Review: At The Salty Dog, crispy, dry wings take time but are worth the wait

I wasn’t expecting to be writing a full review of The Salty Dog. My plan was to run in, try their chicken wings — recommended to me by some restaurant industry friends — and write a few sentences about them on my blog.

But it turned out that the bar and grill, tucked in a strip mall in Council Bluffs about five minutes from downtown Omaha, had wings good enough that I got curious: What was their burger like? 

And here we are. 

I hadn’t heard of The Salty Dog, but during my two visits it was crowded each time with locals, families, young baseball players, glammed up little girls coming in straight from a dance competition and lots of regulars holding down the bar. Apparently I’m the last to know. 

You all know by now that I’ve been eating a lot of wings since the launch of the 2025 food bracket, which ended with our closest vote ever on Monday. The wings at The Salty Dog are singular in my tastings, particularly because of their “extra crispy extra dry” technique. According to the menu, the kitchen fries the wings for a full 20 minutes, then grills them “extra long,” resulting in a dry, crispy skinned wing that still has a tender center. I was intrigued. Worth noting:  the menu asks diners to be patient, as this particular wing can take up to a half hour to cook. 

Classic Buffalo wings

I got my order with the buffaque sauce, which is half barbecue, half buffalo. 

I really, really like these wings. The skin is just as advertised, dry and crisp, but in a pleasant way. The exterior has a blackened appearance — the barbecue sauce’s high sugar content contributes to that — but the wings don’t taste burnt. Instead, they taste pleasantly charred. Inside, the meat is tender. The wings aren’t particularly large, but they’re tasty, and as a person who likes wings that are less saucy, these hit the sweet spot for me. 

I’ll add that the crispy dry wings did end up taking almost a half hour to arrive. I settled in with a drink and waited on friends. The time flew by.

We also tried The Salty Dog’s classic wings, a dozen fried and dipped heavily in buffalo sauce. Spicy and satisfying, with lots of sauce, you’re going to need several napkins to get through a dozen. That night we also tried the bar’s Buffalo chicken poutine, because why not? 

It’s a cheesy, chickeny experience: Hot French fries cooked crispy get topped with a pile of shredded chicken, a heavy ladle of Buffalo sauce both blue and pepper jack cheese, bacon and green onion. It’s rich and fatty, one of those dishes that you find yourself not being able to stop eating. 

Buffalo chicken poutine

We headed back to Council Bluffs on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, and again found the front parking lot full. (There’s a second paved lot behind the bar, and a third gravel lot when things get really crowded.) With the women’s NCAA tournament wrapping up that afternoon, a big crowd streamed in for the Iowa game. 

I like that The Salty Dog doesn’t take itself too seriously. The menu boasts some funny dishes, for example, the pepperoni pizza rolls: “Yep, they’re Totino’s,” the menu says. “But we fry ‘em.” 

Or the burger we ordered, the “Holy Mother Trucker,” essentially an over-the-top breakfast burger that the menu describes as “for the trucker that drove all night and missed breakfast!” and “great cure for a hangover!”

Holy Mother Trucker burger

For the record, we were not hung over when we ordered it, but it was good nonetheless: A messy, eggy situation with a mid-thick patty, plenty of bacon, a soft egg, Swiss and cheddar cheese and a warm bun. Served with thick rounds of onion rings, you won’t leave hungry here. 

We also tried the cheese curds — a favorite of Matthew’s since childhood — and found them solid, plenty hot and crispy, served with homemade ranch and marinara topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. 

Cheese curds

The one dish I didn’t love was the chicken Philly. I think I made a mistake ordering it with the optional cream cheese, which turned the sandwich into a creamier, dip-like experience that just wasn’t my jam. I did like the sauteed onions and mushrooms, jalapenos, big chunks of chicken and the soft bun. Next time, I think I’d go for the restaurant’s version of a BLT, or the Buffalo chicken sandwich instead. 

Chicken philly

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owners before my deadline, but the team also runs Caddy’s Kitchen and Cocktails in downtown Council Bluffs and in late 2023, announced plans for an Omaha location of The Salty Dog to open near 72nd Street and Interstate 80 in 2024. 

The Salty Dog serves a nice version of bar food classics, and I think in particular, the crispy, charred wings are worth crossing the river for. I know when I get a craving for wings (which, honestly, probably won’t be for several months after finishing the 2024 bracket) I know where to go.

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