Finishing up in Bowling Green one morning when I was there late last year, I thought I'd grab some lunch before a long trip up to Indianapolis. Wanting to just grab a burger, I had seen a place not far from the hotel called Rafferty's. But I found out that Rafferty's is a regional chain of 19 restaurants in five states that was actually based out of Bowling Green. There was another place closer to my hotel, literally around the corner, a sports bar called Double Dogs. It appeared to be getting a good rating on Urbanspoon, so I stopped in there for lunch.
When I walked in, a small sign on the wall said that it was part of the same corporate structure that runs Rafferty's and Montana Grille - a mountain-themed steak house across the road from Double Dogs. I almost turned to walk out, but then I decided to give it a try.
The man behind Rafferty's, Double Dogs and Montana Grille is Bowling Green resident Dan Davis. Davis started the first Rafferty's in Bowling Green in 1981 and grew the chain to over 20 locations in six states before closing a handful due to the economic downturn. In 2008, Davis opened the first of two Double Dogs (the other location is in Knoxville, TN where Davis went to school at the University of Tennessee) in a building that housed the former Tumbleweed restaurant, a Louisville-based chain of Tex-Mex restaurants. Davis turned the restaurant into a somewhat upscale sports bar with flat-screen televisions and a number of eclectic beers to choose from.
Of course, there's also a dog-theme to the restaurant. Paintings and pictures of dogs are on the walls at Double Dogs inside and out. They have a "Fetch and Go" window where you can drive up to pick up call ahead orders. Their web site also has a pretty insipid story of Bo and Chancey, the two dogs that supposedly helped start Double Dogs. I like dogs, but it seemed a little far-fetched for me. (I made a joke! Did you catch it?)
The inside of Double Dogs is sort of L-shaped with a large dining area to the left as you come in the door in the Southeast corner. The bar area is to the right. The bar has well over a dozen beers on tap and also had small built-in coolers holding bottles of other beers. Tons of television sets adorned the walls including a cluster of six just above the open kitchen area.
It was at the bar where I decided to sit. My server/bartender for the day came over to greet me and I asked her for a menu. From the very start, she was about as neutral and as limp of a personality that I've encountered in a person working in a restaurant. She wasn't friendly, nor was she mean. She wasn't happy or sad. My server was, well, sort of void of any temperament or charisma.
I looked through the menu and it is pretty extensive at Double Dogs. Even thought I was looking for a burger, they also had a number of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and even pizza. You could also order up to 100 pieces of either chicken wings or chicken tenders and the type of sauces they would put on them went from Bow Wow Hot, to Smokin' Hot, to Double Dog Hot, to Double Dog Dare You Hot. And, of course, they had hot dogs and chili dogs, made with Hebrew National all-beef wieners.
The burger part of the menu was also pretty extensive. They had about ten different burgers to choose from including the California Buffalo Burger - a patty of ground buffalo meat topped with fresh spinach, tomatoes, red onion, dijon mustard, a homemade lime sour cream and provolone cheese. They also had the Betty Burger - a Black Angus beef patty topped with a homemade special sauce, grilled onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and American cheese. Compared to some of the others, the Betty Burger was pretty low key.
I had my eyes on the Jalapeno Burger - jalapenos with pepperjack cheese; or the Bleu Cheese Burger topped with bleu cheese crumbles; or the Breakfast Burger that was topped with a fried egg, American cheese, and bacon and served on an egg bun; or the Mushroom Swiss Burger. They also had something called the "Big John" that featured two beef patties and two split hot dogs, then topped with chili, two different types of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo and mustard. Uh, no. I'm not going to get that.
Actually, it got down to the Breakfast Burger and the Mushroom Swiss Burger. I decided upon the Mushroom Swiss Burger with a side of fries and I asked my server/bartender if I could get some bacon on that, as well. "Well, yeah, sure," she shrugged. "I guess so." Maybe people are a little more laid back in Bowling Green than what I'm used to.
About 15 minutes later, another young lady brought my burger out to me. It was served open faced with copious amounts of dijon mustard on the bun. Two slices of bacon were cris-crossed on top of the burger that was covered in a generous amount of Swiss cheese. The burger also had some grilled onions. I like grilled onions, but they generally don't like me after I've eaten them.
The first bite of the burger was a wonderful taste sensation. The bun was soft and chewy, the burger patty was juicy and full of flavor. The bacon and Swiss cheese were a nice complement to the burger, and even the dijon mustard didn't detract from the overall taste of the burger. As I continued, I was struck by how good the burger really was. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the burger.
The fries, on the other had, were - well - awful. First of all, they had too much of a salty seasoning on them. They were sort of lukewarm like they'd been sitting in a pan for awhile. But the seasoning - way too much of it - made them nearly inedible. That's OK, I was more interested in the burger. And the burger more than made up for the craptastic fries at Double Dogs.
So, other than the overseasoned and lukewarm fries and the lack of personality my server/bartender displayed, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the burger I got at Double Dogs. I quickly got over the fact that it was part of a larger corporation overseeing other restaurants. The burger was damned good. I liked the sports-themed atmosphere at Double Dogs and thought to myself that I wish something like that would be available back home in the Quad Cities. If I lived in Bowling Green and wanted to catch multiple games on television, Double Dogs would be my first choice. Granted, I don't know many - if any - other sports bars in the area, but Double Dogs was pleasant enough for me.