Yellow Dog Tavern has had an impressive growth spurt in the kitchen. Not that there wasn't talent from the start behind the creative cuisine of chef Anita Scheiding, who owns the upper Canton restaurant with partner Amber Miller. But recently, Scheiding just seems to be orchestrating more confidence and assertiveness in her dishes-like the perfectly fried oysters, crisp on the outside and silky inside, with jalapeño and cilantro aioli.
Open almost a year, the corner space is bright and cheerful in the first-floor bar and upstairs dining room with wood floors, saffron-colored and brick walls, and featured works by local artists, including a massive painting of the owners' four dogs—a Great Dane, English mastiff, and two basset hounds. There's no "yellow" dog per se. But the Great Dane is sort of yellow, Miller says.
The upstairs tables are nicely spaced, although the noise level rises in proportion to the number of diners. But there's a friendly vibe here, probably because it's a neighborhood hangout. The smiling servers are welcoming, too.
In addition to the oysters, we kicked our taste buds into gear with two other appetizers: a portobello stack-an impressive layering of mushrooms, caramelized onion, and sautéed spinach, pulled together with a piquant sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto, and topped with shaved parmesan-and an intriguing beet salad. The salad was a generous blend of greens and endive with toasted pecans and goat cheese, gently coated with a champagne vinaigrette. Satisfying flavors, but I was disheartened by the paucity of roasted beets.
Entrées are what separate this tavern from other bars heavy on the fried foods, wings, and assorted pub grub-but they come with a price tag. The main dishes range from $10.99 for a burger to $25.99 for beef tenderloin. Sides, like roasted cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, are extra ($2.99 to $4.99).
Our chubby beef fillet arrived medium rare and flavorful with peppercorn cream sauce, and partnered with a potato purée and garlicky green beans. Unfortunately, the meat had cooled by delivery, diminishing some of its allure.
Our other dishes elicited groans of pleasure. The pan-seared duck breast packed a pleasant punch with pheasant cognac sausage in a creamy risotto. And the shrimp and cheddar grits oozed Southern charm.
Zeke's delicious coffee capped off a fine meal. But nighttime caffeine imbibers be forewarned. The brew is served in really large, bowl-size cups. There were three desserts the night we were there: panna cotta with fresh berries, Zeke's espresso pot de crème, and white-chocolate cake brownie with raspberry cream.
We gave them all a nibble-and each had something to offer. But the subliminal pot de crème reminded us of a grownup, dressed-up chocolate pudding that was well worth the indulgence.