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  • Nobody makes better fried mushrooms than the ones served at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Crspy breaded onion rings at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Cross section of the Big Ass Cheeseburger at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The Luce E Fresco pizza at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road was best on the restaurant's thin crust.

  • Chili at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Hand-breaded chicken tenders from the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Calzone at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Broiled Haddock at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Roasted tomato soup at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The Sweet Chili Chicken wrap from the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Chicken wings at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The Big Ass Fish Sandwich from the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • Philly Nachos at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The house salad, served in a stainless steel mixing bowl and featuring the additon of kale, at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The bar area at the Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

  • The Black Dog Pub on Covington Road.

Sunday, August 27, 2017 1:00 am

Pub's breading will make you beg for more

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Black Dog Pub

****

Out of a possible five

$$

Doing just one thing well can carry a restaurant a long way.

Make a great Coney dog and enjoy 100-plus years of success. Put ice cream inside a doughnut and watch the lines form.

In the case of Black Dog Pub, that one thing is breaded, crispy and about as perfect as it can get. And there is more than just one.

Black Dog's breaded mushrooms are easily the best in town – maybe the best in any town. I don't know how one could make one better, and I have been shouting their praises since I first had them years ago.

They are still perfect – whole meaty buttons completely coated in a thick, flaky coating that are super moist and buttery inside and dusted with grated Parmesan. And the process used to bread them also worked wonders on a hunk of chicken. The chicken strips had that same wonderful crunchy exterior and that coating kept the meat inside super juicy and tender. They were flawless.

The onion rings followed suit with that breading coating sweet, just-cooked-enough onions that did not take a back seat in terms of flavor. The only flaw was that the coating easily fell off the rest of the onion after your initial bite, but picking up the pieces and reassembling was a small price to pay for them.

Most of the great finds at Black Dog Pub came in the form of appetizers, battered or not.

The Philly Nachos were a find worth having again. They had a yummy white cheese sauce, mushrooms, green peppers, onions and thinly sliced steak over crunchy chips.

The thin meat was just like I would want it on a sandwich and was the key. The mushrooms added meatiness, and I would order them again without question, but I think they could have been even better had the peppers been julienned instead of finely diced.

I would pass on soup as a starter as the roasted tomato and chili left me wanting more. The tomato was very thick and had no complexity in terms of flavor. I felt like I was eating a bowl of marinara sauce. The chili was dark brown and looked like dog food, but it had a nice, even black pepper-type heat. However, it needed more of a tomato element to add acidic punch and sweetness. It would have been good on a hot dog but was not very good on a spoon.

The house salad was worth getting. It had a decent iceberg mix boosted by the addition of kale, and I loved that it was served in a stainless steel mixing bowl.

Black Dog Pub doesn't mess around when it comes to naughty bar fare. There are aptly named “Big Ass” cheeseburgers, tenderloins and fish sandwiches on the menu and you would struggle to find a bigger sausage roll or calzone.

The key to the sandwiches was the huge, sweet bun they were served on. Created by Waynedale Bakery – my favorite bakery – and baked fresh on site, they are wonderful, and I wish Black Dog would just serve them toasted with garlic butter as a side.

The fish sandwich had three nicely breaded pollock fillets on it, but I was again hoping for batter. The breading was sort of a light famous-fish style and was fine, but given how the other breaded items were, why not bread the fish the same way? According to a manager, the cod sandwich has that good breading, which made me question it even more.

The burger could not have been better. It was a one-pound patty that was patted out thin so it was large enough to not be dwarfed by the bun. It was nicely seared, pink in the middle, juicy and nicely seasoned. With that toasted sweet roll, I was in heaven.

The calzone I tried was OK, but it was easily the least impressive of the giant offerings at Black Dog. It was nicely filled and its exterior was golden brown, but that wrapping was a bit too thin for my liking.

The thin-crust Luce E Fresco pizza was very much to my liking. This thin and crispy pie topped with olive-oil, mozzarella and ricotta cheese, chopped garlic, fresh parsley, dried Italian herbs and fresh tomatoes should only be ordered with thin crust according to my server and she was right. Black Dog also offers a thicker, regular crust.

The ricotta sort of blended in with the mozzarella but its creaminess was detectable. The tomatoes and herbs were nicely paired and I really liked my slice with a drizzle of ranch dressing I stole from my chicken wings.

Those wings were fine, but I would never choose them over the mushrooms or onion rings. Black Dog also had Hawg Wings – slow-cooked pork shanks – on the menu but they were out of them both times I visited. They must be a hot item.

The broiled haddock was a sizable and respectable entrée with two thick, perfectly cooked fillets with salt, black pepper and a lot of butter. I did not, however, care for the more-tangy-than-sweet slaw that came with it.

The biggest disappointment was the Sweet Chili Chicken Wrap. It had an odd sweet chili sauce with a touch of heat and maybe soy that I did not like at all. The chicken was fine and the tomato-basil tortilla it was wrapped in was nicely grilled, but the sauce was not.

But that won't kill any chances of me going back to Black Dog Pub.

It is a bar through and through with some fun dog-related design elements and a funky green checkerboard floor as the highlight of its color scheme, which also is marked by a lot of black and red. It is much more of a neighborhood bar with few TVs so its buzz is created by music and chatter.

It's a busy place all of the time. The servers did a good job of not only getting food out, but keeping me updated as I waited and making sure I did not need a thing.

The only thing I might need is some more mushrooms.

Restaurant: Black Dog Pub

Address: 6230 Covington Road

Phone: 432-5534

Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 1 a.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Mushrooms ($6.75), onion rings ($4.95), wings ($7.95), Philly Nachos ($8.95), soup ($3.95 cup; $4.95 bowl), Luce E Fresco ($9.95; $13.95; $15.95), haddock ($15.95), fish sandwich ($8.95), cheeseburger ($12.95), calzone ($12.95), wrap ($7.95),

Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall