Sports bar crafts game plan around the food

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SOUTHINGTON — The longtime owner of the Hop Häus locations unveiled a new type of eatery in town last month — a sports bar called The Salty Dog Tavern at 1783 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike.

The restaurant bills itself as an upbeat, sports-focused establishment serving high-quality food and local craft beer.

“After traveling around the area, there's really not a lot of family-friendly, comfortable places to watch the games,” said Mike Miller, owner of the Salty Dog. “I was looking for a fun spot to watch the game with friends or family and enjoy good food at the same time.”

Miller has been a restaurant owner in the local area for 15 years, operating the Hop Häus locations in Southington and Plainville. His new venture seeks to branch out from the traditional restaurant environment and provide residents with a family-friendly environment with high-quality food, Miller said. A highlight on the menu, according to Miller, is their selection of wings.

Miller has worked to incorporate vegetarian options into the menu as well for guests with allergies and dietary restrictions, along with several kinds of non-alcoholic and gluten-free beer. 

The tavern hosts several events during the week outside of sports games with trivia nights on Wednesdays at 7 p.m and karaoke on Friday at 9 p.m. 

“As much as I love craft beer, sometimes I just want to unwind and watch the game with friends enjoying good wings and some fun food,” Miller said. 

Though, like the rest of the restaurant industry, Miller has experienced supply chain and staffing challenges with his new tavern. He said the support from other business owners and members of the community allowed him to see great success during their opening month of operation. 

“It’s a great town, a very supportive town. When I opened this restaurant, everybody came up to support us and they still are,” Miller said. “They really supported me in a lot of different business ventures and I’m very appreciative of the town.”

Barbara Coleman-Hekeler, president of the Southington Chamber of Commerce, expressed her support for the Salty Dog. She noted several other restaurants have closed in the same location, the Tipping Chair Tavern having occupied the space before the Salty Dog, Coleman-Hekeler believes Miller’s success with his other restaurants will bring new life to the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike plaza.

“We are thrilled to see that he's expanding his restaurant group to include the Salty Dog Tavern. Other restaurants have tried to succeed in that location, and Mike Miller is truly an expert at what he does,” Coleman-Hekeler said. “He's a true restaurateur. He knows how to run efficiently, but he also knows what customers are looking for. He knows how to make it a fun dining experience. It's a nice place” 

Miller already has ambitious plans for the restaurant and is looking to further branch out with new menu options, participate in community events, and start several food challenges to bring people out to see the tavern. 

“We're working on a burger challenge and a couple really fun food-related things to keep the Salty Dog set apart from everybody else,” Miller said. 

The Salty Dog plans to make a showcase of its  wings this year at the 16th Annual Southington Chamber of Commerce Wingfest, which will be held on Monday, Nov. 14, at the Cadillac Ranch, 45 Jude Lane.

Miller is optimistic about the future of the tavern, hoping to expand the Salty Dog name to several other locations in the coming years. 

The Salty Dog Tavern is open Wednesday-Monday from 2:30 p.m to midnight on weekdays, and opens at 11:30 a.m on Saturday and Sunday.


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