It's 'ruff' out there

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 15, 2012 - 9:15 AM

With patio season upon us, dog sightings are rising sharply at pooch-friendly restaurants and coffee shops.

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Taylor sat near his complimentary water dish at W.A. Frost. Dogs have been welcome at the St. Paul restaurant’s patio for years. A 2008 ordinance allows pets at Minneapolis cafes, too.

Photo: Bre McGee, Special to the Star Tribune

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Dottie more than lived up to her reputation.

"She makes friends with everyone," said her companion, Anna Lundberg of Minneapolis. And sure enough, almost before Lundberg had settled into her chair on Cafe Barbette's patio, the pit bull had gotten in her licks with a couple at an adjacent table.

When she returned to Lundberg's feet, a plastic bowl awaited Dottie, fulfilling one of restaurant owner Kim Bartmann's strictest policies: "Dogs get water first, then the customer."

It's an increasingly familiar scene around the Twin Cities, where dozens of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops have done everything but sit up and beg for tail-waggers.

Dogs have been well received for years at popular patios such as Psycho Suzi's, W.A. Frost & Company and Nomad World Pub. But since a 2008 Minneapolis ordinance validated the practice, their presence has increased not only in the core city but also in such suburban enclaves as Pairings in Minnetonka and Jamba Juice in Woodbury.

"The 'burbs are catching up," said Ali Jarvis, founder of www.sidewalkdog.com, a website listing dog-friendly sites of all sorts.

The public pooch proliferation, Jarvis added, is part of "a big cultural shift over the past 20 years or so."

"Perhaps dogs were always considered family. I know ours were. But they weren't included in family life. They did not shop with their people, go out to dinner with their people, go to dog parks, etc.," Jarvis said

"Today people want to include their dogs in many aspects of their lives. They want to live life with their dogs."

While dogs long have been dubbed "man's best friend," women have been at the forefront of the hospitality. Brenda Langton (Spoonriver) and Bartmann often proffer water dishes themselves. Pizzeria Lola's Ann Kim named her canine-friendly eatery after her dog. Lucia Watson (Lucia's) held a 100-dog-strong event in 2009 (complete with red carpet and paparazzi) and commissioned a mosaic tile artist to build an outdoor fountain called the "Dog Bar."

At Pairings, manager Anissa Gurstel started twice-weekly "yappy hours" two years ago after noticing that "I was not aware of anyplace I could take my sweet girl" in the western suburbs. She said that a few customers were taken aback but generally satisfied after she talked with them and pointed out that, as at all other dog-friendly venues, the animals never set foot in the indoor restaurant.

"We had one woman horrified that we put water bowls out there," Gurstel said. "I assured her that we actually had purchased a set just for the dogs." In general, she said, the dogs had behaved, with no lewdness and only a few "getting growly with each other."

Bartmann has not encountered any problems at Barbette or two of her other properties, Red Stag Supperclub and Bread & Pickle, whose menu includes dog treats.

"I haven't heard any complaints for a long time," Bartmann said. "People are so happy to be sitting on patios, they're not in a frame of mind to complain.

"I think Minnesotans are generally a well-behaved lot and people sort of police themselves and their dogs. Anybody who brings a dog to a patio also takes them to a dog park and they're well behaved. It really is a non-issue. It's cool, as it should be."

Besides opening their arms -- and bowls -- to our furry friends, Barbette and Bread & Pickle have a built-in advantage for luring pets and their companions: proximity to bodies of water and the popular trails around them.

In Minneapolis alone, venues at Lake Calhoun (Barbette, Amore Victoria and Tin Fish), Minnehaha Falls (Sea Salt), Lake Nokomis (Fat Lorenzo's) and the Mississippi River (Aster Cafe, Wilde Roast Cafe) have garnered strong reviews at the Sidewalk Dog site.

Barbette has at least one more asset that brings Jarvis and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Maggie Moo, in from Spring Lake: "Barbette is French, so it all just makes sense and feels right."

It certainly does to Lundberg and Dottie on a sun-kissed spring afternoon. "She gets to play, see what everyone's eating, kind of scrounge for scraps," Lundberg said. "I usually have salad, and she's not crazy about that. But she loves her fries, maybe a little Arnie Palmer with it. I love this place, and she does, too."

  • FOR THE DOGS

    Some geographically scattered venues rated highly at sidewalkdog.com:


    • Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque, Stillwater

    • Happy Gnome, St. Paul.

    • Victory 44 and Papa's Restaurant & Deli, north Minneapolis.

    • Trattoria Tosca and the Lowbrow, south Minneapolis.

    • Galaxy Drive-In, St. Louis Park.

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