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Pub Dog ushers in the era of dining with your pets

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This dog lives to chase water from the hose, provided to help cool off pets on hot summer days. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • This dog lives to chase water from the hose, provided to help cool off pets on hot summer days.

I could tell you anything about Pub Dog's fare and it wouldn't matter, because dog owners will go anyway. It's the only eatery in Colorado where you can legally (service dogs aside) bring your pup inside to dine with you.

Despite the fact that we do this daily at home, health departments are wary of furry ones afoot near food preparation and service. Outdoor patios tend to get overlooked even though they too are supposed to be canine-free. So when former firefighter and co-owner Scott Downs spoke with me in late 2014 about his and his daughter Tara's plans (she's a former, longtime Mac-Kenzie's Chophouse manager, and Pub Dog's G.M.), much of our talk revolved around careful planning with both the state and El Paso County Public Health. Pub Dog had to separate entryways and dining areas — there is a thus-far-underutilized non-dog room — as well as ask patrons to order at a window and carry their own food and drinks once texted they're ready.

That aspect from a consumer POV gives Pub Dog a sort of poolside snack bar feel, where all the action's going on outside in a small, turfed doggie-off-leash play area, which will greatly expand in the coming months once neighboring property's renovated. That can't happen soon enough: On nice days, already it can be difficult to find a seat at small two-tops inside the play pen, or under umbrellas on a patio, or sometimes in the indoor dog-allowed dining room. Wide dog and people smiles abound, giving the whole scene a fun, bustling energy, kind of like town dog parks, but with booze.

Craft beer bottles, cans and draft pints comprise more than half of around 25 brew offerings, including Laughing Lab of course, and Red Leg's Devil Dog Stout, for obvious thematic punch. Some easy wines lead to a decent top shelf spirit bar, also underutilized as no cocktail menus greeted us. But dozen-year Black Sheep bartender Chris Huffine (a longtime acquaintance) will improvise, constructing, for instance, a summer-friendly Breckenridge Chili Chile Vodka drink with margarita mix, Triple sec and OJ — sweet heat.

The Public House alum Tee Weaver just released an updated/expanded menu after evaluation of the first couple months; she also oversees a dog menu that includes bones, chicken soup, bacon and "pupsicles." Pub Dog lacks nods to local food purveyors or a real craft edge, but the capable Weaver does at least make her own sauces and dressings and a nice, punchy vegetal salsa. Her sandwiches arrive on a signature Texas Toast crisped on the griddle with mayo. Metallic dog bowls lined in wax paper act as plates.

Familiar items play serviceable and as expected, from a $12 Cobb salad to an overpriced $14 Caprese that subs in beets for tomatoes, with naan toast points on the side. Naan also acts as pizza crust on a handful of pies, including a creamy white pizza with house artichoke dip as sauce, chicken, and red onion for bite. A solid Reuben and unremarkable BLTA give way to a raspberry PB&J, grilled, with Funyuns in the middle — silly but actually pleasing.

With all the time leading up to it and the overall potency of the concept, I can't help but wonder if Pub Dog, as the Downses eye more locations in-state, would be more bully had they gone (or if they go) a step more gourmet than kid-friendly pub food. Increasingly the marketplace has shown love for local ingredients, unique plates and cool craft cocktail creations — singular experiences.

This dog will hunt, but unleashed, it could kill.

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