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Wednesday, December 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 35.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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The revival of Dog Eat Dog raises the bar at Pooley's
Sit. Stay. Eat.
on (1) Comment

Credit:Kyle Nabilcy

A couple years ago, Joe Anderson decided that he'd done enough work for other people and wanted to go back into business for himself. From 1999 to 2001, Anderson had been a partner in the original Dog Eat Dog, a hot dog eatery on King Street. He was bought out, and in 2004, Dog Eat Dog closed. The space became home to the original Restaurant Muramoto.

Thanks to Anderson's friendship with Todd Dukes, of Exceptional Catering, he's relaunched Dog Eat Dog inside Pooley's, the far-east-side sports bar that had previously offered a menu of Exceptional Catering's dishes. Dukes' hands were full, since he'd opened the Porktropolis barbecue spot in Sun Prairie. Got all that?

Good - because the old Dog Eat Dog mojo is still working, and we should get to it. Obviously, the sausages are the main event. Hot dogs come courtesy of Red Hot Chicago. While I don't know if our fair city's current mayor - a self-styled Chicago dog expert - would approve of this choice over Vienna Beef, it's still a fine dog. The multicolored toppings all seem to meet the exacting specifications of the archetype.

A slaw cheese dog, a favorite of some Isthmus staffers from the days when the stand was across the street, combines chunky coleslaw with Merkts cheese spread atop an all-beef frank. As messy as a chili dog, this combination doesn't really sound like it should work. It is bizarre, and it is not for everyone. But the combination of dog, velvety cheese and crisp cabbage is a summertime winner. The kraut-bedecked Polish sausage also deserves praise.

There are non-tubular options, too. Burgers come in pizza, sweet peppers, mushroom and Swiss, and barbecue bacon varieties. Expect a perfectly grilled patty, if underseasoned. Chicagoans can feel at home with the Italian beef, flavorful and topped sweet or hot. (Mine was a bit tough.) The Buffalo wings are meaty, crispy, tangy - and absolutely don't need the fairly awful blue cheese dressing. Anderson assured me it's a work in progress; skip it until it's fixed.

Pizzas are assembled to order in-house. Anderson buys his crusts, and you can't expect foodie touches like fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and housemade sausage. But tavern-style pizzas served in actual taverns are meant to satisfy viscerally, and this one does, with stretchy cheese, sweet sauce, a light dusting of oregano - yes, I'll have one with everything.

The celery-salted hot chips are as great now as I'm told they once were. Like the chips at Harmony Bar, these are recommended with blue cheese dip; again, don't. They're hot, salty and crisp enough to stand on their own. The fryer skills on display here bode well for the Friday fish fry, but you can always get cheese curds, french fries or mozzarella sticks if you need a hot oil fix.

This is a sports bar, and as such it should be noted that the tap list is modest but responsive to suggestion. The music is eclectic (try "This Kiss" followed by "Rico Suave"), and game volume is only turned on in the side room. Essentially a warehouse of sports memorabilia, Pooley's can get loud; if you want to converse, there are booths opposite the W-shaped bar.

All sporting events deserve food this good, but really, you don't even need the sports excuse.

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