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February 19. 2013 4:57PM

Our Gourmet: College-town tour rolls into Plymouth's Lucky Dog Tavern

Lucky Dog Tavern & Grill

53 South Main St., Plymouth 536-2260

www.luckydogtavernandgrill.com
 
Restaurant hours: Monday-Thursday, 4:30-9 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Bar open until 1 a.m. nightly.
 
Cuisine: Pub fare and Mexican
 
Pricing: Appetizers $6-$12; soups, salads $4-$11; sandwiches, burgers $6-$11; lunch entrees $9-$15; dinner entrees $12-$18.

Restaurant Location:

53 South Main St., Plymouth NH

It was bound to happen. When you're a professional diner (OK, semi-pro), sooner or later there'll be a time when you just don't feel like going out to dinner. Such was the case for me a couple of weeks ago, when we headed out for the next stop on our College Town tour.

I was a little off my peak thanks to a touch of the flu, but with steady doses of Advil and DayCare, I was able to keep my symptoms largely under control (except for the cough and an overwhelming desire to sleep). So I bundled myself in to the back of the minivan and dozed off while The Dining Companion drove to Plymouth with the Teenage Bottomless Pit riding shotgun.

Having identified several restaurant targets in downtown Plymouth, we chose the Lucky Dog Tavern because it was casual, reasonably priced and met our college-town objective of being the kind of place parents might take their student when visiting campus or where students might take each other for a reasonably priced date night.

The Lucky Dog is hard to miss, and not just for the giant, mug-toting carved cartoon dog standing out front. The two-story restaurant stands on a triangle-shaped corner, and the building itself is triangle-shaped as well, with the restaurant on the top floor accessible from Main Street and the downstairs pub around the corner and down the hill on the side street.

Inside, the decor is reminiscent of a woodsy, rustic saloon that the missus prettied up. Dark green and knotty pine abound, from the tin ceiling to the woodwork. The main wall features local artwork for sale, and the vintage Lucky Dog logo is prominently displayed (there's a Babe Ruth connection to it that's worth reading about on the back of the menu).

We arrived in late afternoon; the lunch menu was still in effect but was switched out before we left. The two menus are similar, the differences mainly being portion size and a larger selection of entrees at dinner. Smaller portions worked well for us, since I was off my feed and none of us (not even TBP) was ravenously hungry, thanks to the brunch served at a college visit earlier in the day. We decided to lighten up by splitting our appetizers and desserts.

The appetizer menu is pub-style all the way, with a boatload of potato skins, chicken wings, nachos and the like. Late brunch or no, TBP couldn't resist ordering the "Not So Regular" Skins ($6.59), while TDC ordered the Calamari Fra Diavolo ($8.99).

We were divided on both apps. TBP thought the skins, which were deep-fried and filled with bacon and melted cheese, were "bomb," but we thought they were more of a dud, lacking flavor and the potatoes themselves being a little underdone.

The calamari was breaded and lightly fried, tossed in olive oil with hot cherry peppers and served with a thick, chunky and delicious marinara sauce on the side. The pieces were nicely fried and tender, but we were disappointed with the dish overall. TDC was expecting whole cherry peppers, but these were finely chopped. And the oil in which everything was tossed soaked in as we worked through the dish, making the breading fairly mushy as we finished. I gave it higher marks than TDC did, but I agree that we've had better calamari.

Lucky Dog excelled with our entrees. There was no splitting here, although we grudgingly allowed each other limited sampling. There's a nice variety of entrees, from burgers and sandwiches to seafood, veggie and a big selection of Mexican dishes.

The Teryaki Sirloin Tips ($10.49) are noted as one of Lucky's favorites, and now it's one of TDC's as well. She usually steers clear of teryaki dishes because most places tend to overdo the marinade and sauce. But Lucky Dog's teryaki tips - there were five pieces in this lunch serving - were lightly marinated, tender and perfectly cooked.

Ever wonder what would happen if you replaced the crouton at the bottom of a bowl of French onion soup with a piece of grilled chicken breast? You'd have Lucky Dog's French Onion Chicken, which I ordered from the specials menu. The chicken, served in a crock, was tender and topped with a thin layer of melted cheese; the broth was lightly flavored and generously stocked with sliced onions. More mildly flavored than the typical beef-based French onion soup, this was a clever, delicious twist on an old standard.

TBP was very happy with his chicken and beef fajitas (combo for $16.99), which was the biggest fajita entree we've ever seen - and remember, this was supposedly the lunch portion. Served in a sizzling cast iron pan with salsa, sour cream, diced tomatoes and shredded cheese, there was enough to satisfy the boy and for him to bring some home.

By the time we finished our entrees, I was running out of steam (and meds) and about ready for another nap, so we decided to order our desserts to go. Our waitress asked if we wanted them warmed up or left cold for travel, and since we had more than an hour's drive ahead of us, we opted for the latter. As a result, we may not have experienced Lucky's desserts at their optimal, but they were still very good - especially the Peanut Butter Pie. The Caramel Apple Crumb Cake was good as well, but we should have asked for instructions on how to warm it up to make the most of the nicely spiced topping.

My senses may have been dulled by my cold, but TDC and TBP agree the Lucky Dog makes the "visit again" list. The prices are quite reasonable, the food is well prepared and the location is just a couple of minutes off I-93, making it a good spot for a food break while traveling to or from the mountains or the North Country.


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