D Dogs is D’licious
By Bill Gerdes
My beer-swilling buddy and home-brewer friend John Rockwell had been raving about D Dogs since it opened about six months ago, claiming it had one of the best selection of craft beers on tap in the Inland Empire. John is an excellent brewer in his own right, so one night I arranged to hit up D Dogs in downtown Riverside with him and check out the beer selections, as well as the food, for apparently the dogs are tasty as well.
D Dogs’ layout features a long u-shaped bar, as well as a selection of big-ass televisions for sports viewing. On the night we were there, a selection of mildly annoying Broncos fans were watching Denver make the Kansas City Chiefs look overmatched. Our gaze though was directed to the beer taps. John was right—for the beer alone at D Dogs is worth the trip. Let’s start off with the price. There are plenty of 10-ounce beers of any percent and that can head northwards of nine percent with the Karl Strauss “Wreck Alley”—which sounds like a Hogarth print condemning the horrors of gin in England but is actually an imperial stout. That’s some serious bang for your buck people. I suppose quality counts too. Johnny Boy recommended an IPA called the “Bootleggers Golden Chaos.” It’s full of a deliciously subtle bitterness that matched nicely with the Bronco fans to my right. Another star on tap is the “Aztec Chipotle,” which has just the right touch of chipotle, a hint of heat in a sea of refreshing pale ale.
But alas this is ostensibly a food review. How is the grub then? This is no Gastro Pub cuisine; this is drunk food, drinking food, gluttonous heartburn-inducing, occasionally delicious, always flavorful, sometimes overly-everything bar food. It’s a refined version of the fare we used to eat in bars before the foodies came. And because it is tweaked, refined and updated, it works.
We started with the Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese Bites; deep fried gouda balls came to the table hot as hell and go swimmingly with the suds. Arriving at the same time were the Jalapeno Cheese Fries, a gloriously sloppy, cheesy bit of spicy nonsense that truly is the uber drinking snack that I probably wasn’t drunk enough to truly appreciate. We also sampled the Calamari Fries. If you like calamari as far removed from the actual living squid as possible, these are for you. But again, these deep fried strips are pretty tasty when you’re drinking.
To keep this from sounding like an alcoholic’s cook book, it’s worth mentioning that the burgers and hot dogs here are delicious in their own right and can be enjoyed by the non-ossified. They give you a menu and a marker here to make your own selections and create your own burger. I normally detest the “build your own” burger trend as a clever way to make us all pay extra for things that used to be included like cheese and fries. My burger was simply too enjoyable for me to be mad. The pretzel bun resembles a brioche bun, but without all the grease you find at your average burger spot; it’s substantial, yummy, and encases the flavorful beef burger perfectly, as well as the all of the free options available like aioli garlic sauce and peperoncinis. The hot dogs come with all the “build your own ” options as well. For food D Dogs is a new option; for craft beer fans it’s more like a necessity.
D Dogs, 3557 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 686-2176; www.ddogsburgersbeers.com.