It's one of those old, dusty warhorse cafes from the days long ago when you chose a cafe because it was close by.
They let you linger all day, and the coffee was hot and black, and you cared not about which mountaintop from whence it came. Black Dog Lowertown has been here since before the internet -- and long before Lowertown was hip.
Serving the artist’s community of the Tilsner Lofts, this was the sort of place you’d haunt, say, if you were a painter looking for a model, or vice versa. Charmingly patina’d and crumbly, they served cheap red wine in juice glasses.
But it's a new day, a new neighborhood, and a new cafe.
The Black Dog of now is a roomier, airier place, but don’t worry, you can probably still bump into a few artists here.
Hang out around happy hour as the place gets flooded with moneyed condo dwellers just off the tech-job clock clutching proper wine glasses of Chardonnay. Bump into ball-cap clad Saints fans and Mears Park wanderers.
The full bar makes it a good option for a quick pre-event drink, and the scratch kitchen with full menu offers even more reason to linger.
The chef is David Perez, just off of a three-year tenure at Meritage; Meritage being one of the most destination-worthy restaurants in either city.
At brunch, both the hash browns and the basted eggs were executed with textbook precision in a roast beef hash -- a feat even real-deal diners can sometimes bungle. A Cubano showed the proper restraint with just tender pulled roast pork, good ham, Swiss, and some mighty fine house pickles on a pressed French roll (Cubanos seem to be trending, again, so keep your eye out for them on menus all over town).
Do yourself a favor and don’t overlook the daily pastries. A Nutella-filled croissant and a big, chewy housemade macaron were both knockouts.
The menu is both ambitious and comprehensive. There's a full list of hot and cold sandwiches, salads, small plates, and pizzas (also avaliable gluten-free) at both lunch and dinner, plus breakfast served daily until 11 a.m. on weekdays and until 2 p.m. on weekends.
Considering the Meritage pedigree, we’re planning a return visit to see what they can do with chicken liver mousse, calamari, and French omelets.
Like any good cafe, you order at the counter, and they’ll deliver to your table in short order, making Black Dog that go-to spot for when you’re on-the-go. It’s not a big time commitment, but for a change, you don’t have to sacrifice on flavor when you're looking for a quick bite.
There are still guys strumming guitars (watch their live music calendar) brooding journalers, throw pillows, cute baristas, and black coffee. The new Black Dog Lowertown is still the old soul cafe, it's just got a fresh face.
Black Dog Lowertown
308 Prince St., St. Paul