Foodie Road Trip: The Dogs Are Hard to Ignore Near Cleveland’s Dawg Pound
Our neighbors to the northwest have plenty of great food to offer — but we find a pair of spots known for dogs (one hot, one corn) irresistible.
There’s plenty to eat in Cleveland, as the city’s dining scene has rebounded and diversified in recent years. From fine dining to hip corner spots to kitschy concepts, you can fill a weekend, or a week, with a tour of Cleveland’s restaurants.
But first, you should eat a hot dog. And a corn dog. Ideally, on the same day — with some ice cream to follow.
The Happy Dog should be the anchor of your journey to Cuyahoga County. It’s a corner bar that has risen to iconic status on the basis of its charming-cool atmosphere, strong beer list and great live music.
Mostly, though, for the hot dogs.
You call your own shot at Happy Dog, filling out a detailed order form specifying what kind of protein you’d like — the all-beef classic, a vegan option, kielbasa or a red hot — then choosing from dozens of toppings, from traditional to daring (such as Froot Loops, SpaghettiOs and a house-made peanut butter). We’ve never seen an order go awry, particularly with irresistible options such as applewood-smoked bacon, confit pulled pork, beer-cheese fondue and Bertman’s Original Ball Park Mustard.
You’ll want some tater tots on the side — ideally, with a whole mess of dipping sauces. There are quite a few winners; garlic aioli is an essential.
Whatever tops your dog and coats your tots, you’ll want to linger for a while — ordering another beer at the bar, seeing a down-and-dirty band take the small stage or playing pinball next to the Elvis lamp in the far corner. Plenty of bars and restaurants try to find the intersection of unpretentious dive and cool destination; no one does it as well as Happy Dog.
Tear yourself from that bar stool and get ready to work up an appetite again with a brisk walk. Less than a mile away, you’ll spot the sign for Mason’s Creamery towering just outside the Ohio City neighborhood.
Mason’s, best known for its ice cream, is housed in a decades-old, walk-up shop that had gone out of business before co-owners Jesse Mason and Helen Qin in 2014 made it the permanent home of their once-mobile business. We’ll get to the dessert in a minute, but the gargantuan corn dogs are just as tempting. The Korean-style dogs offer your choice of coating — a panko crust, a delightfully doughy potato crust or the daring “hot Cheeto” option — plus a gochujang marinara or yum-yum sauce for dipping.
If you’re feeling like one dog a day is enough, you can (in colder months) opt for in-house ramen dishes, another Mason’s specialty. If the sun is out and you’re ready for dessert, though, you’re in for a surprising variety of treats.
There’s a rainbow of small-batch ice cream flavors to consider; don’t get too distracted by the adorable painting of dessert-loving canines on the wall (all based on real neighborhood pooches), because you’ve got choices to make. The list changes every week, but there’s one constant: so many offerings it’s nearly impossible to choose just one. Think creations such as pralines-n-cream, animal cracker, chocolate tahini and strawberry milk tea. Mason’s also keeps a number of vegan-friendly options on the menu.
You can get your typical cup or cone, but we’d recommend the ice cream sandwich — a generous scoop between two delicious chocolate-chip cookies. It’s decadent, to be sure, but not so gigantic that you’ll need an immediate nap.
Actually, let’s be honest. If you’ve followed these directions, you’ve just eaten a loaded hot dog, a mess of tater tots, a giant corn dog and an ice cream sandwich. Keep exploring the city tomorrow; it’s time to sleep off an indulgent day of dining.
Happy Dog: happydogcleveland.com
Mason’s Creamery: masonscreamery.com