From Los Banos to Texas, the hunt for dog-friendly restaurants across America

Galloway lies on the patio with his owner Candie Wasson of Fresno while she has dinner with her mother Nancy Liddell at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar in Fresno.
Galloway lies on the patio with his owner Candie Wasson of Fresno while she has dinner with her mother Nancy Liddell at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar in Fresno. Fresno Bee file

As a dog owner for two years now, I’ve become an amateur researcher of all things canine. My research extends into cross-country travels, when I explore how people and dogs intersect and interact in other states.

In my visit to Texas earlier this spring I wanted to see how dogs are treated in restaurants. That may seem like a strange question to people who don’t own dogs, but it’s an important question to dog owners who like to take their pets wherever they go.

John Spevak New Photo
John Spevak, columnist for the Enterprise. Enterprise file

My wife Sandy and I have discovered that research is required before we choose a place to dine in California. We realize that restaurants don’t allow dogs, except service animals, inside their establishments. But some allow patrons to bring their dogs outside to their patios for dining.

Before making a reservation, we have to inquire first of all whether a restaurant has a patio. If it does, we then have to ask if the restaurant allows dogs to accompany customers who dine al fresco.

Sandy and I have found that many California restaurants are dog-friendly, and those that treat with kindness our two small dogs (which we call puppies, since neither is much more than 2 years old) get our repeat business.

Sandy goes to a doctor in Danville, and after a late afternoon appointment we have found that the Piatti restaurant treats our puppies with courtesy and friendliness when we dine on its patio, even providing disposable water bowls.

When we visited family near San Diego recently, we found the same friendly treatment while having outdoor patio meals at the Cheesecake Factory in Chula Vista and at Anthony’s Fish Grotto in La Mesa. (As you can see, dear reader, when restaurants treat my dogs well, I like to acknowledge them.)

While I was in Texas, I wanted to observe if that state’s restaurants would be as dog friendly as California’s. I recognize that Texas and California differ in many ways. California, for example, has a reputation for tolerance. Would Texas restaurants tolerate dogs as much as California’s?

I would be doing this research on my own, without my wife or our dogs. They stayed in Los Banos during my Texas trip, meaning I would have to be the lone California detective into this canine-human question.

My daughter Megan and her husband Eric suggested we might try a restaurant called The Lazy Dog in Plano, near where they live. That seemed like an apt choice for my research, given the establishment’s name. But names can be deceiving.

One possible indication that this would be my kind of restaurant was a photo on its web site showing a dog nuzzling into a cooler bag containing a six-pack of beer. Was that dog just for show, or was it a sign of dog friendliness?

Soon after Megan, Eric and their two young sons, Owen and Henry, and I were seated, my research question was answered. There were dogs of all kinds on the patio next to their patrons, from cocker spaniels to German shepherds.

In fact, soon after our menus came, we noticed a big dog starting to bark at a little dog, perhaps over an invasion of canine space. However, the owners of both dogs soon restored peace and quiet, and the rest of the patrons, including Owen and Henry, relaxed.

One thing I’ve noticed is that people who bring dogs onto restaurant patios almost always control their animals. Maybe that’s because dogs that enter patio restaurants have a generally calm temperament. Or maybe control is a result of trial and error, and owners whose dogs err don’t bring them back to dine.

Canine control was the norm at The Lazy Dog. All of the dozen or so dogs on the patio the afternoon we dined there were well behaved, and even a small infraction like a bark was quickly quelled.

When we asked our server why The Lazy Dog attracted so many dogs, he explained, “Another popular restaurant down the street just banned dogs from its patio, so we’ve gained a lot of their customers.”

I felt even better about The Lazy Dog knowing about their willingness to befriend dogs when another place wouldn’t. Count me in as a friend of any dog-friendly restaurant.

I had other adventures and explorations in Texas. I traveled its ubiquitous toll roads, which collected quite a bit of my California dollars. And I spent a lot of time at Love Field, the airport in Dallas — much more than I really wanted

The main outcome of my Texas research, however, was discovering there is at least one dog-friendly restaurant, and it will have me as repeat customer the next time I’m brave enough to visit that state.

John Spevak wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. His email is john.spevak@gmail.com