Trick Dog quietly reopened on Sunday, October 31, as first reported by SFGate. During the pandemic, Bon Vivants hospitality group launched the fast-casual Quik Dog, serving hot dogs on the sidewalk, and opened the new Chezchez, bringing hot spritz and tinned fish to Valencia. But Trick Dog, the group’s award-winning cocktail bar, which first opened in 2013, has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic, more than a year and half ago. Now it’s back with one of its most convoluted menus yet — and that’s saying something for the wildly creative bar, which is known for switching out its theme every six months. But, hey, it’s a thick, letter-pressed menu, which is far more satisfying than a QR code, and the cocktails remain strong.
Owner Josh Harris says Trick Dog’s reopening menu is first and foremost an art object. He partnered with James Lewis Tucker of the Aesthetic Union, a Mission-based letterpress, and they decided to go with a broadside, a one-sided format that dates back centuries, from spreading propaganda during the American Revolution to advertising hangings in Victorian England. The new Trick Dog menu is the size of a small poster (about 11 by 18 inches), with a textured imprint of a rope on one side and all of the cocktails on the other. It’s pleasant to hold and easy to peruse at a glance, as opposed to flipping through a booklet.
The menu is divided into four sections, each inspired by the “rebirths” or “renaissances” that followed different plagues, Harris says. So the first plague of the Middle Ages evokes “Divinity,” the second plague inspires the Renaissance or “Creative Expression,” the Yellow Fever flows into the Age of Enlightenment or “Rationality,” and the Spanish Influenza rolls into the Roaring Twenties or “Hedonism.” The typefaces, drink names, and ingredients all riff on those eras, although none too literally.
For example, in the “Divinity” section, divinity is an actual ingredient that haunts several cocktails, and there’s also a Caballo Blanco, a mix of mezcal, damiana, passion fruit, pasilla chile, lime, and marigold. Under “Rationality,” a drink called the Twenty/Twenty, spelled out to look better in the typeface, puts last year into perspective with gin, Cocchi Americano, cacao nib, and lemon oleo. Math and cocktail nerds will geek out over the Fibonacci Manhattans, which are premixed in parts according to the Fibonacci sequence, then stashed in the freezer for cold consistency. All of the drinks in the “Creative Expression” section are named after Ninja Turtles, who were of course named after Italian painters. Raphael is “the tequila banger,” Harris says, with Cazadores blanco tequila, strawberry, rhubarb, orgeat, and lime. Under “Hedonism,” post-pandemic revelers ready to blow a paycheck can order the “Orgastic Future” for $39, featuring luxurious Remy Martin cognac that’s rarely mixed into cocktails, but in this case joins housemade creme de menthe and fresh mint. And each section features a nonalcoholic option that’s, as opposed to being relegated to the sidelines, just as intriguing.
If that sounds like a lot to digest — it is. Trick Dog is known for its wild cocktail lists that swap out twice a year, usually every January and July, and have even become collector’s items. Sometimes it’s a clear theme that’s easy to comprehend, as with children’s books or international airports, and sometimes it’s more challenging for drinkers to grasp the concept, like the Whole Earth Catalog — Josh Harris says a small percentage of fans of the manual from the ’60s and ’70s freaked out, while many more drinkers were left wondering. (Eater SF referred to it at the time as “the most esoteric menu yet.”) But Harris did not and does not care. “It’s just a menu,” he insists. Look, sometimes you get the Trick Dog menu. And sometimes you just get a drink. And either way, it’s going to be a very good drink.
Also noteworthy: The food menu is exactly the same for now, featuring the namesake Trick Dog, which is, in fact, a burger but on a long bun, and the excellent kale salad. The bar looks and feels the same, which is a feat after an empty year and a half — they didn’t do any major renovations, but they did do a deep clean, which means stepping inside and pulling up a stool at Trick Dog is as industrial, low lit, and fun as ever. They’re planning to avoid overpacking, but there’s a parklet out front now, so you can get a Quik Dog hot dogs and thrice-cooked fries to munch while you wait to get in. As promised, Harris does have schemes to launch Quik Dog as a separate fast-casual concept in its own permanent home.
Behind the scenes, the most notable change might be that the team is almost entirely new: Creative director Morgan Schick, behind the previous theme menus, moved on during the pandemic. But beverage director Jennifer Colliau (formerly the Interval at Long Now and currently Small Hand Foods) is now developing the cocktails at both Trick Dog and Chezchez. Chef Timmy Malloy joined to launch Quik Dog and debut those fancy potato puffs at Chezchez. And there are many new faces behind the bar, some moving from different cities to be part of this reopening. “This was actually our most collaborative menu yet, both in terms of the theme and the drinks,” Harris says. “It’s from the full team.”
Trick Dog reopened on Sunday, October 31, and is now open every day of the week, 4 p.m. until midnight. The Quik Dog menu is still available for takeout.