The Top Dawg
If you’re looking for unparalleled burger greatness, The Dawg House Sports Grill is the place to go. Whether you like yours piled high with bacon or smothered in bleu cheese, you’re sure to find burger bliss in this establishment located next to the Louisiana Tech University campus.
article by Samantha Evans | photography by Martin G Meyers
It’s hard to miss – the huge blue warehouse dominating a side street near Louisiana Tech University’s campus – but the truly impressive thing about The Dawg House is not their location, it’s their food.
Upon first entering the double doors of The Dawg House, you are overwhelmed by the Louisiana Tech pride on display. The school colors are splashed on every wall and surrounded by the painted names of the campus fraternities, a large wooden bulldog sporting a Louisiana Tech hat and pictures documenting past Tech sports teams and their accomplishments. The Dawg House is technically not a part of the actual campus, but it has become so entwined in the lives of Louisiana Tech’s students and community that it plays a much bigger role than any other local restaurants.
Eating a burger at The Dawg House is as big of a part of the Louisiana Tech University student experience as attending a football game or knowing The Legend of the Bulldog. The restaurant is full for the entire academic year, which is a bit longer than most other local schools due to Tech being on the quarter system. Students begin their college experience by grabbing lunch from The Dawg House on freshman dorm move-in day and say tearful goodbyes to their favorite spot to get together with friends on graduation day. The Ruston community, filled with Tech pride, continues to honor and devour the delicious burgers and sides at The Dawg House.
The love for the bulldogs is obvious in their décor, but it is more than just another sports bar dedicated to the nearest college – The Dawg House staff is comprised of Louisiana Tech students and fans. The Dawg House team genuinely loves the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
The Dawg House is a one of a kind experience, and it recently opened a second location in Starkville, Mississippi, home of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Extending the bulldog love is fantastic, but extending the burger love will be even better.
“Burgers,” Mr. Louisiana Tech 2015, Daniel Addison said, “They have the best burgers in Ruston. It’s my favorite place to go eat. I’ll be in California for a week this summer and then in Orlando for a semester and when I get back to Ruston, I’m going straight to The Dawg House. I could eat one of their burgers right now.”
The burgers are incredible.
After reviewing the menu, it seems that one item is a pretty popular addition to any burger: Bacon. Bacon is the perfect middle ground for all foods. It is crunchy and rich. Bacon is the perfect partner for any burger, and The Dawg House understands that.
The seven specialty burgers on the menu, and the eighth plain burger, each offer something unique and tasty. While bacon is the best addition to a burger, their side items are to be desired just as much. Pair any burger with any of their side options and be pleased. There are homemade steak fries, curly Q’s, onion strings, a baked or mashed potato, smoked gouda mac and cheese, grilled or fried asparagus, or wild rice.
Claude’s Burger, dressed with pepper jack cheese, bacon and jalapeños with a side of their homemade steak fries is their most popular menu item.
“We are famous for our burgers. Everyone who comes in has heard of our burgers,” Amber, a waitress who’s been with the staff for almost two years explains.
Frodo’s Patty Melt gives the burger taste with a twist. Served on thick sandwich bread and loaded with a hamburger patty, three pieces of bacon, handfuls of onion strings and their famous “Boom Boom” sauce, the patty melt gives crunch and irresistible flavor.
The burger selections are varied enough so it may take a while to pick a favorite – trying them all is the best option.
Another favorite is Dylan’s Anytime Burger. It comes fully dressed with a large fried egg, thick-cut bacon and American cheese.
While burgers define The Dawg House they are not the only thing on the menu. Appetizers range from boneless wings to crawfish bread. The quesadillas, filled with either grilled chicken, fried chicken or beef tenderloin, showcase even more talent from the kitchen. The Spencer Quesadilla, cooked with fried chicken, diced tomatoes and bell peppers is a South of the Border taste on the otherwise strictly American menu. The Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla brings in another menu item – Paws Claws – and puts them into a quesadilla with their tasty buffalo sauce and serve it on either a white, wheat or jalapeño cheese flour tortilla.
Paw Claws, buffalo, spicy sweet or dry chicken strips paired with curly Q’s or onion strings are the perfect quick meal for any chicken lover. The menu is filled with enough variety so that even the pickiest of eaters will find something that they love – but even then, they will probably still order a burger.
The Dawg House not only operates as one of the most important and popular spots for students, but it also functions as a family-friendly restaurant by day and becomes a bar when the sun goes down. While the feel of the place may transition smoothly, the building itself is literally split into two areas. The warehouse, large enough to comfortably hold both a restaurant and a bar, joins the two in a harmonious matrimony that could not be managed in any other setting.
“We have pool tables and dart games on the other side of the bar,” Amber points out, “around 9:30 or 10 each night, we sort of transform into a bar, rather than a restaurant. We aren’t open as late as other bars, but we still have a good crowd come in.”
The bar offers ten draft beers: Great Raft, Abita Amber, Abita Andygator, Fat Tire, Shiner Bock, Newcastle Brown Ale, Blue Moon, Coors Light and Miller Lite. Pairing a cold, draft beer with any of their delicious burgers will only heighten the Dawg House experience.
The shift from family-friendly food to college town bar is masterfully done in design alone.
The bar side, decorated with more beer and fraternity signs than the other side, is spacious and functions as a great place to watch the game – whatever game that might be.
The Dawg House has thirteen televisions, all playing sports all the time. That makes thirteen screens available for patrons to choose which games they want to watch, unless of course there is a Louisiana Tech football or basketball game on – those are required watching.
Sports are a big deal at Louisiana Tech, and therefore, they are a big deal at The Dawg House.
“Game days are insane here,” Amber says. “We’re located really close to all the fraternity and sorority houses, and most of the campus apartments are nearby. We tend to fill up before noon, and people just stream in and out or sometimes they just stay all day long.”
The restaurant, creatively scattered with beer signs and banners, is made to host parties and dinners – or tailgating.
Football tailgating on Saturdays is held with as much reverence as attending church on Sundays in the south. Football seasons can define the mood for an entire zip code. Football is the King of Saturdays but it is not the only sport celebrated at The Dawg House. Jerseys, pictures, and banners from all six men’s and eight women’s sports – cross country, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, and anything else Louisiana Tech offers – line the walls and add more Tech history to the burger
Not that The Dawg House needs to reflect too far back on past Tech days, they have been there. Opening their doors in September 1998, The Dawg House has been a staple for the Louisiana Tech community for almost twenty years.
Summer afternoons set a slower melody at The Dawg House – literally. The music rolling through the speakers is slow and reminiscent of hazier days. The tempo picks back up as the customers’ attention shifts from burgers to beer.
The summer respite from bustling crowds and crazy game days is short. The staff knows that football season is just around the corner, and soon students will flood the streets of Ruston again. Not to say that The Dawg House is really taking a rest during the summer – people stream through the doors on a late Saturday afternoon, and the kitchen never stops putting out burgers.
The crowds come during football season, regardless of rain or heat – especially during those times. When Hideaway Park is too hot, too wet, or too empty, the party heads to The Dawg House. Home games require a trip there for a burger and away games call for an extended stay, maybe all day.
“We play the game on TV, and if we can’t do that or if it isn’t playing, then we turn the music down and play it over the speakers from the radio,” Amber explains, “Game days are crazy around here. We want to make sure everyone can see or hear what is going on.”
The Dawg House opens at eleven o’clock in the morning and does not shut down until midnight. During football season, that is thirteen hours of pure madness in The Dawg House.
“We definitely fill up pretty fast. Crowds come in before the game or after the game and even during the game, we’re busy,” Amber recalls of the previous football season.
“We’re serving burgers all day long,” she adds.
The Dawg House now sits quietly, soaking up the summer sun and patiently waiting for fall. The games will begin again, school will be back in session, and the large crowds will rattle The Dawg House like they always have and always will.