All-American is a series that looks at beloved, longstanding North Texas eateries and examines their histories while exploring how the food has changed — for the good or bad — over the years.
Everything you need to know about Angry Dog is in the nachos. The dish is a scatter of fried chips troweled with mashed beans and towered with shredded cheddar and Monterrey Jack, beef and jalapeños on a sheet of tin foil. The whole thing gets time in the salamander, where the cheese melts and chars on the edges. Underneath, the chips stay crispy. There’s nothing elevated about them; ”elevated” is a useless word once you walk through the door. There’s no element re-created from scratch or laboriously paired herbs. It’s just nachos at Angry Dog, and they’re great with beer.
If you’re looking for elegance in your bar food or tweezered sides, you’ll find an empty embrace at Angry Dog. Hot dogs, butterflied and grilled, may arrive under hilltops of unmelted shredded cheddar. Once, a friend who ordered the dog needed a knife and fork to excavate it from beneath the absolute mountain of shredded cheese. We thought they forgot the dog and the bun.
Many foods are previously frozen, and many items are not. Leftover french fries become “poutine,” AKA a potato vehicle for jalapeño cream gravy, cheese and meat. In this case of poutine, you'll find general manager Howard Perez's cream gravy recipe (a roux of vegetable oil and flour meets sautéed peppers) with crumbled chorizo and that same darn shredded cheddar. The poutine is one of the new dishes.
Yes, Angry Dog, which is about to celebrate a 27th birthday, recently announced an updated menu. What new dishes grace the Deep Ellum bar, you ask? Is one of the items an avocado toast with watercress and house pickles? Is it a lobster roll? Nope. Bless them; it's a corned beef sandwich. It’s poutine and a Shiner Bock-bathed bratwurst. Angry Dog is a nearly 27-year-old bar where Shiner Bock is an essential cooking ingredient.
Howard Perez, who’s been working the floor for 14 years, walks me through the new items and freely shares what he loves about working there. He has no problem owning the fact that you’re not getting scratch-made fried mushrooms or onion rings.
“We must have sampled about 300 onion rings,” he says. “It has to be very high quality.”
The nachos are a treasure chest of beef that’s marinated in soy sauce and garlic, and they're best eaten alone. Before the nukes hit, put me at the Angry Dog bar with a cold lager and a lung full of breath so that I may inhale these nachos. On my recent visit, the chips arrived with two of life’s beautiful monuments: a scoop of sour cream and a scoop of guacamole.
I like to dust both with the unnaturally red seasoning that sits on the bar. Cheese stretches in between every chip, and there are enough jalapeños to worry your family doctor.
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“I believe it's a landmark of Dallas,” Perez says of Angry Dog. He emphasizes the family nature of the place and that he has cooks who’ve been there for 22 years. “It’s good to work in a place where people know you.”
It wasn’t long after opening, late into 1990, that Angry Dog realized it needed some food to soak up the beer. The place was opened by a group of downtown Dallas law buddies, as Perez tells it, who are “just a group of friends that like to drink beer.” Angry Dog’s won a mantle-full of awards from readers, dailies and weekly newspapers in Dallas, such as this one, notably for its no-bullshit burger. It’s 8 ounces of griddled beef topped with the onion, tomato, pickles and another crown of shredded cheddar. The wings, sandwiches, dogs and nachos are popular. Nothing about any of it tastes farm-to-table, and that’s what they’re sticking to.
Like the entire menu, the nachos are a dictionary definition of the bar food that makes you happy. Angry Dog has found the balance. It's found the right use of talents. It’s food that’s so good with a cold beer that you could well up thinking about the years you’ve spent enjoying it.
Angry Dog, 2726 Commerce St.