It's a dog-eat-dog world, but sadly, for most pet owners, it's not an eat-with-dog world. But times are changing. Although the grumpy FDA restricts canines from entering dining establishments, restaurant owners are beginning to use outdoor spaces and patios to accommodate animal lovers and their four-legged friends.
"Almost everyone working here has a dog or is a dog lover," says Erika Fasano, general manager of the three-year-old bar and restaurant San Rocco in New York City, explaining her decision to include the dog menu she launched this past summer. Pups can choose anything from standard fare to a specially cooked chicken dish (only $2), or even a vegetarian option should Gwyneth Paltrow's macrobiotic mongrel drop by. Meanwhile, gay chef Art Smith, who was dog-lover Oprah Winfrey's personal cook, recently opened Art and Soul in Washington D.C., a restaurant that boasts a Pooch Patio Menu that includes a 3 oz. grilled steak and a libation (non-alcoholic, of course) called Bowser Beer.
"It's already proving to be a popular element," says San Rocco's public relations manager, Francesca DeFranchis. "People want to eat with their pets. It makes the atmosphere more fun. And people stay longer, which is good for business."
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Tom Mylan, co-owner and executive butcher at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, estimates that up to 10% of his revenue comes from pet purchases. "Relatively, that's a huge amount," he says, attributing it to the trickle-down effect of people becoming more concerned with the provenance of their own food. Mylan has some pointers for dog lovers who want to recreate a cafe experience at home.
1. Do your research
"Go online or ask your veterinarian about what's best for your dog's specific breed."
2. Start at the source
"Talk to your butcher to ensure they source animals that lived a wholesome, good life and that they weren't fed pharmaceuticals or stimulants. Beef should be 100% grass-fed and pork should be pasture-raised. Your butcher should know all this."
3. Mix it up
"While organ meat is rich in nutrients, it should only be used as a supplement and mixed in with kibble or rice. Some people also use vitamin-rich add-ons, like kelp meal or other trace minerals."
4. Wait for feedback
"Listen to what your pet is telling you. It will be obvious whether they are enjoying it or not."