The worst part of hanging out at Dogtooth Coffee Co. is that I know, sooner or later, I'll have to leave it. And I don't like leaving it.
It just so perfectly meets that need to have a place to go. Café tables line the sidewalk down one side of the cream stucco outpost; a patio of high tops with big, red umbrellas extends off the other. Located on the southern edge of the Patty Jewett neighborhood — sitting squarely among the stream of stroller-pushing joggers, skateboarding teens and couples ambling down the next-door Shooks Run Trail — the coffee shop is as pure a reflection of its neighborhood as you're going to find.
And though comments on Dogtooth's Facebook page reflect a desire for more organic and gluten-free items, new, Peruvian chef/co-owner Luis Pagan, a cooking instructor at Pikes Peak Community College, has already elevated the culinary conversation.
His Lomo Sandwich ($8.30), small sirloin strips marinated in red wine and Worcestershire, then grilled with red onions, topped with spicy mayonnaise and potato straws and piled on soft, floury ciabatta from Olde World Bagel and Deli, is unlike most anything you'll find at the local lunch counter. Meanwhile, the hot, flaky golden cylinder filled with savory layers oozing hot fromage — also known as the ham-and-cheese croissant ($3.25) — is unfairly delicious. And his alfajores ($2.75), a traditional Latin American dessert, are beyond incredible: That the little, buttery, shortbread sandwiches, filled with dulce de leche and dying to fall into soft crumbs, come conveniently packaged to-go is practically a tax-deductible act.
Other dishes fall just a tier below. The Muse ($7.95) combines gyro meat, feta and tzatziki with ciabatta, but it's all thick, creamy flavors, and outside of some mildly pickled cucumbers, in need of some electricity — a little vinegar, maybe, or just tomatoes. Another new creation, a dark-meat roasted-chicken sandwich in more spicy mayo ($6.75), suffered the same, needing contrast for all that low-end flavor.
A middling home-style Three Alarm Chili ($7.75) arrives warm and comforting, while a bowl of tangy chicken tortilla soup ($7.70) offers more depth. Meanwhile, the vegetarian Magnificent 7 ($7.60) proves grilled artichoke hearts, red onions, mushrooms and red peppers can fall down on the job, as long as gooey mozzarella and dill Havarti are there to back them up. The orderly and restrained Reuben ($7.95), however, proves that sometimes, you need butter on the bread — and let's kick the Thousand Island up a notch, OK?
Quick breakfast options abound. The aforementioned croissant is king, but a small, rolled, $2 breakfast taco, is fine in a fix (and would be better if the Old El Paso picante packets decamped for something fresher). The beef empanada ($2.75) should satisfy any meat-pie cravings you hold, while a soft, room-temp cherry turnover ($2.50) wrapped in cellophane delivers the expected sugar rush.
Better for that (at least in later hours) is the house gelato ($3.30), a textbook example of textural expertness made twice a week. Seek the Leadville Latte, a coffee delight undefiled by the typical chocolate whatevers; or the new passion fruit, a tart bit of frozen velvet. I'm anxious to linger over it again, though inevitably I'll be left with the realization that, though I don't have to go home, I can't stay here.