Photo: By Jeremy Curry, via Instagram
Tubby Dog, Calgary’s one-stop punk rock hot dog shop, is a diamond in the rough on a quickly changing 17th Ave. SW. Often called The Red Mile, the street is a haven for wasted hockey fans by night and stroller-pushing yuppies by day, and while both groups often set foot in Tubby Dog, it’s also a last refuge for those seeking an unpretentious atmosphere to play pinball, crush beers, stuff their faces and/or enjoy some loud music. It’s really the best.
Full disclosure: some of my best friends work at Tubby Dog. I met them while hanging out at Tubby Dog. Hell, my wife even made a documentary about the damn place. That’s because, put simply, Tubby Dog is great in every way. It’s also one of a kind in its uniqueness. Here are some things you’d know if you were a Tubby Dog regular.
Don’t think healthy
The Jimmy James Budgies Dog, a collaboration with Vancouver’s Budgies Burritos. Via Instagram
Few things grind the employees’ gears like trying to change the menu to make yourself feel a bit better. You’ve walked into Tubby Dog, embrace it. No, they don’t have whole wheat buns, nothing is really gluten free, and they won’t offer you a calorie chart. There are plenty of healthy restaurants within walking distance, so if you’re gonna be a wuss about it you should go elsewhere. Tubby Dog’s all about embracing the salty, the fatty and the greasy — just let it wash over you, and be at peace with your clogging arteries. On that note, don’t ask if your hot dog comes with a heart attack. Seriously. Every dad in western Canada has asked them this joke. It’s done.
Don’t try to be impressive
Photo: The Egon Spenglar, via Instagram.
On the flipside, Tubby Dog’s expansive menu has one go-to choice for first-timers. The Sherm’s Ultimate Gripper is a hot dog wrapped in bacon then deep fried. That’s rammed into a bun, topped with ham, chilli, cheese, mustard, bacon, banana peppers, onions and a fried egg. But guess what? It’s also a favourite among mouth-breathing chongos trying to impress each other. And no one’s impressed that you were able to finish your whole hot dog like a big boy.
Instead, you should trust the nuanced flavours that have stood the test of time. Aside from being the restaurants namesake, the Tubby Dog is itself a simple introduction to the flavours at the restaurant, while the A-Bomb throws some potato chips into the mix. The Sumo is covered in wasabi mayo and ginger, making it a favourite among sushi fanatics, while the PBJ slathers peanut butter, jelly and Cap’n Crunch all over your wiener. Then there are both weekly and monthly specials — recent highlights include the True Detective-themed Rustin Cohlslaw and the Egon Spenglar, a tribute to the late Harold Ramis.
Plan to pay with cash
Photo: Via Tubbydog.com
It routinely shocks and surprises customers, but it’s true — the giant, all-black letters that read “CASH ONLY” do in fact mean that the restaurant only takes cash. Take a moment to let that sink in. You won’t be able to pay with debit, credit card, cheque, travellers cheques, I.O.U.’s, a song, money orders, PayPal, Bitcoins, Dogecoins, CoinYe West or any other forthcoming digital currencies. You have to pay with cold, hard cash. While they have an ATM in the back, it’s probably easiest if you come with a wallet full of coins and bills, especially if you’re attending the show. The money machine is located in the crowded area that doubles as a “stage” when bands are playing, so you have to walk through a mess of amps, guitar cases and effects pedals if you didn’t come prepared.
Plan to play some video games
Photo: Mario Kart trophy, via Instagram.
The ATM is also surrounded by arcade games and a pinball machine, which are some great ways to kill some time between brews and bites (though good luck beating restaurant founder/owner Jon “Tubby” Truch’s pinball scores). Then, every Wednesday, the restaurant turns into a full-on nerd zone with the highly competitive Street Fighter night. To top it off, they’ve started holding the occasional Mario Kart tournament as well.
They’re one of Calgary’s best music venues
Photo: Glitter, via Instagram
As if slangin’ dogs and opening cheap beers for a wide array of customers weren’t enough, the saints at Tubby Dog also push some tables aside and let their restaurant turn into a scrappy lil all ages venue multiple times a week. It’s a lot to put up with — unruly crowd surfers, long lines, piercing noise, etc. — but the love Tubby Dog show booker/co-owner Jane Trash has for the D.I.Y. community makes it one of its city’s most important musical institutions, for both touring and local acts. In the last month alone, excellent local acts like Greyscreen, Monroeville Music Center, Sabertooth, The Chain and Glitter have performed at Tubby, alongside Vancouver rap performance artist Young Braised, New York State hype machines Perfect Pussy and Chicago pop-punk masters Canadian Rifle.
It’s been that way for a while
Photo: Tubby Dog during Sled Island, via Instagram
Tubby Dog’s reputation as a hotspot for all-ages music is years in the making. The restaurant has nurtured beloved local bands throughout their careers and made myriad touring acts feel right at home. The list of artists who have performed at Tubby Dog is simply too long to get into, but it’s a fabled hotspot on touring schedules and a great place for locals to get their foot in the door. Plus, during Sled Island, it’s the best spot for underagers to catch their favourite bands. Notable acts who’ve ripped it up during the annual festival include Monotonix, Gobble Gobble, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, and The Courtneys, among many, many others.
They’re also in another music venue
Photo: Tubby Dog in the Commonwealth, via Instagram
There’s something about live music and greasy junk food bombs that just works together so well. That’s why Tubby Dog has recently expanded to a second location, running a small food window in Calgary’s own Commonwealth Bar and Stage. The venue, which is a growing hotspot for mid-sized rock acts, touring hip-hop artists and party-starting DJs, has nightly hot dogs, with specials occasionally designed by performing musicians. Plus, every Sunday, Tubby Dog heartthrob Carl Cassidy throws a laid-back soul party, and the kitchen serves up unbelievably good burgers instead.
They’re also a taco place and, sometimes, a burger joint
Photo: Heartthrob Carl Cassidy preps tacos, via Instagram
The original location has also started grilling burgers once a month. These burger parties come with two local DJs, who offer up a themed night. In fact, the next burger party takes place on April 18 and will feature yours truly playing the worst late ’90s pop-punk with Carl Cassidy. That’s the kind of bullshit they let us do at Tubby Dog.
They also switch up the menu every Tuesday, transforming into Tubby Taqueria and serving authentic Mexican tacos. These are less about larger-than-life junk food concoctions and more about pure flavour. It’s a packed night, and one that often sells out of food if you don’t get there in time.
They’ve got an amazing aesthetic
Photo: Tubby Dog all ages tee, via janetrash.tumblr.com
Because Tubby Dog is owned and operated by art students and punk kids, it should come as no surprise that they’re absolutely crushing it on the aesthetic front. The restaurant’s interior is a shrine to kitschy artifacts, pop culture and, of course, junk food, with a small museum’s worth of stuff available on all the walls. Plus, they’ve released an array of killer t-shirts over the years. The classic red logo featuring a cannibalistic hot dog who’s about to eat, well, a hot dog is a warddrobe staple for employees and fans alike, but the deviations have also been amazing. Take, for example, the hardcore-themed “supporting all ages” t-shirt, which looks like it was ripped straight from a How’s Your Edge? trade list.
They’ve got an international reputation
Photo: Tubby Dog on You Gotta Eat Here, via tubbydog.com
All of these things and more have given Tubby Dog an enormous reputation. Bands like Fucked Up sing their praises on the regular, while the food has been featured on television shows like You Gotta Eat Here and, back in the day, Going Coastal. Touring acts regularly send an assistant to bring a mountain of food back to their greenroom, and there are a number of urban legends about visiting celebs and their dalliances with dogs. And who can blame them? Simply put, Tubby Dog just might be the best place in Calgary.