I still remember the conversation I had the last time I was at the Sleeping Dog Tavern. A friend and I threw back a couple of cold Coors Lights while chatted about Moby Dick and hockey. I remember it well for a couple of reasons. First probably being that it was my birthday and I'd been upstairs at the now closed Steepings tea and coffee shop studying (yes, 26 proved a wild birthday). Second, my Coors-loving, North Dakota-born, grad school buddy was about to move away and, though we'd already said our goodbyes, I hit up the Dog for one more brew before he, like the rest of our posse, took off for greener pastures.

Back in those days, three and a half years ago, you could still smoke and enjoy a beer inside and the Dog was a great place to do that. The little mall bar had TVs, pool tables and was just the little dive hideout in the middle of downtown that our broke, student wallets yearned for.

But that was a long time ago and the Dog, like myself, has changed. A few weeks ago a friend and I hit up The Sleeping Dog (which really no longer should be referred to as the "Dog") for dinner. I've been hearing good things about the upgrade to the menu, which used to consist of typical greasy bar grub, that were made about a year and a half ago but I just never made it over there.

Wow! This place gives

a run for its money. Instead of ordering full dinners we dug into the appetizer menu so as to get the most flavor out of our big night out. With plates, and cocktail glasses, filled with goat cheese stuffed peppadew peppers, which are topped with caviar ($7), buffalo and chipotle sausage pinwheels ($7.50), oyster corn dogs ($7.50) and, from the dinner menu, baked lobster mac and cheese ($21) the feast was on.

I'm glad for wine I'd stuck with a light Riesling instead of going for one of the heavy reds I usually drink. The wine was light and crisp and allowed the mix of flavors from the food to stand out.  While everything was quite yummy it was the peppadew peppers that really got me. The sweet red peppers gave a smooth and consistent background to the pops of flavor offered by the caviar while the goat cheese inside the peppers was creamy and just the right amount of tart to make it all melt on the tongue.

While the sausage pinwheels were delicious with or without the sauce they came with the oyster corn dogs were bland and boring until the horseradish and Siracha sauce was added. With that combo though the little kick of spicy made the breaded and fried oysters mouthwateringly tasty.

The only disappointment to the meal was the lobster mac and cheese. It was good, don't get me wrong, but not worth the 20 bucks and not nearly the standout that everything else was.