Call it a happy accident.
After dinner plans at another restaurant fell through, I reluctantly headed to the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road. I had never eaten there, had never heard anything about the food there and, given its rather unassuming exterior, I never expected to find much there.
But what I found was a cool little place serving some of the best bar fare I have had in Fort Wayne.
Once I stepped inside, the atmosphere made me realize that the Black Dog was a secret someone should have let me in on. With green checkerboard tile floors, matching green walls and a variety of British-style golf course prints mixed in with the black dog paraphernalia, this tavern had a comfortable, charming English pub feel to it.
The surprises continued with my first appetizer – hand-breaded mushrooms. A bar staple, breaded mushrooms are usually cut from the same mold and are OK. I had never had any I would put above any other until I had these big, whole white button mushrooms that were simply dredged and fried until super crisp. A sprinkle of freshly shredded parmesan on top was a plus, and every bite of these crunchy, meaty shrooms was fantastic.
The Black Dog also offers hand-breaded shrimp, another rarity. The shrimp dinner can be had breaded, sautéed or grilled, and I chose to split mine – half breaded, half sautéed. The same crunchy, tasty breading on the mushrooms encapsulated moist, sweet jumbo shrimp, which were also some of the best I have had anywhere. The sautéed shrimp were also of good quality, but they were pretty bland and paled in comparison to the fried.
The Big Ass Tenderloin, the restaurants title, not mine, was, indeed, big, but it wasnt the gritty, crunchy breading or decently thick, moist pork inside that left the biggest impression. It was the bun. It was yeasty, moist and flavorful, sort of like a giant version of the addictive rolls you eat by the basketful at chain steakhouses.
Owner David Hamilton said the dough for the bun is bought from Waynedale Bakery and baked fresh on site. The menu proudly stated that the bun was as big as the loin, and it was pretty close, but I would have liked it to have been even bigger.
The bread love didnt stop there. The extra buttery, grilled marble rye bread on the Pat E. Melt burger was tremendous. In this case, however, the burger inside was not overshadowed. The half-pound patty was nicely seared but still pink inside, and the juices oozed out with every bite. Add in more butter with the sautéed onions and a slice of tangy Swiss cheese, and you end up with one of the best patty melts I have ever eaten.
On the side, the Black Dogs homemade fries were a good choice, as were the perfectly executed skillet potatoes, which were crisped nicely on the outside while still being soft and fluffy inside. The dinner salad was pretty boring, so soup was a better choice.
The chili was thick and had a lot of beef and kidney beans. It also had a hearty, stick-to-your ribs flavor that was perfect when washed down with a cold beer. The chicken tortilla soup was also fresh and tasty, but didnt have any crispy tortilla chips, so it was more like a Mexican chicken vegetable.
I couldnt leave without trying a pizza and chose the Lucé e Fresco. This specialty pie had virgin olive oil for the sauce with chopped garlic, spinach, fresh tomatoes, ricotta and mozzarella cheese and Italian herbs. The regular crust – thin is also available – was sort of chewy, and served as the bread for this bruschetta-style pie.
The Black Dog also offers dessert – one dessert to be exact. The hot brandy apple pie arrived on a piping-hot, metal broiler plate and the pie was drenched in brandy sauce, two rapidly melting scoops of ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. And even though it fell apart and became more of a cobbler, that didnt hurt it a bit. You could taste the brandy in each bite, and it became one big soupy, scrumptious mess.
The only food I did not care for at this pub was something most pubs do well – chicken wings. The Black Dog fries then grills their wings, and, although mine had a nice smoky flavor from the grill, they were dry, tough and severely overcooked. The hot and teriyaki sauces I chose were also not pronounced enough, and I feared the grill may have cooked much of it away.
The service was also terrible during one visit but stellar during the other, on similarly busy nights. One server was completely lost and ignored my party for a long time, even taking time to make a personal call on her cell phone just a few feet away, despite being told we were ready to order. Then, when a member of my group finally started to order, she abruptly walked away from our table and around a corner into an area where drinks are prepared only to yell, Im listening, from behind the half wall so we would continue ordering. My other server never walked away, never made a call and kept us updated on how things were going throughout our meal. She was great and even steered us to some of the food that I found so favorable.
But even if I have to deal with the wacky waitress, I will tough it out because the Black Dog Pub is too good not to visit again. And I can only hope my next failed dinner plans turn out so well.
Restaurant: Black Dog Pub
Address: 6230 Covington Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Kid-friendly: Yes; family room available
Menu: Fried mushrooms ($6.75), wings ($7.95), soup ($3.75 cup; $4.50 bowl), tenderloin ($7.95), Pat E. Melt ($8.95), shrimp dinner ($12.95), Luce e Fresco pizza ($9.95 small; $13.95 medium; $15.95 large), hot brandy apple pie ($5.95)
** 1/2 (3-star maximum);
atmosphere: *(1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).