Black and bleu pizza - $11.95
For a group evening out in Ventura County, I attempted to steer everyone toward my favorite German/Italian restaurant, Two Guys from Italy, but was mysteriously overruled in favor of the Lazy Dog Cafe, a local suburban chain restaurant that I'm sure receives a lot of its business from its proximity to the Thousand Oaks Muvico theater (other locations are in in Westminster, Orange, Irvine, Torrance, and Temecula). Good luck getting a table on Saturday night at 7:00 unless you want to hold onto a plastic buzzer for the next hour. There are few things I hate more than waiting for a table at a generic restaurant. I kind of wanted to stay home. Okay, I really wanted to stay home.
Now put all my grumping aside, because this place actually has a lot going for it. The hamburgers are unbelievable, and they'll actually cook them medium rare. For what is largely a pizza and burger place, you might be surprised to learn that they also serve braised lamb shank and cast-iron baked trout with a citrus-walnut brown butter sauce. They also serve pasta, soup, salad, Chinese food (I'm skeptical), sandwiches, and an unusual array of starters--you can get everything from hummus to sauteed eggplant to chicken wings. There's really something for everyone (they also have a kid's menu--you can guess what's on it).
Lazy Dog Cafe also wins points from me for its actual beer menu with 16 draft beers, including 5 of their own (which can be ordered as a tasting sampler totaling 3o ounces), Rogue Hazlenut Brown, Firestone Double Barrel Ale, and a rotating selection of seasonal beers. Your inner sorority girl will be happy to know that they also serve a plethora of cocktails and martinis; those who have (or pretend to have) more refined sensibilities will appreciate the long and reasonably priced wine list.
I ordered the black and bleu pizza, a thin-crusted, hubcap-sized pie topped with cajun chicken, hickory-smoked bacon, mozzarella, carmelized onions, blue cheese, diced tomatoes, and green onions. I know I enjoyed it at the time, but I should have eaten it all in one sitting because the leftovers were a soggy mess that marred my opinion of the dish. I also tried the pepperoni pizza, which is totally worth the heart attack you will definitely have if you eat that much pepperoni in one sitting. (For someone who adores pizza, I really should venture outside of the Red Baron box more often.)
Another dish I got to sample since we dined in a large group was the fish and chips. It was exactly what you'd expect it to be--thick hunks of cod, beer-battered and deep fried until golden, crispy, and dripping with grease and generously salted. If you ate the whole platter, you'd be good to go for at least a day, calorie-wise. It was delicious and paired wonderfully with my beer, but I couldn't have eaten a whole meal of it--it's just too one-note for me. But fish-and-chips lovers should be pleased.
The name of the restaurant is terribly misleading, though. Knowing nothing about the place beforehand, I assumed it was some sort of dog-friendly sidewalk cafe (but Toto, we're not in Venice anymore). In actuality, it is like an enormous Chili's, minus the southwestern tiles (for those of you well-versed in suburban restaurants, it's actually more like BJ's). And it's not the easiest place to hold a conversation, especially if you're with a large group--I could have laid down in the middle of our table for eight and there still would have been enough room for all the plates and drinks. So sit next to, not across from, the person you most like.
Two of us were out the door for only $40, and that included two entrees (with leftover pizza), a beer, some cranberry juice, and it's possible that someone may have talked me into taking a chocolate cake shot even though I am morally opposed to paying $6 for two ounces of alcohol. Maybe I was trying to prove that I can still drink like a 23-year-old.
Lazy Dog Cafe
172 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Lazy Dog Cafe Website
Lazy Dog Cafe Menu
Sun 10am - 11pm
Mon - Thur 11am - 11pm
Fri - Sat 11am - midnight