Our friend Darrell had suggested an easy day kayaking below the dam, starting at 11 and ending about 1 p.m.
Four hours later, we’d had a great time exploring the river, spotting bald eagles (two!) and meeting new friends. But the granola bars we’d packed for a snack weren’t cutting it.
“Bird Dog Grille?” Darrell suggested. We returned our rented kayaks and were back at Bird Dog in record time ready to order up.
Bird Dog Grille opened in 2012 at Fury’s Ferry Station in Martinez (corner of Fury’s Ferry and Evans to Locks Road). It’s owned and operated by Brett Hilton, a Lakeside High School grad whose credentials include cooking at the beloved DiChickO’s Peri-Peri Café, the Ritz-Carlton and Longhorn Steakhouse.
Its concept is pure American, with classic lines and fun lighting. A bar filled with regulars is on one side of the restaurant; the other has booths and tables and restrained décor. In an homage to the restaurant’s name, a flat screen in one corner features photos of dogs submitted by fond owners/diners.
We barely cracked open the menus before we ordered up, following Darrell’s lead. First, an order of cheese dip; then Lynn and Kyle suggested the homemade chips; and I wasn’t too shy to order more cheese in the form of beer-battered mozzarella cheese sticks.
The appetizers couldn’t come soon enough, but when they did, our stomachs were happy. The queso dip was loaded with jalapeños, which gave it a nice kick, and came surrounded by tricolor nacho chips, which they gladly refilled for us. The homemade chips were thick, super crispy and not greasy at all – just well browned with great flavor. The cheese sticks were, well, cheesesticks – fat, fried but just right to fill my hungry belly.
Darrell made us laugh when he ordered his sweet tea “in a glass”– not the plastic cups we all got. But I liked the no-fuss service – even more when Sean accidentally spilled his glass of Coke on Darrell (he managed to save his sweet tea).
Like Darrell, Lynn and Kyle too are regulars, so I quizzed Lynn about what she would recommend.
The menu is pretty broad, including dinner salads, a couple of soups, paninis, wings, sandwiches, hot dogs (naturally), platters and bowls, healthy entrees, burgers, kids meals and desserts. There are a few vegetarian options, and several gluten free options, perfect for Lynn.
After much discussion, Sean went with the shrimp po boy, and I opted for something a little different from what I might usually order: the peri peri chicken bowl, which featured chicken marinated in my favorite peri-peri sauce, onions, spinach and tomatoes on mashed potatoes.
I didn’t realize it at first, but my bowl came with a salad, which Sean and I shared: great ranch dressing and good lettuce, with a lot of toppings, including cheese, chopped tomatoes, onion and croutons.
When our entrees came, we dived in.
The chicken was surprisingly mild, despite the peri-peri sauce – I would have welcomed a little more heat – and there was a smokiness from a slight overbrowning on the onion and chicken that threatened to overwhelm the dish. The mashed potatoes were excellent, though, and the bowl itself was huge – perfect for this hungry girl.
Sean’s shrimp po boy had a lot of flavors going on, with Asian-esque fried shrimp (a little greasy), delicious banana peppers, all on a slightly damp, fat little bun. With each bite, the filling threatened to fall out – as is to be expected with any respectable po boy.
Sean chose the cole slaw as his side; other options included fries, more chips, fruit, veggies or baked beans. If you like mustard cole slaw, you would love this: pale shreds of cabbage loaded with a grainy mustard sauce. It was strident from the mustard and also spicy, thanks to bits of jalapeño.
As we ate (and ate), we recounted the day’s adventures. Across the way, another group of regulars at the bar burst into loud laughter now and then too. It was a nice feeling – a great hometown bar and grill atmosphere, where you can order from a huge variety of food, have a beer (or some sweet tea) and relax with friends after a long day.