Trick Dog is a tough one, because their popularity is the problem. Do you blame Disneyland for being so great that every child in America wants to go? Is it Jurassic World's fault that insufferable drunk people want to yell about the dinosaurs? Should Louis C.K. be blamed for the hecklers?
In case you can't tell from the leading questions, the answer is no. But that doesn't change the central issue, which is that Trick Dog is a mess most nights of the week. You'll fight for a tiny sliver of bar space. You'll battle for the amusingly thematic printed menu that you read about online. You'll wave about theatrically to attract the attention of one of the cocktail experts behind the bar. And, finally, you'll enjoy an unusual, delicious drink. Probably.
The drinks are the centerpiece, as this is a bar, and they are inventive, weird, often incredibly good, and occasionally screwed-up. Back in the first menu rotation — the drink list changes every few months or so — we fell in love with a particular grapefruit drink served on a giant ice cube. Three times, it was one of the best drinks we've ever had. The fourth time, it was garbage. This is about the ratio of hits-to-misses we've enjoyed during our years at Trick Dog. As the crowd swells, the likelihood of a perfect mixture declines.
The food? Kind of an afterthought, and occasionally the kitchen appears to agree. The In-N-Out-animal-style fries sound amazing ("House sauce, cheddar cheese, charred scallions"), but the goo on top of them has often congealed in unappealing fashion. The "Trick Dog", i.e. a burger in a hot dog bun, is usually well-cooked and tasty. We've had surprising success with deeper cuts on the menu, like the kale salad.
But this isn't a place to book dinner, even if there's a balcony for that purpose. This is a place to drunkenly wander if you happen to be in the neighborhood. We often are, so it's invaluable. We just wish the crowds would migrate somewhere else.
If only we weren't part of that crowd.
Look, the calories are mostly coming from alcohol here. Follow your heart, and, if it's not too busy, you might have a religious experience.
Sound delicious, are great in theory, but in real life, these are often mediocre, cold, bad.
Not bad, but not at the pinnacle of the form. You probably don't want to order nearly-raw fish here, anyway. Get the grease!
Or the kale salad! Surprisingly refreshing, tasty, a nice beginning-of-the-night snack piece.
Cash money. This is the end-of-the-night snack piece. Well-cooked, hefty, seasoned, sauced. Good on ya, Trick Dog.