This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Josh Harris, one of the owners of the bar Trick Dog. Trick Dog has been open for 1 year now and has just released their 3rd menu. Not only do the drinks far surpass any others I’ve had but they continue to create a menu that’s visually innovative and original. I may be biased because I work next-door, but Trick Dog has become my favorite place to get a cocktail in the city. I got to ask Josh a little more about the process of making a menu for the bar.
First off, happy 1st birthday to Trick Dog! We [Salumeria, Central Kitchen, and Flour+Water] have been so fortunate to be neighbors and see the bar evolve at every step of the building process to now the 3rd menu release. I am so happy for you guys and the 20th street family we have created!
I wanted to ask you a few questions about the new menu…
1. How long does a process like this take? Just in terms of deciding drinks for the menu.
The 1st menu, the Pantone, was a culmination of years of sensibilities and over-thinking. The 2nd, the record book, was much shorter and kind of snuck up on us. And the 3rd, horoscopes, was actually an appropriate, thoughtful amount of time. About two months out we started verbalizing our thoughts and Scott and I would have meetings with Morgan and Chad. Cocktails are a constant flow of what you’re being influenced by. One could have been created in 2 days, another much longer.
2. Do you guys work with a designer to create the visual aspect of it? Has it been someone different for each of the three menus?
Morgan, our GM and bar manager did the graphic design. We worked with Camille Robles of Ramble & Ride for the Pantone menu. For the Pantone [1st menu], we knew we wanted to do something creative. We had this ah-ha moment during construction when the Pantone color books were lying around. Another important aspect to us was user-friendliness.
The 2nd [record book], was driving that creative thought but highlighted user-unfriendliness, especially on a busy Saturday night.
The 1st and 2nd menu’s informed the direction we wanted to go with this one. We wanted an equal level of creativity and user-friendliness.
For what it’s worth, I think it was a creative step that…is not a book. There were a few ideas brought to the table and we narrowed it down to two. The awesome part about it is that we can still use the other idea for the summer menu!
3. Where do you guys get inspiration? This could either mean for the drinks themselves or the design of the menu.
What you see around you. Also, Morgan dreams of a lot of s*it.
4. What is the training for the new menu like with the staff?
Well, we have a technically proficient and knowledgeable staff. It’s not very romantic but it’s more like…these are the new drinks and you’re going to know them. It is a testament to the abilities of the staff. It’s more about all of us sitting back and talking about them. Where as with the servers, there is a little more training. They are all killer but the information isn’t consumed as naturally.
5. Have some of the beers and wine rotated as well?
Yeah, the bubbles have changed. We’ve changed and added some beers. We have a killer stout made with oyster shells!
6. I know you were closed for a week just before the new menu release and heard you took the staff on a little retreat. Where did you guys go? Did you do some remodeling inside trick dog as well?
This was something that was really meaningful for us [Scott, Jason, and I]. We discussed our desire to do an overnight holiday party for our staff. I looked back on the environments I enjoyed working in throughout my career and wanted to create that for the staff. We were thankful we had the means. The thing that is really cool; the staff retention from the day we opened is staggering. We’ve only lost 1 bartender [miss you Peter!] and that’s because he’s doing his own thing. Everyone on the team worked very hard this year.
So we went to Doran Beach in Bodega Bay. We got two big vans and drove to Tomales Bay Oyster Company. We reserved a few tables, had oysters and hung out all day. Our friends and neighbors at Shelter Co. offered us an extremely generous discount for tent villages. We cooked chili and had a fire all night right on the beach. Nothing weird happened. Everyone could bring his or her significant other or pet.
After that we had two days of the staff all being here painting, prepping for the new menu, moving offices, washing windows, and more construction. We painted everything. All before our 1st birthday party. We all thought the bar looked better now than it did when we first opened. It was a major morale thing. We made improvements that are functionally beneficial- more railings, new lights. It feels good!
Big big thanks to Josh Harris!
Photos & article by Asta Karalis