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St. Pete - The Brown Dog Cafe is no bow-wow

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St. Pete - The Brown Dog Cafe is no bow-wow

BeaN | Jan 17, 2004 05:47 PM

Spousal Unit (SU) and I had our second meal at the Brown Dog Cafe (3451 4th St. N) recently.

Our first meal was a brunch one Sunday morning between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A friend had spoken favorably of it, and we were not disappointed.

The great ambiance of the place was a total surprise. Right there in a little strip center facing 4th, next to a bank and a take-out pizza place, and with only the word "cafe" showing on the facade, we expected a low-brow, blue-plate special kind of place.

Instead, we found a fun, casually elegant sidewalk cafe atmosphere. Several tables are covered with oversized umbrellas. Original artwork graces the walls. A painting of the Brown Dog presides over the dining room.

There is a dry-erase board beside the door, which lists specials and another that is a disclaimer for the Brown Dog's spicy dishes. It says: "This menu is for those of you who like it hot. No, I don't just mean hot, but extremely HOT. If you are a card carrying, bonafide pepper eater, this menu is for you. Don't order unless you can eat the heat!!!! These are very favorable but HOT. Bon appetite."

There seemed to be a lot of neighborhood regulars, which I think is a good sign.

On that visit, SU had an egg dish (Benedict, I think) and I had a platter with fruit, cheese and pate. I remember thinking that my dish was kind of pricey at about $11, but it turned out to be enough to feed two people, and boy was it ever good! There were several interesting cheeses, and three pates, all of which were delicious. The fruit was fresh, flavorful and ample, a well-picked counterpoint to the cheese and pate. All was served with toasted baguette slices.

This week's visit, on Weds. or Thurs. evening, was equally pleasurable. Again, there seemed to be a predominance of regulars.

We split an appetizer: Jalapenos with pepper cheese & shrimp in bacon. The bacon was paper thin, so the flavor dd not eclipse the shrimp. The jalapeno "shells" that cradled the shrimp were done without being mushy, and had good pepper zing. The jalapenos that we grew last year never had this much pepper zing.

My entree was preceded by a cup of clam chowder. SU's came with a Caesar salad.

I had the Chicken Parmesan with angel hair pasta and red sauce. I've been craving something rich and bad for me since I started watching my cholesterol; this was satisfying to me.

SU had the chicken with habanero & jalapeno stuffing w/Tabasco infused blue cheese sauce. He said that the delicate, almond flavor of the habanero was overpowered by the other more assertive flavors of the dish, but that it was hot enough (pepper wise) to please a dedicated pepper-head. He also noted that only a true pepper nerd like himself would even be able to comment on the flavor of a habanero aside from the heat. Long story short, he really liked the dish over all.

We didn't order wine, but I did look at the list and did not notice a single bottle over $30. There were some good wines to choose from, very reasonably priced.

We did eat desert. I had tira misu, and SU chose a decadent chocolate-peanut butter torte that had to embody at least half of the seven deadly sins. My tira misu was very good, but SUÂ’s torte was wickedly good.

Dinner prices start at about $8. The highest price I noted was a seafood special item at about $21. Most prices fall into the $9-14 range. All entrees come with soup of the day, and a potato or rice and vegetables accompany most.

We really enjoyed our meal there. It was pleasurable, and delicious. What more could I ask for?

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