Mountain Meals

Appears in the May 2023 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

Lazy Dog Restaurant masters the comfy rustic concept

Inside Lazy Dog Restaurant

How does one explain the stratospheric growth experienced by the Lazy Dog Restaurants group? At last tally, owner Chris Simms, the youngest in his family’s long line of renowned restaurateurs, has launched more than 45 locations, including recent debuts in Naperville and Oak Brook. That’s a serious feat, especially considering Lazy Dog isn’t a quick-service concept.

Sure, Lazy Dog offers $10 grab-and-heat-at-home platters—served in retro-chic Eisenhower-era TV dinner foil trays. And yes, plenty of beer lovers have signed up for their popular beer club, which offers dining discounts and ships you eight beers (four pairs from different breweries around the country) every quarter. But at the end of the day, Lazy Dog’s charms are best experienced the old-fashioned way, by booking a table and actually enjoying a meal inside one of its dining rooms.

They’re all designed to look a bit like Kevin Costner’s living room in Paramount’s Yellowstone. Hearty lumber. Sturdy stone fireplaces. And western artwork—think grand vistas and cowboy boots—that would make Frederic Remington beam with pride. “Growing up, our owner spent a lot of time in Jackson Hole with his family,” says Keith Cox, general manager of Lazy Dog’s Oak Brook location, “so we wanted people to feel like they were enjoying dinner in the mountains.”

BBQ Bison Meatloaf
BBQ Bison Meatloaf

What’s really smart, of course, is that menu works overtime to uphold that vibe. It’s one part campfire comfort classics and one part mountain fare. Think crispy deviled eggs topped with candied bacon chips. Platters of BBQ bison meatloaf, rotisserie-chicken pot pies, and beer-battered fish and chips—followed by desserts like open-faced huckleberry pie.

And but the real key to Lazy Dog’s success might be a single image, which motivated Simms to build his first location. He was vacationing up north, when he saw his dog, Mattie, lying, eyes closed, contently resting by the fire. It looked to Simms as if nothing in the world could touch him. What if we created a restaurant that made people feel just like that?

Mountain lodges? Buttermilk fried chicken? Happy dogs, wagging their tails, by a fire? Mystery solved: That’ll explain the 45 locations and counting just fine.


Photos courtesy of Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar