When Culinary Director Tony Le and the team at Century Hospitality Group sit down to conceptualize a new restaurant, they consider price point, menu, style, potential audience and location, with each of those data points affecting every other one. It’s a delicate balancing act in an industry that can be fickle and unforgiving.
For their newest creation, Birdog, Le and his team opted for 104 street, surrounded by a growing forest of condo towers. There are lots of dining options within a few blocks: Kelly’s Pub, Campio Brewing Co, DOSC and many more. Le wanted to add something classy and approachable. “We figured the people in the towers want to get out and have fun,” he says. “We thought about how we can cater to that, but be elevated and a place people can go to more than once a month.”
For fun, elevated and frequent, the team settled on a cool-casual vibe, dimly lit, with a wide-ranging menu that Le describes as “approachable but fun and challenging.” It includes classics like the Cobb salad and a bone-marrow-topped steak tartare, but when it comes to the burger they do it the Juicy Lucy way, with a slab of cheddar tucked into the patty. The pizzas toppings are inventive and generous on the toppings. Le says the most popular so far has, surprisingly, been the Honey Bunny, which comes topped with pistachios, sriracha honey and shaved mortadella. “We wanted enough variety that people could come more than once a month,” Le says, “a little bit of something for everyone.”
When Birdog opened last November, it joined two other Century Hospitality Group restaurants in the downtown core: The upscale Lux Steakhouse + Bar is a favourite for the business and weekday lunch crowds that descend from the office towers. The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar is a more casual, family-friendly place that leans heavily on its wood-fired oven.
Le says his team is excited to be adding another draw to a revitalized downtown scene. “It’s been hurting the last few years but it’s on the way up,” he says. “We felt we could be a part of that.”
Birdog is open from three p.m. until late, catering to both pre-event and post-event crowds. Le says the restaurant will add a patio this spring and expects to extend the opening hours to hit the lunch crowd.
During Downtown Dining Week (March 15 to March 26), enjoy Birdog’s $35 two-course menu featuring steak tartare and the Honey Bunny pizza (shaved mortadella, pistachios, sriracha honey, mozzarella fior di latte).