The Dog House and More | Ruskin
The Dog House and More is that glint of gold in the pan which we roadside grub miners seek. You will find under faded fronds a treasure box of riches from snacks to meals, to desserts and all are made in-house by a gem of a cook (or two) who clearly loves making delicious food for uplifting gormandizers. Moreover, after several years of much-deserved accolades, they managed to keep their shine.
I’m amazed at how often I find myself returning to Ruskin. At first, it seemed to offer little in regards to food but now our activities and snack shack cups runneth over.
I knew where we were heading next because The Dog House had been in my food dreams for months. We were only waiting for another reason to go to Ruskin and this day’s short but sweltering hike at Cockroach Bay was it.
So we rocketed up the Tamiami Trail with visions of grilled weiners in soft buns fueling our excitement. Yep, we get excited about hot dogs. Doesn’t everybody?
The call of barbecue
Our limbs were sore, skins were hot, and bellies were as empty as our meal budget. This was the perfect scenario for shack vittles, namely BBQ and hot dogs. Cheap and delish was the name of the game and once again, Ruskin would provide the prize.
I tell you, many a night’s sleep was disrupted in cold sweats as the image of the roadside tiki shack with billowy clouds of smoke and the aroma of grilled meats invaded my dreams. I needed to quell that curse. The call must be answered with juicy beef and savory swine.
The Dog House and More
Facebook Page (No website)
Into The Dog House
The Dog House and More sits in a gravel lot at the corner of Shell point road and the southbound lane of historic US 41. The signs and smoky perfume invite the weary traveler to pull off the highway and get their grub on.
Hey, it hooked us. But when it comes to shack vittles, we’re easy marks.
So, after a hike that would make Papillon’s trudge through French Guiana seem like a stroll over the tundra, we pulled into the lot with soggy dollar bills.
Oh good, they use Square. Oh bad, we now have no limit.
Decisions must be made
The menu was a bit more extensive than I expected. I already had one or two items in mind having glanced at reviews to descry any must-tries. Now faced with more options, I decided to ditch my previous practice of trying the basics to test a kitchen’s mettle and adopt a new strategy.
The new system
With scare funds, scarce time, an abundance of eateries, and my indecisive nature to contend with there’s no point fiddling with tests and basics. So, I’ve adopted a new method to simplify decision making and foster a satisfactory experience.
Reviewers made much mention of the Brisket Philly Cheesesteak. And make no mistake, at a place called The Doghouse, you order the hot dog. Lucky for me, that arbitrary rule is easily adhered to as I’d been craving them for some time.
Therefore, with that new system in effect:
- What was on my mind most recently? Hot dogs
- What is a signature item? Brisket Philly Cheesesteak
- What is something I can’t get elsewhere? Brisket Philly Cheesesteak
- What can I not make at home? Brisket Philly Cheesesteak (Brisket takes more time than I want to devote)
- What do they have that I always get no matter what? Hush Puppies
Accordingly, I got the hot dog and the cheesesteak. And hush puppies, daddy. C’mon, you should know me by now—If they got’em, I git’em. We got all the time for that crap.
The friendly gent behind the window volunteered that I could make a meal of one to include the hush puppies. He then suggested their secret horseradish-based white sauce for the puppies. I bit.
Christa added a pulled pork sandwich to the order with a side of slaw and beans. Then the guy explained that the included side is a smaller portion than the additional side, so if she had a preference for more of one than the other, he’d make the necessary pairing.
I love the helpful businesses that point out such economic benefits.
That didn’t take long
It seemed mere minutes before I was called up to get the trays of food. Condiments were on the table beside me so I topped off my dog with onion, relish, and brown mustard. Wait…do my eyes deceive me? Is that malt vinegar? Do they make hand-cut fries? They do, and so we’re going to have to return for fries.
I didn’t see ketchup, so filled a paper cup with sweet bbq in case the hush puppies needed help.
The hush puppies didn’t need help. I immediately popped one in the mouth and met near perfection. Slightly sweet cornmeal batter, properly seasoned and fried to a golden hard shell but light and tender inside. All it lacked was a kernel or two of whole corn, but otherwise, it was the best I’d yet had in Florida.
The house special sauce was a horseradish type like the kind served with onion blossoms at the chains. It was likely homemade and tasted great, but it was superfluous on these tasty morsels.
Incidentally, they did have ketchup. It turns out another customer had the bottle at his table.
The Hot Dog
That hot dog was the bomb on a toasted bun. Specifically, it was the outside of the New England style bun (traditionally used for lobster rolls which The Dog House also serves) that they toasted leaving the pillowy soft inside to bear the meat in comfort before it finds its fate in my belly. That proven practice lent a slightly crisp texture to the beginning of the bite before the teeth meet soft bread, then snapping into the skin of the grilled dog.
I liked this hot dog. The flavor was meaty with a slight smoke, nice seasoning, and great texture. The ends extended just beyond the length of the bun. I shot a stripe of spicy brown mustard and a sprinkle of large diced onions, putting the relish on the side in case it was unnecessary. It was unnecessary.
I ate half, saving the rest for after my brisket sandwich.
The Brisket Philly Cheesesteaks
The brisket was hidden in a wrap of foil with a capped cup of Alabama White sauce nestled beside it. I slowly peeled back the shiny blanket to expose a six-inch soft sub roll filled with chunks of smoked beef brisket, onions, peppers, and provolone cheese. The foursome had gotten to know each other on a hot grill forming strong bonds of crust and caramelization in oozy cheese.
I flipped open the roll and got an eyeful of toasted to a buttery golden crust. The Dog House was winning points with every move. A test chunk of beef was tender with a good smoke that wasn’t overpowering. Many pieces had a thin strip of fat still attached for more flavor and to keep the meat moist.
The individual pieces lacked enough salt to stand on their own, but they weren’t on their own, they brought friends. The peppers and onions were grilled soft and the whole mess was scattered with bits of crunchy grilled bits. The provolone stretched in gleaming webs.
And that Alabama white sauce (I’ve had others) tasted like a blend of their hushpuppy sauce with coleslaw dressing (minus the celery seed). You know it worked?
A taste of the cheesesteak on its own proved the sauce was unnecessary. This sandwich was complete. Still, I drizzled on some white sauce and took a bite. That sauce must be one part wormhole because I just experienced an entirely new dimension.
It was a delicious sandwich and I would certainly get it again if there weren’t so many other items I want to try from the menu.
The Pulled Pork
The pulled pork was moist, tender, lightly smoked and well seasoned. I was allowed a scrap of pork that fell to the plate. I didn’t seek a whole bite; there simply wasn’t any room and Christa wasn’t offering. It was that good.
Christa thought out loud, “I don’t know how I feel about this coleslaw. Either I really like it or I really hate it.” She added that it had pineapple in it—that’s what was throwing her. Hmm. Now I had to try it.
The dressing was sweet and tangy—as all slaw should be—with small diced pineapple and likely some juice mixed in. And celery seed. In short, I liked it. Christa is still on the fence.
C’mon baby, climb down to pineapple town.
The beans seemed from a can and doctored with cinnamon and molasses. The potato salad was similarly mediocre. While not bad, they were nothing special; just belly filler. I’d opt for the slaw over both the next time as it is far superior.
Or skip all three and leave room for dessert as I promised to do next visit.
Cool, full, and tranquil
We ate to contentment safe from the glaring sun under the palm-fronded carport. I bounced from brisket to dog to hush puppies, not sure which of the tasty vittles I wanted to leave for last. Christa nibbled at her pork bbq sandwich which she acknowledged was really good; she’d get it again.
Across the road, the Marsh Branch River was glimpsed through a bushy treeline, a visual oasis against the stream of traffic that rumbled and roared on US 41 to our left. I was an agreeable setting for a delicious meal at a crackerjack roadside shack.
The food was outstanding, more so than I’d hoped for in such a place. I love shacks, trucks, trailers, and carts but most fail to meet my expectations. The Dog House surpasses them. The prices are right, the food is delicious and original, the convenience is there with Square and the operators are friendly and accommodating.
Thoughts from the recliner
The Dog House stands out as something singular, and quality. Their prices seemed market standard and the portions were ample, though not enough to result in leftovers.
Aside from the brisket chunks in my sandwich, I’ve not tried their actual barbecue. I’ve already got a fave for the slow and low that’s closer to home. What I’m likely to retain them for is their sandwiches and maybe the seafood I’ve yet to try. Next time. But there are only so many next times.
We now have a really hard choice to make when in the area and hungry. S+S Tacos, Maryann’s Subs, or The Dog House? Ruskin is being surprisingly revealed as a mother lode for food lovers.
Oh for a way to slow time and increase my wealth.
And in the end…
The Dog House roadside food shack was the perfect prize for surviving our high noon hike through Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve. They satisfied our hunger with tasty vittles in the shade not to mention securing Ruskin as a treasure trove of fantastic cheap eats. As long as the owners keep it polished, it will serve as a model for what shacks should aspire to be and as a siren song in my food dreams.
- What’s an example your perfect vittles shack?
- Do you know of an area with an abundant lode of roadside riches?
- If you liked our tale of tasty vittles, would you please like and share it?
Please comment with any questions, critiques, or greetings. I’d love to hear from you.
Thanks for Reading!