Dogged Days

June/July 2020 View more

Timing may be everything in the entertainment world. But the proprietors of the new outlet of the nationwide Lazy Dog chain (, 436 S. Route 59) of casual, dog-friendly eateries have to be relieved that the same axiom isn’t as all-encompassing in the restaurant business. While every bar and restaurant in the area was thrown into the same state of suspended activity (not to mention suspended disbelief) by the pandemic-related stay-at-home orders that came down in mid-March, few could lay claim to the inauspicious timing of Lazy Dog’s grand opening—which unfolded with excitement and anticipation less than seven weeks prior to the shutdown.

Just as patrons were coming out to sample the restaurant’s scratch-made comfort food, enjoy the covered patio with their faithful canine companions, and express gratitude for a new dining option to replace yet another “bed box store” along Route 59’s Mattress Mile, the virus slammed the brakes on just about everything. But Lazy Dog general manager Nikky Breijak says she and her team simply made the best of the challenging circumstances by working within that window as much as they were able—quickly pivoting to a delivery and curbside carryout model, including Pantry Meal Kits like pizza night and backyard BBQ, that allowed them to keep introducing themselves to their new neighbors as they all looked forward to brighter days ahead.

“We just wanted to do everything we could to keep things as safe and comfortable as possible for our team members and our guests,” Breijak says. “And we’ll continue to take that approach as we’re allowed to slowly reopen and start welcoming guests back to the restaurant in the months to come.

Street Eats

As June got underway, that meant once again serving diners (and their pups) on the restaurant’s handsome covered patio—albeit with fewer and more widely spaced tables and a host of new health and safety procedures for staff. (Carryout and delivery service continue as well.) While the spacious yet cozy dining room remains closed for the time being, guests can at least gather in the glow of the outdoor fireplace and get a general feel for the comfortable, relaxed community vibe Lazy Dog is aiming for in its second Illinois location (a Vernon Hills restaurant opened in January 2019).

Expanded cocktail rules now allow carryout diners and and not just patio patrons to take advantage of the bar’s many offerings, including a variety of house beers like the Huckleberry Haze IPA (one of several craft selections brewed exclusively for Lazy Dog by Golden Road Brewery) and creative mixed drinks like the bacon bourbon Old Fashioned.

Supper Time

Those drink options pair well with Lazy Dog’s small-plates offerings: sweet potato tots with roasted jalapeno-lime aioli, buffalo cauliflower slathered with high altitude hot sauce, or sweet-and-salty bacon candy. The expansive main menu features an array of salads, sandwiches, burgers, entrees, and wok-fired build-your-own rice and protein bowls.

On Breijak’s recommendation—and a serious craving for true comfort food—our carryout order simply had to include the BBQ bison meatloaf: a rich wedge of Durham Ranch grass-raised Wyoming bison wrapped in bacon and slathered in a sweet and tangy sauce. Alongside mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach, this felt like the embodiment of the Lazy Dog philosophy on a plate. The beer-battered fish and chips, meanwhile, was a towering mass of not-so-good-for-us goodness.

Perhaps the chocolate brownie sundae and apple-huckleberry open-face pie, likewise, were not the healthiest options with which to wrap up our moveable feast, but they sure hit the sweet spot just when we needed it most. In the end, then, maybe Lazy Dog’s timing really isn’t so bad after all.

Photos courtesy Lazy Dog