Karnes County’s newest restaurant opened last week, and crowds flocked to try out the new place with a colorful dog face logo on its sign.
Located midway between Kenedy and Karnes County on the east side of U.S. Highway 181, the restaurant will offer steaks, burgers, beer, mixed drinks and a many other items on the menu.
General Manager David Swartz told The Karnes Countywide in a recent interview that the restaurant is the second in a “short” chain of restaurants – the first is located in Carizzo Springs.
“We want to bring really good food and really good service to these towns,” Swartz said. “Everything that we do is scratch made.”
Swartz said the restaurant is owned by a group of partners who have restaurants in the Houston and San Antonio areas and come from restaurant backgrounds.
The business idea at the core of the “Red Dogs” is somewhat novel, Swartz explained.
The concept is a fully portable restaurant that can be packed up and moved easily to a new location, as customer demand changes, especially customer demand associated with people working for oil and gas companies who are actively producing from the Eagle Ford Shale throughout several counties in South Texas.
“Our kitchen, bathrooms, freezers and dish area are all on a trailer skid module,” Swartz said. “The entire restaurant is put together in a fashion that can be unbolted and taken down.”
While Karnes County has seen an explosion of new hotels in the past four years, there haven’t been very many new restaurants set up for business in Karnes County.
While the restaurant in Carizzo Springs incorporates more “tent” areas – canvass sides and canvass top – for customer dining, the owners are taking a slightly different approach with the Karnes County location, instead opting for a metal building based on what they have learned along the way.
The metal building is expected to be more comfortable for customers than the tent-based design in Carizzo Springs, Swartz said, especially during very cold weather.
While the design is portable, Swartz said the Karnes County Red Dog Ice House has no plans to move anywhere in the foreseeable future.
The Carizzo Springs Red Dog serves between 350 and 400 customers per day, Swartz said. He expects to serve an even greater number of customers in Karnes County due to a restaurant design that has greater seating capacity – both inside and outside in patio areas surrounding the building.
A private dining room is part of the 3,200 square-foot building set aside for meetings or other special events. Combined with the patio areas, Swartz says the restaurant can serve 400 customers at any given time.
Fireplaces will help add to the charm of the patio areas, Swartz said, and a full bar is available inside the no-smoking restaurant.
“We are a restaurant first,” Swartz explained. “We are not a bar that serves food.”
Swartz said that the types of food available on the menu is similar to what people may have enjoyed at the Texas Roadhouse chain of restaurants scattered across Texas, with steaks, pork-chops, ribs, burgers, appetizers, sides and more on the menu.
The plan is not to take anything away from the local restaurants in the area, Swartz explained, but rather to give Karnes County more restaurant choices and a greater variety. With the oil boom happening now, and what the partners anticipate will happen in the near future, there will be a very large number of hungry customers working and living in Karnes County in the years to come.
“It is filling a niche,” Swartz. “We are here to add to the experience.”
Swarz said most of the local restaurants are overwhelmed by the demand that has changed so dramatically in recdent years and it is not uncommon for customers to have to wait longer than an hour to get served.
“Everything in this area is overwhelmed right now,” Swartz said, noting that it took longer than anticipated to get the new restaurant up and running since the project had to wait for power service and other services needed to get the latest Red Dog up and running.