Beer, Burgers… and Dogs

When the Blue Dog Beer Tavern opened on a small, side street in a residential neighborhood in Sherman Oaks, some wondered if the off-the-beaten path location could work. Boy, has it ever. Owners Paul Scrivano and Tony Kouba tell how they’ve created the Valley’s hottest watering hole south of the Boulevard.

There are 750 dog photos in here. Who’s the dog lover—Paul or Tony?  

PS: The Blue Dog was named for my huge Great Dane, Olive. We both love dogs, though, and that’s why we thought it would be fun to have customers email us photos.  We then frame them up on the wall. Our love of dogs is also why we started offering the QR Code Dog Tag program, where customers can come by and get a custom tag made for their dog that includes more than the typical shorthand information and is read by a scanner. 

Favorite brew?  

TK: It changes. We maintain eight craft beers on tap that we    rotate regularly and up to 20 additional bottles. Nothing here is mass-produced. 

What’s the secret to your “melt in your mouth” buns?

PS: We apply “sweet mayo” before we grill the bun. The crust that forms is a nice, crispy contrast and holds up to the juicy beef inside. The potato bun is baked by a small, organic, specialty artisan bakery in the North Valley.

Tony, you’ve owned this building for years—even back when it was occupied by a chiropractor. Why did you decide to turn it into a restaurant?  

TK: My grandfather, Joseph Kouba, a Czech immigrant, had several successful taverns in Chicago and a resort in Wisconsin. In fact, one tavern was notoriously known in the 1930s for having been blown up by the Al Capone gang while trying to kill a rival. I think I inherited the “hospitality” gene. 

Blue Dog has a rather unique decor. Explain. 

PS: After the first round of demolition, we exposed the beautiful “bones”—original, 70-year-old lumber. We even uncovered original ink stamps on  lumber dated July 9, 1940. We wanted to preserve as much as possible, and we were committed to using recycled materials when we could. We had our architect re-do the plans to expose the original construction. This turned out to be a great concept, as we had to purchase very little lumber and got to re-use all of this beautiful material with its irreplaceable patina.  

Paul, the last time I came in, you turned me into a beer drinker by serving a delicious, chocolaty brew. Name?

PS: The Old Rasputin 14th anniversary edition Russian Imperial Stout, aged in oak bourbon barrels. It is a limited edition beer that North Coast Brewing Company puts out once a year. 

Anything special planned for St. Paddy’s Day?  

PS: Our new kitchen manager, Luke, will bring some traditional Irish dishes on the specials board for the night, like corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew. 

I’ll bet you guys get a lot of celebrities in here.

PS: Sure. Rex Linn, star of CSI: Miami, openly promotes Blue Dog, so we feel okay mentioning him. Rex is not only a regular, he’s become one of my best friends and has helped us raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity.

Isn’t the Batman Burger (pictured above) named after Rex?

PS: Rex invented the Batman Burger. Originally, he named it the Cowboy Burger, but after meeting his show-winning French bulldog, Batman, the proper name became obvious.