FeaturesFood + Drink

Paws on Patios

Where to dine with doggies
by Marene Gustin  • Illustration by Caleb Smith

Finally, the heat and those pesky mosquitoes are history and it’s time to dine al fresco. And, for the first time in ages, it’s legal for foodies to take Fido with them to restaurant patios in Houston.

Sure, sure, there are eateries that have long welcomed pets on their patios, but an obscure City of Houston ordinance actually prohibited live animals where food was served: Section 20-21.28 (f) of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances reads: “Live animals, including birds and turtles, shall be excluded from within the food service area and from immediately adjacent areas under the control of the food establishment.”

And in 2006, someone (who had actually read that ordinance) complained to the city health department about dogs on Barnaby’s Café patio on Shepherd Drive. The establishment, named for the owner’s childhood sheepdog, was cited on August 5, 2006, and the No Dogs Allowed signs went up soon afterward.

Other restaurants followed suit as more anti-canine diners filed complaints. It was soon a dog-eat-dog world on restaurant patios. Some restaurants with dog-loving patrons were blissfully unaware of the restriction and continued to allow dogs. Some let favored diners sneak their dogs in, and others like Empire Cafe simply followed the rules and banned them. That’s where Pat Walsh was last year with his French spaniel rescue, Lucy, when he was politely asked to leave because of the ban.

But Walsh didn’t take it without barking. He started the Paws on Patios movement, wound up with something like 4,000 friends on his Facebook page, petitioned the city, and met with councilmembers and even the mayor.

The result was that the city created a variance to the ordinance, allowing restaurants to apply for a “Paws on Patios” permit. For a one-time fee of $110, eateries with an outside entrance and basic sanitation rules could get a city permit and signage allowing dogs on their patios.

But so far, only a few places have bit.

“We didn’t really expect a lot,” says Kathy Barton, spokesperson for the health department. “But those places that don’t have a permit and are allowing dogs on the patio will still be subject to fines. If we get a complaint, we will investigate.” Although she adds that if a restaurant is fined (starting at $50), they can retroactively apply for the permit, pay the fee, and get the fine dismissed.

“I think it’s really a matter of getting the word out to restaurants,” says Ryan Rice, the editor-in-chief of Life + Dog magazine. “The hard part is done—Patrick did a great job with Paws on Patios. Now we need to use the organization to educate restaurants.”

Rice and his husband, Brett Chisholm, are looking forward to taking their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Isabella, to dine on the patio of Barnaby’s, their favorite restaurant. “Now that the weather is cooler, it will be great,” he says.

So where can you legally take your dog to dine? As of press time, there were only five places with permits, and only a few more that have applied. These are the ones that are a sure bet.
Ziggy’s Bar & Grill
302 Fairview • 832.519.0476
Ziggy’s is a big supporter of Paws on Patios and was the first to fetch a permit the minute the variance went into effect. On September 22, they welcomed dogs to dine and shortly thereafter Pat Walsh, Lucy, and Mayor Annise Parker grabbed lunch on the patio. Ziggy’s is known for its healthy menu of American classics, and even offers vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s got a fun atmosphere and is a great place to hang with your pup. They even held a HOWLoween dog costume party there last month.

Barnaby’s Café
604 Fairview • 713.522.0106
1701 South Shepherd • 713.520.5131
5750 Woodway Dr. • 713.266.0046
After getting the first citation, Barnaby’s was only days behind Ziggy’s in getting one of the first permits to allow paws back on their patios. The Shepherd Drive location in particular has a beautiful patio with umbrella-covered tables and flowered fences, making it a great place to bring Rover for a Sunday morning brunch of their famous green eggs (green because they’re scrambled with spinach), grits, and mimosas.

Tila’s Restaurant & Bar
1111 S. Shepherd Dr. • 713.522.7652 • tilas.com
It didn’t take the popular Mexican watering hole Tila’s long to get with the pup program. Tila’s actually used to advertise their patio was dog-friendly, until the canine crackdown began. But now they can advertise again since they got their permit approved at the end of October. So go by and take that well-behaved Chihuahua for some kick-ass margaritas and a plate of grilled chicken enchiladas with mole—for you, that is. The dogs aren’t supposed to sit at the table and eat, but surely you can sneak them a bite under the table when no one’s looking.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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