“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.
10 September 2016: The “snacks” portion of the menu includes several items bordering on irresistible. Two print-based restaurant reviews predating mine raved about the fried rosemary Castelvetrano olives and roasted Marcona almonds. There’s a good reason for that. Imported from Castelvetrano, Sicily, the green-hued (the color of Kermit the Frog) olives lack the bitterness of most olives and are actually considered dolce (sweet) in Italy. Loyal Hound coats them in a light rosemary-imbued batter and fries them, not to the point that they’re crispy or stiff. Bite into them and you’ll find the olives refreshingly fresh and juicy.
10 September 2016: If, like me, you’ve grown increasingly frustrated with mixed nuts being mostly peanuts and almonds with only a few “token” Brazil nuts, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, and pecans thrown in, you might try buying a can of mixed nuts without peanuts. If you do, you’ll find the dominant nut is almonds–bland, boring, banal California almonds. We’d appreciate mixed nuts so much more if instead of California almonds, Marcona almonds were used instead. Considered the “queen of olives,” these Spanish almonds are roasted in olive oil then sprinkled with sea salt. The resultant flavor profile is sweeter yet saltier than most almonds. It’s a terrific departure.
19 September 2014: The braised bison short rib nachos with Tucumcari Cheddar and Oaxaca cheese, salsa and avocado dip called just loudest during my inaugural visit. 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 guacamole should be vivified.
10 September 2016: A fundamentalist acquaintance of yore couldn’t bring herself to partake of deviled eggs, believing the term “deviled” to have Satanic connotations. Even when told the term “devil” has been used in Great Britain since the 1700s to describe different kinds of spicy, broiled, or fried foods, she wouldn’t try them. Not surprisingly, when labeled “stuffed eggs” or “salad eggs,” she ate them with great alacrity. In recent years, deviled eggs have experienced a resurgence at homes and in restaurants (Jennifer James 101 being among the first in Albuquerque to offer them). The Loyal Hound serves some of the most delicious deviled eggs we’ve enjoyed, four halved eggs with finely chopped pickled jalapeño and a dusting of smoked paprika. This gluten-free, vegetarian offering is so good, they should be called “angeled eggs.”
19 September 2014: 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. Slaw seems to be a specialty at the Loyal Hound though a more generous portion size would be much appreciated.
10 September 2016: In her terrific tome American Sandwich, my friend Becky Mercuri reveals we each devour about 193 sandwiches a year for a hefty 45 billion annual total nationally. The most popular sandwich across the fruited plain is the simple ham sandwich with the BLT ranking second. Enterprising chefs the world over have long created more interesting variations on the three-ingredient bacon, lettuce and tomato standard. The Loyal Hound’s rendition is one of the best we’ve had in New Mexico. It’s constructed with Zoe’s applewood smoked bacon, lettuce and heirloom tomato on homemade sandwich bread with black pepper mayo (to which we added sliced avocado). What makes this sandwich transformative is the homemade sandwich bread baked fresh (you’ll want to take a loaf or three home with you), as wonderful a sandwich canvas as you’ll find anywhere. Zoe’s applewood smoked bacon is an artisan masterpiece cured to bring out the optimum sweet, salty and smoky flavors that define bacon greatness.
10 September 2016: Included among the more than 8,000 comments on Gil’s Thrilling are a number of threads discussing the best fish and chips in the Albuquerque area. Should those discussions been expanded to include Santa Fe, the Loyal Hound’s Fish N Chips would certainly have made the list…even sans chips. Yes, my friends, it may be sacrilege to have fish and chips without chips, but given a choice of house fries, spicy green chile slaw, apple fennel slaw, organic pintos, side salad, or minty mushy peas, chips don’t necessarily bubble up to the top. Who needs them when the fish is this good (the most popular item on the menu according to our server). Two thick, lightly breaded fish fillets that are actually mostly fish not breaded air is one of the reasons for their popularity. Then there’s the tartar sauce, a very good accompaniment, though our preference will always be malted vinegar.
An old television commercial from our years living in England included a catchy refrain with the lyrics “you’ve had your chips” repeated several times. The term “you’ve had your chips, an English colloquialism, essentially means “you’ve run out of luck” but it also described my decision not to have chips with my fish. Instead of chips, we opted for mushy peas, a traditional dish in the United Kingdom which tastes much better than it sounds. In fact, the Loyal Hound’s version has a remarkably fresh flavor with a texture that’s not at all off-putting. Flavored with mint, the mushy peas are better than many we had in England. Add green chile slaw to the mix and you’ve got a party for your taste buds.
10 September 2016: No matter what you order, it’s best washed down with basil-mint lemonade made on the premises. From your introductory sip when you’re expecting just a slight variation from your run-of-the-mill lemonade, you’ll be ensnared by something even more refreshing and delicious. Minty freshness and the sweet aromatic zip of basil are a nice counterbalance to the sweet-tart flavor of an otherwise just very good lemonade. If you could have the Loyal Hound’s basil-mint every summer day, the heat and humidity of monsoon season would be so much more bearable and delicious.
19 September 2014: 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.
10 September 2016: Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans made its reputation largely on the strength of chicory coffee and beignets, a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. Locals find it humorous to see tourists walking around with more than a dusting of powdered sugar on their clothing. As often as we had these fried fritters, we never thought them to be as good as sopaipillas. The cinnamon-sugar beignets at the Loyal Hound are close. Served three to an order in an old-fashioned paper bag (called a Doggy Bag), the beignets are more roundish than the traditional New Orleans-style beignets, more closely resembling oversized donut holes. They’re also served with your choice (or both) of dipping sauces, either sea salt caramel or ganache. The dipping sauces elevate the beignets significantly.
10 September 2016: In four of our last five restaurant visits we’ve ordered cobbler. No, we’re not in a rut. We’re trying to relive the delectation we experienced with the peach cobbler at The County Line Restaurant and the transformative rhubarb cobber at the Eclectic Pizzeria and Beer Tap. Our server raved about the Loyal Hound’s peach cobbler which she assured us is made with fresh, not canned peaches. It’s a different cobbler than others we’ve had recently. Instead of a thin pie-type crust blanketing the peaches, a square bread pudding-like slab of sweet dough lay beside the peaches. My appreciation for this “crust” was heightened by the dipping sauces which accompanied the Doggy Bag. The peaches themselves were fresh and tangy, a perfect foil for the vanilla bean ice cream.
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
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LATEST VISIT: 10 September 2016
1st VISIT: 19 September 2014
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Bison Short Rib Nachos, Spicy Fried Chicken, Olive Oil Chocolate Cake, Jones Root Beer, Fish, Mushy Peas, Green Chile Slaw, BLT, Deviled Eggs, Fried Castelvetrano Olives and Roasted Marcona Almonds, Peach Cobbler, Doggy Bag, Basil-Mint Lemonade