Early this month, Blue Dog Bakery and Café owners Kit Garret and Bob Hancock started opening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings as Red Hog Tapas, serving a wide variety of appetizers or snacks, with a focused menu of beer and wine. They gave the Red Hog concept a trial run, or soft opening, over the recent year-end holidays, and decided to move forward with a fluid menu inspired by their trips abroad.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me offer a bit of background for those who have not yet discovered Blue Dog.
If you’ve spent any time in Louisville without treating yourself to a morning stop at Blue Dog Bakery and Café, don’t wait another day. Give yourself a little extra time in the a.m. to visit 2868 Frankfort Ave., not far from the intersection of Stilz and Frankfort, just a stone’s throw from the Louisville Water Company plant.
Blue Dog Bakery and Café, open since 1997, is named after “Blue,” the late Australian Blue Heeler Bob and Kit owned for 17 years. The bakery is one of the best reasons to live in Crescent Hill. In fact, Blue Dog is a good reason to put a Sale sign in your front yard and move to Crescent Hill like I did a few years ago. You’re in Paris when you jump in for a quick coffee and a croissant on the way to work, or sit down to a creative breakfast or lunch selection. The menu items always include artisan breads, but also feature a rich assortment of local produce, eggs, meats and cheeses.
So, what’s with the Red Hog?
Well, Kit and Bob raise and cure their own pork. The Red Wattle is a large, red hog with a fleshy wattle attached to each side of the neck. Thus, the name – and you’ll find pork creatively woven into the menus of both Blue Dog Café and Red Hog Tapas.
Last night, my cohabitante Sarah and I decided not to slave in the kitchen, but to venture out. We’re very well acquainted with the abundant assortment of excellent eateries within walking distance of our Crescent Hill home, but I decided to surprise Sarah by trying something new. I noticed that Red Hog Tapas at the Blue Dog Café is open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Perfect timing.
We passed on seeing an early Thursday showing of the movie “Limitless,” only to find that the Red Hog Tapas menu could be similarly headlined. But wait, there’s more – a separate sheet of Red Hog Specials. And we found an amazing assortment of very reasonably priced wines and draught and bottled beers.
The current Red Hog menu is divided into five segments – Bruschetta, Panini, Bocadillos, Other Stuff and Pizza. For starters, we each picked a $4 bruchetta. Sarah decided on the Maytag Blue Cheese, House Bacon and Maple Syrup; I settled on Pear, Manchego, Bellota Ham and Wildflower Honey. We shared and found ourselves speechless as we savored every last crumb. One of the surprises was the light texture of the levain. The crust was more delicate than I had anticipated – the ideal base for all the savory and sweet toppings – and absent typical chewy toughness.
With the bruschetta, I enjoyed a draught 16-ounce Dogfish Indian Brown Ale from their regular beer menu and savored its complexities while we waited for the next round of tapas we’d selected.
Sarah went for one of the specials – Seared Rare Ahi Tuna, Cannellini Beans and Lime Vinaigrette ($12). At the same price, I went for one of the five pizzas offered – Egg, House Cured Bacon and Arugula. Again, we swapped bites and were both amazed and satisfied. I sipped a Vertical Epic 22-ounce from Stone Brewery. This one had been on the shelf a good while, bottled on 09/09/09 and intended not to be opened for a full year. It was well worth the wait for this Belgian Porter. If you order a Vertical Epic, get on your smart phone and search for the date on the bottle to find out what you’re drinking. Each one is a unique mystery brewed exactly one year, one month and one day apart from the next. We relaxed and soaked up the warmth and comfort of Blue Dog / Red Hog. It’s a mystery to me how the place always manages to transport me to another world.
Service for evening tapas at Red Hog was as attentive, relaxed and cheerful as I’ve always found it in the a.m. at Blue Dog. With a 20 percent tip our tab came to $59 – a bargain in my estimation. Tapas at Red Hog aren’t just appetizers or nibblers’ fare. We left the table absolutely sated and smiling.
Blue Dog Bakery and Café / Red Hog Tapas
2868 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
7 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
Breakfast: 8 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Lunch: 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Bakery closes at 4 p.m.
New Evening Hours!
Red Hog Tapas
Thursday: 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. – 11 p.m.