For more than 25 years, Lost Dog Café has been serving up gourmet pizza and sandwiches from its Westover home. In recent years, in fact, the popular restaurant has expanded to include spots across Northern Virginia. There are now three in all, with a fourth coming soon in Dunn Loring. It’s a track record that makes the success of this local chain evident, and a visit to its first location gives diners an idea of what keeps the locals coming back for more.
Lost Dog Café offers a crowd-pleasing menu. Part of that is simply a numbers game, as the restaurant offers upwards of 50 sandwiches, 30 pizzas, and a dozen pasta dishes (it also doesn’t skimp on appetizers, sides, and desserts, among them a bevy of milkshakes and malts, to round out the meal). But customization, too, is part of the equation. Those with particular tastes can opt to make their own pizza or sandwich from extensive lists of gourmet toppings and cheeses like portobello mushrooms and fresh mozzarella, and unexpected selections like eggplant. The menu’s sensitivity to dietary restrictions, reflected in options like soy mozzarella and gluten-free dough on individual-sized pizzas, ensures that many who can’t enjoy the fare of a standard pizzeria or deli can still place their order at Lost Dog Café.
Several items on the menu have been deemed “Lost Dog Favorites,” and are highlighted on the menu as tried and true options. Among them the Pit Bull Pie, one of several pooch-named selections, brings pastrami, ham, pepperoni, and salami together with red onion and herbs and gives it some heat with jalapenos and a zesty tomato sauce. As with all Lost Dog pizzas, the Pit Bull Pie is made with whole-wheat dough, and the crust, while thin when compared to the mountain of toppings it comes with, balances fluffy and crunchy textures. Pizzas range in size from a four-slice solo portion, to a 16-inch pie for sharing, and in price from a single cheese pie at $8.95 to a 10-topping large for $26.95.
Sandwiches are served on an assortment of sub rolls, bread slices, croissants, and even pita bread. While the thin pita bread rounds may not seem like the base for a filling sandwich, Lost Dog stacks no small amount of cheeses, meats and veggies on its pitas, serving them open face and letting diners handle the rest. Such is the case with the Muttly ($7.50) – the naming trend continues – in which chunks of grilled chicken breast are slathered in pesto and topped with tomatoes, spinach, melted provolone cheese and basil until the pita top is hardly visible. Gourmet flavors are a highlight of the sandwich menu section, which goes above standard cold-cut combinations. The Cowboy ($7.50) offers standard cheese steak fixins on an eight-inch sub roll with one crucial substitution: run-of-the-mill cheese is traded for brie, and the thin slices of the cheese that top the sub have a big impact, imparting their flavor throughout the sandwich. Potato chips and a pickle (95 cents) or seasoned waffle fries ($2.95) can be added to turn any sandwich into a bargain meal.
Lost Dog Café orders can be delivered to the immediate area, and also carried out at all of the three current locations, each of which boasts an extensive bottled beer selection that ensures those pizzas and sandwiches can be washed down with quality libations. But to not pull up a chair at Lost Dog Café is to miss out on the fun that complements the cuisine so well. There is great joy to be had in admiring the murals and various pictures of pups – many colorful cartoon renderings which, at their most curious, include images of pool-playing and beer-swilling mutts and dapper business-suited dogs – while managing a topping-heavy slice of pie or chowing down on a loaded sub. But beyond the fun and feast is the knowledge that supporting this local restaurant means supporting its longstanding philanthropic efforts to help lost dogs find a home, and that’s something any customer can get behind.
Lost Dog Café is located at 5876 Washington Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-237-1552 or visit lostdogcafe.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.