SIT, STAY, EAT
The motto of the Lazy Dog Cafe expresses the simple pleasure of taking things a little slower and sharing food with those you love.
The whimsical doggie-themed decor has instant appeal and the creative rustic design has been described as “Frank Lloyd Wright meets Ralph Lauren”, inspired by owner Chris Simms’ summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I have a thing for lighting and fell instantly in awe of the massive chandelier crafted from Aspen logs in the entry and the fun dog-paw ceiling fixture in the bar area (see photo above). Dog print fabrics, canine photos, and metal sculpture make you smile inside and you have to love the playful fire hydrant beer tap!
The Lazy Dog Cafe specializes in an eclectic menu of American fare with touches of Italian, Chinese, Mediterranean and South American with everything from classic American Campfire Pot Roast and BBQ Baby Back Ribs to Bahama Jerk Chicken, Hawaiian inspired Ahi Poke and a Trio of Hummus Sampler. Pictured below is the Pesto Chicken & Hummus Salad, Shrimp Wok Platter and Cast Iron Idaho Trout. They offer a Puppy Dogs menu for kids 8 and under for $4.95 and smaller portions of menu favorites for the Big Dogs, 12 and under. And for us older dogs, there’s a terrific Happy Hour, check out the specials here.
The staff was friendly, enthusiastic and eager to please – special thanks to our charming waiter, Michael, who allowed us to take countless photos. I didn’t catch the name of the smiling bartender below, who gave us a photo op as he poured one of the 21 draft beers available. Executive Chef, Gabriel Caliendo’s attention to detail was evident as he checked plates leaving the line and quizzed staff on the names of the selections they were serving.
When I arrived at the Irvine Market Place last Tuesday, for the Grand Opening of the sixth Lazy Dog Cafe, the restaurant was already full of philanthropists from the Irvine and Tustin communities that Chris Simms, CEO and founder of Lazy Dog, had invited for the Spirit of Philanthropy “sneak preview” and a complimentary meal as part of the pre-opening celebration. Simms wanted to do something special for those in the community who donate their valuable time, energy, and/or resources to improve the lives of others. The grand opening event also gave the staff an opportunity to master their skills before opening to the general public on Thursday.
Simms vision came from his older friends who had young children and were finding that 2 year olds were not welcome at the restaurants they used to frequent as a couple. His desire was to create a place with a comfortable but hip feel to it. “A place where kids were welcome and offered the same quality as nicer more expensive restaurants, but comfortable and casual at an affordable level”. In 2003, Simms opened the first Lazy Dog on Beach Blvd. in Huntington Beach and his concept has proven to be wildly successful.
Behind the creative menu is Executive Chef, Gabriel Caliendo, who oversees operations in all of the restaurants. Prior to becoming Simms’ culinary partner, Caliendo was the executive sous chef at The Ritz Carlton in Dana Point. Along with Simms, whose family created the nation-wide chain of Mimi’s Restaurants, Caliendo developed his culinary artisanship at his family’s delicatessens.
There is something for everyone at The Lazy Dog. Sister locations are in Huntington Beach, Orange, South Bay, Valencia and Thousand Oaks. Visit their website here. Oh, and in keeping with the canine theme, regulars are encouraged to submit 5″x7″ photographs of their dogs for the Lazy Dog Cafe Hall of Fame which is displayed in a designated area in the restaurant.
Thanks to Frank Groff Inc . and The Lazy Dog Cafe for inviting me to this event. I’m don’t write restaurant reviews but if you’d like to read one and see more food photos visit GriffinEats who I met at the opening.