746 Emerald St.
Pacific Beach, CA 92109
Open Mon-Thurs 8am-7pm & Fri-Sun 8am-8pm
Mad Dogs Cafe is one of those places where what you see is NOT what you get. From the outside, it appears to be just another little beach cafe, but it really surprised me what they had to offer inside. Sausages? Crumpets? Scrambles? Gelato? All in one place?! This European influenced spot is serving up unexpectedly fresh and homemade dishes for breakfast, lunch, or just a post beach snack.
I decided it was necessary to go two days in a row to really appreciate all the menu had to offer. I first went for what the place is know for: The dogs! Looking at my nine sausage selections including a traditional English banger, mainstream American frankfurter, or spicy Chicken Tequila Habanero, I was a little overwhelmed. It wouldn’t have felt so daunting if I also didn’t have to pick from over ten different sauces! I can’t explain why, but I randomly went with the Andouille, smoked with onions, peppers, and wine, and topped it with their Curry sauce, solely out of curiosity. I could have also thrown on some ketchup, melted American cheese, or wasabi mayo, but I thought I’d be better off keeping it simple my first time around. To top it all off, so-to-speak, each sausage comes surrounded by a fluffy, house-baked baguette and a healthy serving of homemade crispy potato chips.
To be honest, my choices did not make the best combination. I blame it entirely on lack of experience. I had never been, I’m not incredibly knowledgeable about all of the sausages, and didn’t ask for guidance. I was a little disappointed in Mad Dogs and myself, until I also tried the Bratwurst with melted cheese and their infamous Mad Sauce (I’ll explain later), and looooved it! My disappointment turned to excitement to know there must be so many other amazing dog-sauce combinations that it was the idea of trying them all that already made me want to come back!
Since my first experience was promising, I stopped in the next day for breakfast. Those same warm baguettes are also used in their Mad Breakfast Sandwiches. They start by perfectly scrambling eggs, tossing them with sauteed bell peppers and onions, and melting jack and cheddar cheeses. You also get to choose from the andouille, bacon, veggie sausage, bacon and sausage, or just eggs. I’m not a vegetarian by any means, (see Brazilian Steak House review) but vegetarian “meats” intrigue me, so I went with the veggie sausage. It was a really hearty and fresh tasting breakfast. I feel like I can rarely say that breakfast foods taste fresh, but in this case each ingredient was just that and it came through in every bite. I decided to wash it down with freshly squeezed lemonade. It was the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and of course, made to order. They’re also juicing oranges on the spot to accompany a breakfast sandwich or their Mad Dog Scramblers, served with a crumpet instead of a baguette.
This is the first restaurant I’ve been to with crumpets on the menu, that’s for sure. They are very similar to an English muffin, but with a pancake texture. Mad Dogs is baking them every morning and topping them with all sorts of sweet and savory options. You can pile on eggs and sausage, spread on some butter, cream cheese, or peanut butter, or take it to a dessert level with lemon curd, honey, or nutella. Something tells me you can’t go wrong with any of those.
If this menu didn’t sound eclectic enough, I spotted gelato on the way in and certainly couldn’t leave until I had tried a couple different flavors. They naturally offered several fruity and rich options but there were a few I knew I had to taste. Pear gelato was a new flavor to me so I asked for a sample. I used to eat pears all the time when I was little and one bite of the gelato took me back to those times. It was literally as if I had sunk my teeth into a ripe, juicy pear. Whether you like pears or not you cannot deny the immaculate similarity between the two. I went for passion fruit next. Unlike the pear, I wasn’t even sure what it was supposed to taste like but it was really delicious. It wasn’t overly sweet but had a refreshing quality to it. I wanted to try one more on the richer side this time. Pannacotta was something I had barely even heard of, let alone tasted. When I asked about it I was told it can be best described as “cake batter” so that solidified my last choice. Cake batter was definitely a good description, but it wasn’t so rich that you couldn’t enjoy a whole cup of it. It was cool and creamy and would even taste great paired with one of my previous fruit flavors.
I think it’s time to talk about the Mad Sauce. I’ll start by saying I had it on nearly everything I ate! Mad Dogs Cafe is pumping out it’s very own signature, house-made sauce that’s a hit among customers, as well as the self-admitting employees. It’s a mysterious mayonnaise-based sauce with a little kick of heat. I poured it on my baguette, bratwurst, breakfast sandwich, and even dipped the homemade chips in it! Mad sauce is the key common denominator: Joining so many items together on such a diverse/random menu. Not to mention it’s really yummy.
By: Tara Imperatore