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Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe: Local favorite lives up to its bark

by Audrey Thomasson

If you’re in a New York state of mind, wanting upscale atmosphere and cuisine, Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe in the heart of Irvington is the place to dine. If you crave a beer and a hot dog, Nate’s Trick Dog bar menu is sure to satisfy.

Lamb chops

Since it re-opened four years ago under owners chef Nate Myers and his family, the restaurant has become one of the area’s most popular watering holes for locals who love to sit at the bar after a long day at the office and sip martinis bearing nostalgic names like Miss Ann and Irvington Night.

No strangers to the restaurant business, the Myers also own Lost River Brewing Company, a micro-brewery/restaurant in Wardensville, W.Va.

Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe is at the end of the quaint row of shops that Bill Westbrook built in Irvington. You’ll find his son, Cabell, tending bar, just as he has under the three previous owners. No matter who the proprietor, Trick Dog has maintained its name and reputation for excellence.

The decor has also transferred well. A black and gray color scheme is accented with huge red lamp shades while soft jazz and blues make it reminiscent of a Chicago jazz club. I brought along my friend, Liz, who just returned from a week in Chicago where she dined at places like the downtown Metropolitan Club and Carmine’s on the Gold Coast, which her son texted is “the Viagra Triangle of hot women and rich men.” I figured Liz’s Chicago experience was fresh enough to get some good comparisons.

While our visit took place before the start of the summer vacation season, the place was still busy for a Wednesday night. Nate’s menu and price diversity may be part of its success in a difficult economy.

Dining menu
Listed on the dining menu were 14 entrées. Maple Leaf Farm duck breast, Portuguese clam pasta and wild caught yellowfin tuna all caught my eye. But we asked our server, Charlotte, what dishes were the show stoppers for the regulars.

For an appetizer, she said oysters-on the half shell were very popular, served raw, roasted, steamed or fried. We settled on sharing a half dozen raw oysters, which were large, yet tender and mild. It was coupled with an extraordinary house salad of bibb and romaine lettuce with caramelized grape tomatoes, thinly sliced English cucumber, red onion, manchego cheese and sherry vinaigrette.

According to hostess and co-owner, Kathy Myers, they buy local whenever possible, which accounts for the wonderful fresh flavors of the oysters and crisp asparagus.

While the menu is a steak-lovers dream, Liz went for Nate’s jumbo lump crab cakes (sautéed roasted in red pepper, green beans, potatoes and cremini mushrooms).

How did it compare?
“Excellent,” was the only word I could get out of her as the crab—devoid of any filler—fell onto her fork.

I tried the lamb loin chops with minted sweet onion compote, baby lima beans, asparagus and fingerling potatoes. It’s luscious flavor bordered on French cooking, but the sauce complemented rather than overwhelmed the meat.

Bartender Caball Westbrook

Our wine choice was LaCrema, a California Pinot Noir that was smooth and light enough to serve with fish. Liz discovered it on her Chicago visit and was delighted to find it among the wine choices.

Whatever you order, end the meal with the paper-thin-sliced pears with vanilla ice cream and a rum glaze over a crispy pastry crust. I don’t care for pears, so I ordered the creme brulee with raspberries. While it was great, the Myers turned me around with just one taste of their pear dessert. I had to restrain myself from climbing into the bowl of pears and gobbling up my friend’s order.

The main menu is not inexpensive, but is a great value. Liz estimated there was at least a half pound of lump crab in her entree, which was $28, while my lamb was $26.

Bar menu
The bar menu is a great alternative for lighter dining.

“Doctors, lawyers, merchants, and chiefs,” occupied the bar seating and took advantage of the 20% discount on drinks and appetizers before 6:30 p.m.

While the appetizers are more like tapas, at $4 to $15, they make a fantastic meal by themselves. Also, you’ll find mac and cheese, fish tacos and chicken wings.

Starting under $5 are the soups—conch chowder, pazole rojo, oyster stew and corn chowder.

Of course, there are Trick Dogs—hot dogs served plain or with sauerkraut, pepper relish, tomato slices, pepperoncini and celery salt at $5 or $6. Sandwiches of grilled tuna steak, pulled pork, Italian meats and cheeses, soft shell crabs and burgers range from $8 to $15.

We didn’t taste-test everything at Nate’s Trick Dog. But we wanted to! Instead, I went home to dream of rum glazed pears dancing in my head.

If You Go
Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe
4357 Irvington Road
Irvington, VA 23480

(804) 438-6363

Tuesday – Saturday
5:00 p.m.
Reservations Suggested

On the Menu
Entrées • Appetizers • Salads • Soups • Desserts

Did you know?
Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe serves martinis bearing nostalgic names like Miss Ann and Irvington Night.

posted 05.23.2013

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