Let’s just start with the food. We were no more seated at Big Dog’s Draft House & Brewing Company than they started bringing it out :
Wisconsin Cheesecurds, white Wisconsin cheddar cheese lightly breaded and served with creamy dill horseradish sauce and ranch dressing, paired with Dog Gone Saison, a rustic Belgian-style farmhouse ale with complex earthy notes and a refreshing tart finish.
Lake Perch Sliders, fresh water perch filets topped with shredded lettuce and served with garlic fries, paired with Tailwagger Wheat, a Bavarian-style Hefeweizen, with banana and cloves aromas. The flavors layer beautifully—but you can also choose Italian Sausage Sliders, Chicken Sliders, Angus Beef or Filet Mignon Sliders.
Big Dog’s Salad, shredded lettuce with Cajun spiced chicken, roasted sweet corn, tomatoes, Wisconsin Jack and Cheddar cheese, cilantro and tortilla strips tossed with chipotle-lime ranch dressing, paired with Leglifter Light, billed as a refreshing alternative to American-style light lager. It has a kick to it that brings you back for more—or, try the Chicken Caesar, the Raspberry Chicken, or the Fiesta Taco.
Bratzel Burger, with Angus chuck beef, smoked bratwurst, applewood smoke bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar and Swiss cheese, pickles and fried sweet onions, served on a pretzel bun, paired with 38 Special, a blend of two gold medal winning brews: Holy Cow! Original Pale Ale and Red Hydrant Ale. The pretzel bread gives it a nice balance, and given the Wisconsin heritage of this restaurant, just had to be there!
Big Ten Pizza, an homage to Wisconsin’s place in the Big 10 Conference, made with Klement’s smoked bratwurst, Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, onions, sweet peppers, garlic, Mozzarella & Fontina cheese and vine ripened tomato sauce, paired with Dirty Dog IPA, a very “hoppy beer” known as the Chef’s favorite.
Pecan Crusted Walleye, served with Wisconsin wild rice and vegetable du jour, paired with Holy Cow! Original Pale Ale, brewed in the tradition of early West Coast ales.
Grilled Brat Platter, with a grilled Johnsonville beer brat, a red Klement’s smoked brat, and a Saag’s Bavarian original bratwurst all served on top of a bed of red cabbage braised with applewood smoked bacon, paired with Red Hydrant Ale, a deep mahogany brew, rich in caramel malts with a hint of English hops and notes of toffee and toasted malt.
Dulce de Leche and Black Lab Stout Bread Pudding, a combination of dark chocolate, dulce de leche caramel and stout beer, baked with egg bread, paired with Black Lab Stout, a rich, dark ale with nine different malts along with roasted barley with hints of coffee and cocoa.
Did we say we were in Las Vegas?
Big Dog’s is ideal for any transplants from Wisconsin, or anyone wanting the experience of food and beer pairing with a northern flavor.
It’s the brainchild of founder Tom “Big Dog” Wiesner, otherwise known as Wisconsin #38. His vision is carried out by a variety of people who are on a first name basis with everyone – Pat, who “goes back to diapers” with the current owner (Tom Wiesner’s son, Kurt Wiesner); Dave, the brewmaster; Sergio, the Executive Chef, and a host of friendly servers and staff.
“We have such a loyal clientele and staff,” says Pat Genovese. “The guy behind the bar has been here 21 years. We’ve got servers who have been here 6-10 years. In Vegas, that’s not normal. We’re like a big family—we argue, we nudge.”
He adds, “What makes this place special is the people. Couple that with down home good food, live acoustic music on the weekend . . . and beer!”
It’s clearly a Packers and Wisconsin Badger bar, and fans of the teams—and of the food—are often in every single day.
“There are a lot of options in this town,” says Genovese, as he points out known regulars. “They feel they can hang their hat here.”
The bar’s multiple rooms offer a full view of the Brewhouse through a picture window. There is gaming at the bar and in every corner, plus the usual sports memorabilia.
The black dog emblem is embroidered on the backs of the leather bar stools, and the plasma screens of varying sizes run a variety of programs.
It all started as a small microbrewery on the original strip, called The Holy Cow.
Genovese says, “Tom came out from Wisconsin in the 60s. He was big into hunting, and the whole dog idea was his—he always had labs. He threw it all into one: the Green Bay Packers, beer, Wisconsin, hunting, football, family. He realized a lot of people immigrated from the Midwest, and this became their home away from home.”
And, as he says, “Who else makes Walleye in Las Vegas?” It’s Wisconsin comfort food, and even the great menu descriptions don’t do them justice.
Executive Chef Sergio Meza hails from Mexico City, but his crew all hail him as the person who “makes some of the best Midwestern food ever.” After 20 years with Big Dog’s, it’s hard not to call him a Wisconsin native.
“This was my first job in the U.S.,” he says, while holding a beer (“This is how we work,” they all say—sips of beer are common as all staff members do their jobs). “I’ve introduced some Latin flair, but this is just good food.”
Meza builds the story around the brew pairings, working closely with award-winning Brewmaster Dave Otto.
Otto’s most recent national award is for his Belgian White, which won a Silver in the Great American Beer Festival. That joins seven other national and international awards for his brews. He makes eight regular beers, and tries to do at least two specialty beers at any time.
“They say you eat with your eyes, and you remember with the last bite,” says Meza. “So I put a lot of emphasis on dessert.” He debuted the Dulce de Leche and Black Lab Stout Bread Pudding for a recent Brewmaster’s dinner, and says, “Even people who did not like bread pudding loved it.”
It has a nice hard crust and an almost liquid center, with a sophisticated flavor that is intensified when paired with the Black Lab Stout. As Meza says, “It brings the chocolate flavor to life in a dramatic way. It mixes and mingles to bring that new sensation—it dances on your tongue.”
So, it starts with the food, and it ends with the food.
Bring it on.
See our blog from the Las Vegas tour, here.
Hear more from Big Dogs here.
Visit Big Dog’s Draft House & Brewing Company when you are in Las Vegas:
4543 N. Rancho Dr.
Las Vegas, NV. 89130
This is a Raves & Faves Featured Restaurant.