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Red Dog Saloon: When American Barbecue Meets Hoxton..

Red Dog Saloon was rodeo-inspired. Skulls and framed cowboy things on the wall which seemed tacky chained restaurant decoration rather than kept it up with the rodeo spirit. That the Red Dog menu claimed to be original American barbecue was promising. A lot of burger variations. Beef ground fresh everyday according to the menu. Ribs were not on that evening but I was informed of 7-hour smoked chicken rubbed with special BBQ sauce. That would do.

Many of our dishes to share.. Buffalo Wings (£4.50), Loaded Potato Skins (£3.95), The Punisher Burger (£9) and Smoked Chicken (£12). The wings, labelled “Spicy”, were indeed lethally spicy. Four meaty pieces. One of us could stomach them; the other couldn’t (so I ended up eating four wings!). A lot of Tabasco in the coating. Came with creamy blue cheese sauce that was utterly salty and did not act to cool the wings. Together the heat could burn one’s lips and the saltiness could fail one’s kidney. While the kitchen did not fail to deliver “Spicy”, I felt the Front of House should voice concerns over how “spicy” these wings are. The Skins were in fact mini jacket potatoes. Not much “skins” going on but a lot of cubed bacons and cheddar cheese. Served with sour cream and chives. The most decent of our meal. The Punisher – a burger of 5oz beef patty, American cheese, pulled pork, honey glazed bacon, BBQ sauce – came with fries and slices of pickled gherkin. While the patty was not at all bad quality, it was bland. Everything in the bun was overwhelmed by uber honey. I’d say, sweetness only usually goes with pork – not beef. Generous helping of chips but the impact did not extend beyond the portion size. The chicken special was by no means special. Massive (as they served half a chicken per portion) but it did not fare better than a Nandos chicken. Moist meat but disgustingly rubbery skin. I couldn’t tell if it was smoked as there was no smoky smell oozing. The coating was a cross between sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. Sadly it only covered the skin which I discarded for the sake of my culinary sanity.

And I also had corn on the cob. Tasted as if it’s been tragically boiled and grilled to buggery. To my marvel, it did not arrive hot and the butter (which I had to ask for) did not melt..

Red Dog Saloon felt half-hearted and was not memorable. There were some glimmers of hope in ingredients (good chickens that died in vain to begin with). The menu showed promises that were yet to be seen delivered. The only good thing so far was the generous portion size and the relatively budget pricing. But, come on, I’d rather pay to chew on my Prada bag than feast on those chicken skins. Given their soft opening, I hope the restaurant will tweak their recipes to better the experience. As I said, there were promises!!! But, at present, it was TGI Friday-meet-whatever-Jamie-Oliver-wants-to-get-rid-of-in-the-US and fell short of delivering a meal as decent as Nandos.

NOTE: I checked Red Dog Saloon out during its soft opening, therefore the issues raised here might no longer be an issue and in fairness I highly encourage comparing my experience to some subsequent reviews here.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “5 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “5 out of 10″.


37 Hoxton Square
N1 6NN

Tel. 020 7739 8318

Red Dog Saloon on Urbanspoon


      • Paul

        I think u guys are too harsh, this was there first week with half price on food, i went there on sat and it was great

      • theskinnybib

        Hi Paul,

        Thank you for your comment. I understand where you are coming from about the soft opening. We mostly visit restaurants on their first week and return again after a certain period of time to update our “experience”. So far, the soft opening is usually about testing the kitchen and the service rather than testing the recipes. Regarding Red Dog Saloon, as the 50% discount – I was told during the meal – would finish a few days after I published the post, the standard of the food served in our opinion would not be significantly improved. During our visit, the Front of House was adequately helpful and the food arrived well-timed. However, right after the meal, it became obvious to us that the “faults” lay in the recipes rather than the execution, the kitchen or the service. The food, to us, was yet to live up to what the place claimed to be. Many of the dishes were poorly assembled and could not account for a better review from me.

        Nonetheless, it’s good to hear that you had a good experience at Red Dog Saloon. I wonder if there were dishes that you had and we did not which vouched for a different, positive experience?

    • harvey berk

      I am a co-owner and am obviously upset that you seem to have really hated everything you tried. All I can say is that we’ve had lots of happy customers and had virtually no-one else rasing any issues, let alone the whole catalogue of disasters you experienced. A lot of research and a lot of trialling went into the recipes. Other reviewers are pretty enthusiastic.
      You say we look like a tacky chain, but we’re a one-off and if the decor deliberately sets out to recreate a western saloon, with reclaimed timber and real artefacts, well what’s wrong with that?
      Meanwhile you give Byron (from the Pizza Express group) 10 out of 10, and you’re tweeting your disgust again and again. Anything personal? I’m not paranoid but am beginning to wonder.

      • theskinnybib

        Hi Harvey,

        First of all, I do apologise if my tweeting offends you and I can assure you there is nothing personal. I did not intentionally invoke an argument or voice “disgust” and I do believe “disgust” is too strong a word I would use here. I respond to questions and threads of conversation when asked on Twitter.

        Our experience – there were two of us – at Red Dog Saloon was less than impressed. We found most of our dishes one dimensional in taste. In your defense, I did raise points that the produce and ingredients used were good, the portion was large and the dishes were reasonably priced. I did not know what other people think of their meal as I was recording and sharing my own experience and would like to insist that my voice only counts as one voice. Readers see, read and judge for themselves and if their experiences differ from ours, you will soon be accumulating positive feedbacks. Regarding my remark on “tacky chained restaurant”, I was not made aware of your use of orginal artefacts and even though the material can not easily be replicated, the overall look did not strike to our eyes as distinctly unique.

        Last but not least, although Byron is part of the Pizza Express Group, I don’t think any less of the place. My ranking of Byron is based on their burger alone (as you may see it’s in a burger-oriented post) and I never find the burgers there substandard or disappointing for the price.

        I hope this clarifies.

  1. waz

    I cant believe this review. London has been crying out for a decent bbq restaurant for ages. Bodeans is crap, stale food and overpriced and Jamie Oivers Barbecoa is the biggest BBQ fraud I have ever had the misfortune of eating at. Well done Red Dog Saloon, I love your style and menu choice is excellent. Anyone after authentic amenrican style bbq should try this place. I can only assume theskinnybib is British – would make sense, anyone who can give Byron burger a 10/10 must be.

    • Daniel

      Red Dog is a real ‘marmite’ kind of place. I’ve read so many bad reviews and a handful of good ones. However, I think it’s wrong for a restaurant, especially a new one, to disregard negative feedback. Of course you can’t please everyone and for what’s it’s worth here’s what I think after visiting the other day.

      The dining room, as SB tells it, does scream tacky theme restaurant! I can see what the owners were trying to achieve here but a few bits of old wood and a skull… come on! This isn’t America, people in London are a lot more intelligent than that!

      On to the food. The most important thing for an American BBQ restaurant to get right has to be the BBQ sauce! Sweet and smokey with a real kick! RDS BBQ sauce is one dimensional and boring. Before I go on, I really want this place to work – but they need to sack whoever is making the food! My buffalo wings were too hot – I couldn’t eat them. The chicken was nice but again the sauce let it down!

      I know this is a new restaurant and everyone knows London needs a good BBQ restaurant! Barbecoa, I agree isn’t good. Bodeans is even worse. If RDS wants to be a success it’s got a lot of work to do and learn to accept criticism graciously. For now I’ll be eating over the road at Byron – yes, I am a Brit!

      • burgerboy

        I’ve done my bit of travelling around American and Canada. Needless to say, tasting any respectable bbq joint on the way. It became one of the main focal points – where’s the next meat spectacle going to show it’s juicy ends? I too was hoping red dog was going to success. I assumed it would be a bad copy done on the cheap…

        Assumption is the mother of all mess up’s, (so to speak). I’ve been there several times now. I recommend it to anyone who eats meat; and the milkshakes are awesome too. First time round I had a half chicken. And a red dog burger (I’m a big boy). As my knife cut into the flesh, I kid you not a pocket of juice burst and flowed out. A small river of flavor was formed across my plate. That’s why chicken in a smoker is so good. The chicken is slow-cooked in smoke at such a low temperature that the flesh doesn’t break, holding all the juices in.

        The atmosphere is chilled. It’s refreshing to have somewhere in Hoxton you can eat and drink that isn’t pretentious or squalid. Tequila’s are well resourced. This place has character. He’s an old boy, probably owns a ranch and everyone wants his respect. He knows what he’s doing. If the interior wasn’t American bbq themed then you wouldn’t have an American bbq joint. There’s no tack here – some cheese but certainly not tack. I checked out the out-of-bounds downstairs which oozes cool – get it open.

        I don’t really want to get involved in tit-for-tat here but…comparing this chicken to Nando’s question’s the science and logic about what good meats is. Nando’s is very tasty grilled chicken. The taste of smoked chicken is in a different league. The hot bbq wing with a complimentary side of cheese dip; spot on. By the way, hot wing are spicy hence the ‘hot.’ If you can’t handle spicy food then don’t order it. The chicken stuffs are in a league of it’s own. Reg dog pull it off, no question! It’s like I’d popped into Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City. Thought I’d drop that in

        The burger’s are great too. The meat is fresh and full of flavor. The bbq sauce must’ve been sourced from America and is a taste sensation. Daniel, I find you’re comments about the bbq sauce very strange. It’s not a case of each to their own or everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You definitely must have it in for Red dog. You should blog objectively or you ruin it for everyone else. These burgers are made with pride and the pulled pork extra is a must. Again, not to get too argumentative here but Bryon only do burger’s. They too are very tasty but no comparison. Anyone reading this site – please go to Byron and have a burger. Then go the reg dog and get a cheeky one there. Then let us know what you think. If you feeling particularly fat, do the same with Nando’s and red dog and see for yourselves.

        3 points for red dog. 1 – I’ve had all the burgers several times and they’ve all tasted great but – to guarantee success every time they need to be generic. 2 – Get the short ribs on the menu. 3 – I like desserts. I want brownies and ice cream and cheesecake. The time has come.

        Overall, for a soft launch I’m impressed. For any normal day I’d be impressed. What’s exciting is it’s only going to get better. 95% of the reviews are very complimentary. The rest must be your competitors!

        See you next week.

  2. Daniel

    i find it bizarre that RDS can’t accept some people just don’t like their restaurant. it’s nothing personal they just don’t like your food – and after all the abuse you give your customers i don’t think you deserve to be successful. a word of advice – work on your PR. i don’t know where this 95% comes from because every review i have read is bad! and pretending to be ‘satisfied’ customers is just plain desperate.


  3. depechemoroder

    As an American in London, I have to say I was disappointed in the Red Dog’s burger. I found the meat to be bland, not bad, just bland. With regards to Byron, I do think they do an excellent burger, particularly for a chain. If you want the best burger in the neighbourhood, however, head up to Bacchus Pub and Kitchen on Hoxton Street. If you remember the delicious burgers that used to be at Bang (RIP, though the new pizza joint is very good) on Kingsland High Street you will be please at Bacchus. Turns out the former chef/owner of Bang now works at Bacchus. While I didn’t try BBQ at Red Dog, I have to say I would be suspicious, but not necessarily let down. Even cities like New York and London can’t do everything well. I have no expectations I will get good Tex-Mex or BBQ in London and that’s ok. Sometimes there are foods actually worth travelling for. I won’t be back at Red Dog given the burger was uninspiring and the atmosphere a bit sterile (though this is what I expect in Shoreditch these days), but I do wish them luck for those who can’t live without BBQ under any circumstances.

  4. I too went to Red Dog – when it had been open about ten days. Had ribs to share and a burger with pulled pork. I was excited. Then I tried the food. It wasnt awful but I really didn’t like it. I would say the 5/10 rating given here is actually pretty fair. The pulled pork in my burger turned out to be an crusty slab – which all came out of the burger (in a ‘there’s something in your teeth’ style) on my first bite on account of not being able to actually bite through it. Not only was that a totally wrong experience – it was embarrassing. The burger itself was bland. I’m not going to say too much about the ribs other than I just didn’t “get” them. Took some photos but in the end couldn’t bring myself to review the place as there were far more constructive things to do with my time. As for Red Dog’s inability to respond to criticism from people that are clearly passionate about food… Well, that isn’t all that promising. I really hope Red Dog can take the time to find out where they could do better and improve their food (and attitude) accordingly

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