Dog Watch Mystic goes beyond BBQ, expands business at renovated restaurant

Dog Watch Mystic goes beyond BBQ, expands business at renovated restaurant


MYSTIC — It’s officially year two for Dog Watch Mystic, formerly known as Dog Watch BBQ, and David Eck, co-owner, was bustling around the newly renovated space with his grandson, David Beau Heyniger, who is 10 months old, strapped to his back

“We opened up last year using what I call a fast, casual model — you walked up and placed your order,” he said. “We did that last summer just to get open and try it out and this winter we decided that we wanted it to be more a year-round restaurant.”

More amenities have been added — a fireplace in the dining area, a full-service bar with its own seating area, and updated décor, including large photographs by co-owner Clay Burkhalter, Eck’s brother in law. Wendy Eck, David’s wife, is also a co-owner.

The name of the restaurant at 20 Old Stonington Road was changed to reflect the expanded menu, David Eck said.

“Last year we were pretty much just barbecue, we called ourselves ‘Barbecue and More,’ but no one saw the ‘more,’” he laughed. “We became known as just barbecue, we became pigeonholed, so that’s why we changed — the new menu includes fresh lobsters, seafood, and the original barbecue items.”

In 2008, the Ecks and Burkhalter opened the original Dog Watch Cafe at 194 Water St. in Stonington Borough, and when the opportunity to open a second location came up, David Eck said they grabbed it. “I always wanted to do another one and we got this property last year and we decided to do something with it,” he said.

Among other changes, the kitchen area has been redesigned and expanded for a broader range of functionality.

“We also did the renovation so we could get into the catering business. Before we never catered because we never had enough room,” he said. Dog Watch Catering is run by Darcey Eck, daughter of David and Wendy, who has experience in event planning.

“Barbecue is great for functions, it’s easy to order for large parties,” he said. “We do weddings, rehearsal dinners, all kinds of functions, we’re becoming full-scale caterers.”

Out back are two Myron Mixon smokers that are overseen by Ben Fairless, of North Stonington, pitmaster of the restaurant, who often arrives at 5 a.m. to start smoking the meat.

“You need at least eight hours for the process,” he said. “You’ve got to get the wood in, get the smokers going, and let them burn for a little bit and then you start prepping your meat, and bring it out and throw it in, briskets and pork, and about eight hours later you’re ready to go.” The restaurant uses white oak and cherry wood in its smokers.

Jim Ward, of Groton, who is the executive chef of both Dog Watch restaurants, said the equipment is a water can smoker process.

“We cook at a higher heat and the moisture from the water cooks the barbecue faster,” Ward said. “The water pan technology keeps the meat from drying out and gives it an authentic flavor.”

“We can do 600 pounds of product at a time — we did 50 turkeys at Thanksgiving,” said Anthony Gilruth, of Mystic, who is the chef of Dog Watch Mystic. “The smokers are all programmable — we can do 10 different recipe settings on these — and we can control them from our cellphones,” he said.

Back inside the restaurant, Kate Green, of Stonington, the Eck’s niece, had ordered some takeout. Green has worked at the Dog Watch restaurants for the past eight years and was just seeing the renovations for the first time.

“Last summer it worked out well, but we wanted to change a few things and they’ve done an incredible job,” she said. “It’s all about family here, everyone puts a lot of effort into the restaurant.”

Walking around as if she owned the place was the Ecks’ dog, Rosie, whom Green said had special abilities.

“Rosie is a great dog — she has all of us wrapped around her finger,” she said. “At the other restaurant she knows how to open all of the doors so it’s good she’s here because she hasn’t figured this place out yet.”

Over by the windows in the bar, Jill Bach, of Groton Long Point, was finishing up lunch with her friend, Joan Cerniglia, of Mystic.

“This is much closer and I don’t have to drive into Stonington,” said Bach, who was taking home the rest of her chopped pasta salad with chicken.

“It’s also nice to have waitress service, which they didn’t have before, and the fireplace is going to be great in the winter.”

“It’s wonderful having the inside bar, it’s really comfortable to sit here and enjoy lunch,” Cerniglia said. “They’ve encompassed the Stonington Dog Watch menu — I had the ‘codwich,’ which was wonderful. We came here when it was just barbecue, but this is better.”

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