Clever 'spaghetti and meatballs' at Lazy Dog are not what you think
Founded in Huntington Beach, California, in 2003, Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar is a small chain that came to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2015, making its area debut in Addison, followed by locations in Euless, Arlington, and Plano. The chain has 26 locations, mostly on the West Coast.
Regardless of location, Lazy Dog is a grand place with a Rocky Mountain lodge-style decor — lots of stone, rustic wood, fireplaces — and a dog-friendly patio. Nothing is overly expensive. They brew their own beer.
They also cycle in new menu items every season. For fall, that includes the spaghetti squash with beet balls, one of the most clever vegetarian dishes to show up on a menu, in which nothing is exactly what you think it is.
The "meatballs" are made from mashed beets. The "spaghetti" is made from squash. The best part: It's a delicious and crave-able dish.
Using beets to simulate beef is not a new idea. It is most famously employed by Houston's, whose house-made veggie burger incorporates beets so cunningly, with charbroiled edges and a shredded red center, that it looks like you're eating a rare hamburger.
Lazy Dog was a little less artful, but still a fun fake.
There were three balls, sized bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball, with rough craggy browned edges. Cut open, they were a mildly shocking purple inside. No denying this was a beet puree.
Unfortunately, Lazy Dog had to go and throw in some whole black beans. Black beans are one of the two standard directions that veggie burgers go (grains is the other). Veggie burgers made with black beans are almost always flavored with cumin. Cumin's alright but veggie burgers made from black beans and flavored with cumin are beat.
Black beans don't have much flavor, but they're nutritious; maybe that was the reasoning behind adding them? Fortunately, the cumin was subtle, not overwhelming. These beet balls tasted neither beefy nor beety, but that's more due to the fact that there was so much else going on with this dish.
There were three sauces — tomato sauce, pesto, and balsamic reduction — and that was one sauce too many. Who is still doing balsamic anything? The balsamic was dumb.
Forming a vivid green ring around the base of the dish, the pesto wasn't a bad addition, very possibly adding dimension.
But the tomato sauce alone would have been fine. It was a good tomato sauce, hearty and savory with a little sweet.
The best thing about the dish was the crafty approximation of pasta. Spaghetti squash has been used as a pasta sub for decades, dating back to the hippie vegetarian days. When cooked, it forms into spaghetti-like strands but with a texture that's firm-yet-tender, and less rubbery than pasta. It also does a great job of sucking up the tomato sauce.
Beneath the spaghetti squash were long ribbons of zucchini, sliced paper-thin and cooked just right to a point of pasta-like tenderness, making for a totally persuasive knockoff of pappardelle.
The two squashes together pretending to be different kinds of pasta was so clever, and the way the entire dish was a set of stand-ins was brilliant.