JLBC introduces a new feature (bi-weekly) from acclaimed writer/blogger Ari Weisbrot that will explore and review the many kosher eating establishments in the community.
The first thing the owners of the new Teaneck Doghouse want you to know is that it’s not a sports bar. It’s a sports restaurant. So, as you enter for the first time, and consider the barstools, the bar tables, the televisions, and, well, the bar, sit down and have a drink. Your imagination alone will not permit the sort of fiction that the Doghouse hopes to create. But, if you plan on going, go early. The place has been attracting near sell-out crowds every night of the week (except Friday) and the momentum seems to be growing.
It’s not the food, which ranges from cliche to excellent. It’s not the alcohol which, while fairly priced, is available at plenty of RCBC and OU-endorsed establishments. It’s not the service, which has been shaky but improving. I went last week to find out why people of all stripes and sizes keep coming back.
As you walk in, you are confronted with your first decision. The east wing is a traditional bar. Cozy up to any of the chest level mini tables for 3-4 people to watch a game and munch on appetizers. Or sit at the bar and make believe you are a character in Cheers. It’s loud, but you want it to be. If your party has anyone who looks like they might be under 25, don’t sit at the bar. You’ll be re-located.
Or, you can head west, one step down, where you will find yourself in a cramped but cozy restaurant. It’s separated by a cut-out doorway, but the vibe is distinct. The service is frenetic and if the food doesn’t give you a heart attack, the pace of the action just might. But, if you are going with your family, or a group of friends, you may well forget you are in a bar.
The food ranges in quality, but all of it is appropriate. There are not many surprises–- except that some of the menu is decidedly good. If you have ever been out with non-Jewish friends at a non-kosher sports restaurant, and have coveted the offerings, your craving will be satisfied.
Most of the fried goods are interchangeable. They could throw a television into the deep-fryer and you would enjoy it. The fries, mushrooms, and zucchini are excellent. The onion rings and specialty fries are manageable, but you would be better off asking for a grease/cholesterol sandwich.
The highlights of the menu are the chicken, burgers, and brisket. Special shout-out to the Kentucky Derby and World Champion. All were perfectly cooked and avoided their bland and boring counterparts at some competitors. Some at my table felt that these were among the best main courses in Teaneck. Others were watching Monday Night Football and couldn’t be bothered.
Ironically, the hot dogs and sausages, where presumably, the joint gets its name, were underwhelming and lack creativity. Teaneck Jews don’t want to build their own hot dog; they want it built for them. I want waiters walking around with carts serving dogs table-side. Where imagination could have made this centerpiece exciting, I was left with a Wrigley Dog? Pac 10 Dog? Um, does anyone have a GPS?
The salad section made me laugh. If the male customers wanted a salad, they wouldn’t have been in the Doghouse in the first place. And, for salad aficionados, $10 for a salad left much to be tossed.
The decor was typical for a sports bar; unusual for a restaurant. The televisions are well-placed and well-tuned. If there is a game on, you can find it here.
Service was slow. And measured. By that I mean, my bartender actually measured my drink. It’s off-putting for a neighborhood joint, but to their credit, one complaint to the owners and the practice was halted.
The prices are the best surprise. You can feed a family of 4 for under $50 with plenty of room for dessert (but don’t order dessert. They still need some work). Cost-to-Satisfaction ratio is high. And, that is important in a community where stuff trends on the over-priced side.
No question the Doghouse has touched a nerve. Some love the concept of a neighborhood family bar and others have expressed fierce opposition. But, most of the issues are hypothetical. In the end, it’s just a restaurant. And a bar. And, a pretty good one
Grade (out of 4 stars):
Ability to convince you that it is not a bar: No stars
Ari Weisbrot is a prominent litigator in New York and New Jersey, and moonlights as an occasional writer. You can find his popular blog at ariweisbrot.com Ari grew up in Teaneck and lives in New Milford.
By Ari Weisbrot