasabi asparagus and plum rice noodles (at $20-$25 a pop) to churning out chili dogs, sandwiches, and pizza (all in the $5-$7 range)?

“I’ve just gotten to the point where I want to do real food and do it in a place where people have more to do than just sit and dine,” Bartlett said. “Here, people can hear some good music and get good food from happy hour until late.”

As the old saying goes, timing is everything. A few months ago, Bartlett wasn’t cooking after Shiraz shut down, and Tad Gaither was opening the new location of the Dog. Bartlett was also on the hunt for kitchen work, while Gaither was looking to fill the huge Crockett Street building into which he’d just moved. The two got together, hashed out a plan, and the Black Dog Café was on its way. Gaither runs the bar side, and Bartlett — who’s had trouble in the past with the business aspects of the food biz — runs the café, with help from co-owner Brandon Hutchens.

Though it just opened a couple of weeks ago, Bartlett’s side-diner is definitely onto something. Not only is the kitchen open until the wee hours every night, the grub is inexpensive and utterly unlike the glorified fast food that’s served at similar joints, especially strip clubs and sports bars. Do not pass on the Dog’s pot roast po’ boy. After being cooked slowly and for a long time, the melt-in-your-mouth beef is slathered onto French bread and covered in melted smoked gouda cheese. Talk about a tango of textures and flavors: The beef, though thin, is hearty, and the bread is crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Add a couple shots of hot sauce and take a few swigs of beer in between bites, and you got yourself a slice of heaven on a plate.

The French bread pizza is about as far away from Stouffer’s as you can get. The Dog’s slices are big, homemade-tasting, and zesty. The menu offers nine veggie toppings, four sauces (garlic cream, tomato, pesto, and salsa barbacoa), and six meats. Knowing Bartlett’s extensive experience and now the awesomeness of the pot roast po’ boy, the mere mention of spicy salami, mushrooms, and Greek olives with pesto sauce on perfect bread should be enough to get your mouth watering.

Same goes for the Dirty Dog, a snack that may seem commonplace but is anything but in Bartlett’s hands — a Nathan’s all-beef hot-dog topped with seriously spicy Texas chili, cheese, jalapeños, and pickled relish.

And for the vegetarians who undoubtedly make up a small but powerful percentage of Dog regulars, there are also a lot of non-meat options, including the three-cheese toasted sandwich with roasted sweet peppers and three types of vegetarian tostadas.

The café is open only evenings for now, but it may be serving lunch within a few months.

For years, folks have been saying someone could make a million dollars by launching a bar/restaurant that serves tasty, highly caloric food late at night. Apparently, the Dog Days are finally here.

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