Dog Day Cafe

Photo by Joy WeberIt takes an unusual amount of chutzpah to name your restaurant the Lazy Dog Café. To do so risks identifying your establishment both with indolence and canine cuisine. After all, man's best friend is not exactly known for his discriminating dining habits.

Still, it doesn't seem to be harming business at this popular 10-week-old eatery on Beach Boulevard in Westminster. On any given evening, the Lazy Dog is packed with serious fressers, wolfing down large portions with which even Cujo would be satisfied.

The exterior of the establishment is rustic, with a large gas fireplace that heats a patio populated by several green rocking chairs. Out here, one can enjoy either pre- or post-prandial drinks, and folks tend to make themselves at home. For example, upon approaching the door, I was met with the site of a fellow fatty rocking back and forth in his chair, dressed in a T-shirt bearing the logo “Wrestling Champ” and a de rigueur baseball cap worn backward, white-boy-style. He must have just eaten because on his face was that sated expression that foreshadows a prolonged visit to the bog. It reminded me of that quip sometimes attributed to Fredrick the Great, “The more I see of men, the better I like my dog.”

The interior could pass for a big barn, with a bar to your right featuring three TV sets and an expansive dining space to your left dominated by the same fireplace, which has a hearth inside as well. Pictures and paintings of hounds abound, as well as tchotchkes such as a desk lamp in the shape of a bulldog nattily attired in a black jacket with gold trim. Alas, I didn't espy any of C.M. Coolidge's classic depictions of dog's playing poker, which saddened me.

I was seated beneath a ceiling fashioned like an immense terra-cotta dog's paw. My waitress was a fetching, pale-skinned lass with violently orange-red hair, and I was instantly smitten. She brought me a couple of pints of the house brew, Lazy Dog lager and Lazy Dog red, of which the latter made the strongest impression. Both were cheap–16 ounces for just $2.95, and 22 ounces for $3.95.

The menu is either eclectic or scattershot, depending on your point of view, with everything from pizza to kung pao. I tried two starters: the “trio of hummus dips” and the hopefully titled Shanghai tacos. The first, I'm afraid, I cannot recommend, as it consisted of pita triangles so encrusted with shredded Parmesan that it was nearly impossible to taste the hummus dips. My advice to the chef: lose the cheese, please, and give us bread that allows your hummus to hum in our mouths.

The Shanghai tacos? Quite tasty. These came in the form of a large bowl filled with chicken ground to the consistency of hamburger, stir-fried with water chestnuts and shredded carrots, and accompanied by a plate of iceberg-lettuce leaves. Lettuce wraps are common enough to Asian cuisine, but I've never seen iceberg lettuce used. Usually, it's red-leaf lettuce, which is easier to manipulate around your meat–meat manipulation being rather a preoccupation of mine. But I digress.

Next came a bleu peppercorn burger and a platter of ahi fish tacos. The ahi tacos, of which there were three, were so large and filled with such fat chunks of ahi that I could barely finish them. The burger was smaller than I'd anticipated, but after all that ahi, my tummy was reaching maximum occupancy anyway. Topped with bacon, blue cheese and all the fixin's, it was especially good when chased down by some of that Lazy Dog red. My only criticism here would be of the fries that came with the burger, which were too greasy and by the end of the meal had congealed into a dark, spongy mass that would likely have stuck to the wall if so tossed.

Their signature dessert is “the doggie bowl,” a jumbo banana split served in–what else?–a porcelain dog dish! I could barely keep my face out of the thing. As I waddled past the cash register to procure a handful of bone-shaped breath mints, I realized I was wearing the same hound-like expression of the wrestling fan I'd seen earlier. Suddenly I recalled how my next-door neighbor's bichon frise likes to decorate my lawn. Perhaps the time had finally come to return the favor.

The Lazy Dog Café, located at 16310 Beach Blvd., Westminster, is open daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (714) 500-1140. Full bar. Dinner for two, $40, food only. All major credit cards accepted.

Got a restaurant tip for our corpulent critic? E-mail his fat ass at sl*****@oc******.com.

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