The popcorn is a brilliant touch. And kind of necessary.
Stray Dog Cafe, 6722 NW 39th St., is a cute little diner in downtown Bethany. The food is good. The service is friendly. The wait…
… can be a little frustrating.
But first, let’s talk food. If you’re going for breakfast, you’re going to enjoy some pretty classic combos with an option for some heat.
I started with a three-egg omelet ($5.25 with cheese, 25 cents for each additional ingredient) filled with jalapeño and cheddar with some avocado on top. It’s a simple one-fold omelet, but everything was cooked beautifully. The jalapeños, especially, were wonderful. Rather than the usual jarred peppers, these were freshly grilled — the flavor is unmistakable. Also nice to see was the option of a habanero blue cheese. It’s the little touches.
The sides were less impressive. The hash browns were fine but boring. The bacon was overcooked in places and undercooked in others. These are two staples I think every diner should be able to do in their sleep, so I’m hoping I just went on an off day.
The multigrain pancakes ($5.25 for a short stack, $6 for a tall stack) are wonderful. Dense cakes, but not too heavy, and the addition of chopped pecans gives the whole dish a nutty, wholesome flavor. With whipped butter and hot syrup, these would seduce even the most ardent fan of savory breakfasts, which is me.
As a Southern boy at heart, the biscuit and gravy ($1.99) and the grits ($1.99) broke my heart a little. The biscuit was far too dense. The gravy tasted more like flour than sausage. And the grits didn’t taste like anything. If you order them, be sure to season with salt and pepper — and add cheese.
Lunch is served Tuesday through Saturday, but dinner is only Friday and Saturday night. And there is treasure in them thar menus.
Here’s what you need to order: the mac and cheese dog ($5) and the tabouli dog ($4.55). It all starts with the bun, which is some kind of Texas toast buttered bun that gets a little crispy on the griddle. The dogs are Nathan’s and get a nice sear, too. But the mac and cheese that goes on top is legit. Too legit. It won’t quit. Hey hey. I’d eat it off with a fork, except the combo is too good to miss.
And the tabouli? Same. It’s kind of maddening that I didn’t figure out to put tabouli on a hot dog before this. What other common-sense combos am I missing?
If you like heat, please look into the El Toro burger ($6.75), which has grilled onions and jalapeños, habanero jack cheese and ghost pepper mayo. Take your Prilosec with a side of Zantac and pray it doesn’t wake you up breathing fire. All that heat is worth it, though, because it’s a really tasty burger.
The real issue at Stray Dog Cafe is the wait. When they drop a dog bowl full of popcorn on your table, it seems like a cute gimmick. But after a lengthy wait on your food, you’ll be grateful for a little something to tide you over. They’re so friendly and the food is good — I hope they get the hang of it and start pushing out food faster.
Oh, and if you’ve got kids, you should definitely try the grilled cheese. It’s a classic diner grilled cheese, and if you order a side of fruit, you will get a really beautiful little spread: apple slices, juicy peeled oranges and plenty of fresh banana.
It’s wonderful to see another restaurant in downtown Bethany, especially a diner that can become a meeting place for the residents. And, yes, I might harp on the wait a bit, but for food this good, I’m OK with delayed gratification.
Stray Dog Cafe
6722 NW 39th St.
What works: Great dogs, burgers and multigrain pancakes.
What needs work: Service is very friendly but can be slow.
Tip: Get the pie; they make it in-house.
Print headline: Worth the wait: From habanero blue cheese to multigrain pancakes, Stray Dog Cafe is worth wandering in.