“It’s me or the dog!” That’s the ultimatum my friend Eric was given by his then-fiancee. It was one of several augurs of an ill-fated marriage only my friend with the rose-colored-glasses failed to see. Three years later as the divorce was finalized, Eric tearfully realized he had made the wrong decision. A dog’s loyalty can never be questioned. A spouse’s eyes and heart can–and often do–wander as had been the case in this troubled marriage.
Psychology professor Stanley Coren correctly postulated that “the greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.” You can only imagine the heartbreak Pepper, Eric’s dog, felt when left in the care of strangers. Dogs don’t abandon their owners. They love us unconditionally and are unfailingly loyal even when we don’t deserve it. For those of us whose lives have been enriched by dogs, the term “man’s best friend” doesn’t come close to describing the bond we share. For many of us, dogs are four-legged children.
David Readyhough and Renee Fox love their dog Lola so much that they wanted to name their restaurant after her. After agreeing that “Lola” sounded like a great name for a Spanish tapas restaurant but not for the gastropub they envisioned, they decided the name “Loyal Hound” would still honor their beloved beagle. On framed photographs, Lola’s smiling countenance and cheerful figure festoon the walls of the deceptively commodious (75 seats) restaurant. So, too, in a “sunken” back room with comfortable couches and an inviting dart board, do framed photographs of dogs of all types brought in by Loyal Hound’s guests.
On the wall of one of several small dining rooms hangs a pig diagram which shows from where the various cuts of pork come. You might expect to see such a diagram in a charcuterie or chophouse specializing in pork, but not necessarily in a gastropub. The reason given on the Loyal Hound’s Facebook page is “yes, a pig. ‘Cuz dog is too chewy.” It’s one of the gastropub’s endearing quirks. So is wine from the tap. Before you turn your nose up at that concept, you should know that Renee is a certified sommelier.
As you peruse the menu you’ll quickly discern that the emphasis on the portmanteau “gastropub” is on the “gastro” (as in short for gastronomy) portion of the word, but the emphasis on high quality also extends to the pub, a relaxing, contemporary milieu in which you’ll feel right at home. The menu showcases items made from fresh, local, organic meats and produce. It’s not an overly ambitious menu in terms of quantity, but that allows for preparing food to order and ensures freshness. Almost everything, including bread, is made from scratch.
The “snacks” portion of the menu includes several items bordering on irresistible. Two restaurant reviews predating mine raved about the fried rosemary Castelvetrano olives and roasted Marcona almonds. Beguiling while that may sound, we shouldn’t all wax poetic about the same dishes. Besides, the braised bison short rib nachos with Tucumcari Cheddar and Oaxaca cheese, salsa and avocado dip called just as loudly. The nachos and all their individual components were well executed and flavorful, but the salsa and avocado dip ensnared my affection. The fire-roasted salsa isn’t especially piquant, but it packs savory, tangy and piquant notes that will besot your taste buds. A squeeze or two of lime enlivens the avocado dip in a way all guacamoles should be vivified.
In recent years, one of the most popular dining trends sweeping across America has been chicken and waffles. The Loyal Hound dares to deviate from the norm, offering pork and waffles, an herbed Belgian waffle topped with braised heritage pork tossed in house-made BBQ sauce. My dalliance with that dining option was short-lived thanks to the simple Southern favorite (think Popeye’s, but only several orders of magnitude better) of spicy fried chicken-n-biscuits. The boneless fried chicken is first marinated in the intriguing combination of buttermilk and Sriracha then coated in panko breadcrumbs before deep-frying. The chicken and a single halved biscuit are drizzled with honey butter. The influence of the Sriracha is subtle, tempering the richness of the buttermilk while the panko imbues the chicken with a texture that doesn’t fall away as some breading tends to do. The scratch-made biscuit is dense and absolutely addictive. This combination is served with a bright, fresh apple-fennel slaw with lip-pursing qualities that contrast beautifully with other components.
Chef Renee is the architect of the menu which features made-from-scratch daily breads and desserts, some of which are unique. Made-to-order cinnamon-sugar beignets, called “The Doggy Bag” on the menu, are a popular choice, but for diners who live by a “viva la difference” ethos will opt for the gluten-free olive oil chocolate cake. The olive oil lends just a slightly oleaginous quality to the moist, dense cake. More discernible are the cake’s citrusy notes (the combination of chocolate and citrus is terrific). It’s served atop a smear of caramel.
The Loyal Hound Pub launched in June, 2014 and already has a loyal following of patrons who enjoy the inviting made-from-scratch food and an ambiance you’d love to share with your own loyal hound.
Loyal Hound Pub
730 St. Michael’s Drive, Suite 3RW
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 19 September 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Bison Short Rib Nachos, Spicy Fried Chicken, Olive Oil Chocolate Cake, Jones Root Beer