To say that Red Dog has been long-anticipated doesn't even cover it. Lauren Kiino's follow-up to the Ferry Building's takeout-only Il Cane Rosso is a large space in eastern SoMa (in a rather unlovely, concrete corporate office complex that also happens to contain a number of tasty lunch-and-happy-hour options). We have been promised something since the first whispers emerged almost two years ago, and now we finally have it. And Red Dog, windowed on three sides, full of crisp diagonal lines, and home to some killer fries, is a big win. If this is empire-building, do build on!
No takeout window, this. It's a huge dining room with a massive portal into the open kitchen -- predecessor Maya sat up to 180 people -- yet Red Dog somehow avoids feeling overwhelming, possibly because of the unusual 45-degree orientations and the booths. The designer knew his or her stuff, because even the bar seats are perfectly spaced -- the better to snack on smokes trout rillettes ($8) or Mariquita Farm turnip soup (with pickled beet and horseradish relish, $7).
Pitched towards the workday crowds, Red Dog is as sandwich-centric as Il Cane Rosso. The spicy curried lamb sandwich ($14) is intensely flavorful, sweetish and a bit sour in the English style -- an "upscale Sloppy Joe," as a server described it. But the fries (salt-brined and twice-fried) are genuinely spectacular. Dip them in a house-made habanero aioli and you might never order a side salad again. It's a pleasant surprise to see meal combos (such as soup, half a sandwich and a house-made cookie, $15) in such a setting, too.
Cocktails are still in the works, but there's a roster of thoughtful beer and wine options (think Drake's Nitro, or Brewery Ommegang's Hennepin), as well as intriguing desserts like Stewed Blossom Bluff apricots (with almond meringue, blueberries and lemon fromage blanc). Red Dog is set to be a go-to happy hour spot for a great many offices. Luckily, it can accommodate them all.
Red Dog Restaurant & Bar, 303 Second St., 692-0211