Before joining the legions in the Dawg Pound for a recent Browns game, we went in search of a new brunch spot and landed at the Black Dog Kitchen and Bar. Tucked away near the corner of E. Ninth and Euclid, this dog was in for a challenge.
Traditionally, brunch offered near the stadium on a game day is either too fancy for a jersey-wearing tailgater, or just some grub that a bar offers for free to pump up beer sales. But the menu at the Black Dog looked promising, suggesting it had recognized this deficiency and aimed to fill it with delicious results.
Welcoming visitors like a lighthouse stationed on the coast of Lake Erie, the giant mural of a black dog helps identify the spot. Inside, this self-described American fusion gastropub has completely redesigned the space, using strategically placed divider walls to architecturally reduce its vastness.
The floors are a slate-grey concrete, and industrial chic elements set the tone for the rest of the space. The lighter grey walls are offset by vintage Cleveland photography and dog-inspired collages. A very cool design feature is the large acid-etched painting of the Black Dog logo in the middle of the bar floor. This is complemented by whiskey-barrel bar tables. Plenty of TVs along the walls left me contemplating watching the next Browns away game here.
At first, our waiter seemed to be struggling with the number of tables he was serving. I started to chalk it up to another new restaurant that doesn't focus on service, but my assumption was soon squashed. When the server finally greeted us, he was friendly and helpful, pointing out the game-day specials ($5 burgers, $5 pound of wings) and pointing us to the Bloody Mary bar. We were provided with vodka and ice, and invited to build the rest.
The bar offered a good variety of tomato bases, along with great add-ons like bacon and lobster. The only stumbling block was that the previous 15 people had annihilated the self-service bar, which could have used some TLC. But the staff hustled to get the trays refilled, and we enjoyed our liquid starters.
The brunch menu has a total of eight items, including the two game-day food specials. It was obvious that the Black Dog was sticking with the theory of quality over quantity. I was excited to see if it was up to this bold move.
The build-your-own frittata was a clever take on the standard omelet. With choices like fresh lobster, shrimp, and chorizo, you can hardly go wrong. The next table ordered a couple of frittatas, which looked awesome.
We started with some wings. Nearly one pound of Ohio-raised chicken wings are deep-fried in duck fat, and the upgraded fryer oil cooked the large flappers to perfection. The Sriracha ace hot sauce, although tasty, lacked the heat that is normally associated with this Asian sauce.
Next up was JT's Tacos. Not your usual breakfast taco, it is made with Ohio-raised pork belly. The fat in the pork belly was spot-on, and complemented the scrambled eggs and avocado slices, with a dash of cilantro that launched this into my ranking of the top five best tacos. Sided with oversized crispy redskin potatoes tossed with rosemary and sea salt, this would also make a great dinner.
The Eggs Cleveland was right on par with the tacos. The Black Dog's take on eggs Benedict replaces Canadian bacon with a ground chorizo patty. Resting on top of a toasted English muffin, the spiciness of the chorizo was balanced by the poached eggs and creamy Hollandaise sauce, with the to-die-for rosemary potatoes also making an appearance on the plate. It's official: Chorizo is now the new Canadian bacon.
Steak and eggs for breakfast usually consists of a frozen piece of beef grilled to shoe-leather status. Again, Black Dog got that memo and changed the game. The choice to use a 6 oz. certified beefsteak paid off. The steak was not only cooked to an absolute medium, but the house seasonings were right on point. The eggs and rosemary redskins made this an appropriately hearty selection for the hungriest of tailgaters.
Although not offered on the brunch menu, the rock 'n' roll lobster rivals what you would find in Boston. The bun comes from Nickels Bakery, and the lobster is real and plentiful, considering the price. The mayo and celery accompanying the lobster don't overpower the protein. And the sprinkled Hungarian paprika completes a roll that would make any New Englander proud.
Overall, the service could have been a little less bumpy. But it seemed like a slight case of understaffing, certainly not enough to ruin our experience.
Some of the best restaurants in the country are hidden gems. Black Dog Kitchen and Bar may not be officially hidden, but it is not in plain sight — at least not yet. If it keeps dishing out a delicious brunch at these prices, you will definitely see me waiting for a table before the next Browns game.