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Tag: restaurants

Dog walks into a bar

acebar


Our forefathers may have overlooked listing it in the Constitution, but I’d rank it up there with free speech, religious freedom and the right to bear arms… maybe even above the right to bear arms:

It’s the right to get a beer at a bar with your dog — one of life’s true pleasures, assuming you love beer and love dogs (and assuming it’s cool with the bar owner).

SONY DSCI’ve always felt, and often written, that allowing dogs into a drinking establishment — especially one that doesn’t serve food — is a decision that should be left up to individual tavern operators.

Local health departments, often, don’t see it that way, as was recently the case in New York City, where The Gate, a tavern in Park Slope, was told it can no longer allow patrons to come in with their dogs.

The city Department of Health based their order on a law prohibiting any live animal from being in a food service establishment.

The Gate is not a restaurant, but, under the law, beer, wine, booze and ice are considered foods.

Silly? Yes.

Unconstitutional? Should be, I say, tongue not entirely in cheek.

All 50 states allow residents to carry concealed guns outside their homes. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio have laws specifically allowing guns in bars. Bar patrons in South Carolina and North Carolina also aren’t required to disarm when entering a bar.

Twenty states, including New York and New Jersey, do not address the question of guns in bars at all.

It makes me uncomfortable, living in a world (and a state) where guns have more rights, privileges and protections than dogs.

And it gives me pause (not paws, for that would be a pun), that local health departments can get so worked up about a hound sleeping on a bar floor when Ebola is at our doorstep. Don’t they have more important things to do?

But back to The Gate.

After the health department laid down the law at the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, management posted a sign on the door of the tavern, saying, “with apologies to our furry friends,” dogs could no longer be allowed.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn pet owners have started a petition on the website Park Slope for Pets (see the upper right corner of that page) asking the Health Department to “allow dogs at The Gate” and reclassify bars that don’t serve food. As of this morning, nearly 600 signatures had been collected.

“We support The Gate’s dog-friendly status in the neighborhood as well as all other non-food drinking establishments that welcome dogs,” the petition’s sponsors say. “We are not looking for an exception for The Gate but rather a revision to the statute with regard to all non-food drinking establishments.”

SONY DSCI hold an even more radical stance. I’m for letting well-behaved dogs into places that do serve food, and even inside, as opposed to the patio (given it’s OK with the owner).

I’m more concerned with what’s going on unseen in the kitchen than the possibility of evil germs hopping off a dog and onto my plate of mozzarella sticks.

If its OK for service dogs to go inside restaurants, it should be OK for all well-socialized dogs — because all dogs, in a way, are service dogs.

My dog Ace, a one-time therapy dog who now counsels only me (and at a very reasonable fee) grew up spending some time (but not an inordinate amount of time) at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore I patronized.

I like to think he added to the bar’s character, and warmth, and friendliness, and vice versa. Admittedly, he also served as a social crutch for me, making conversations easier to start, making me more comfortable, keeping me from getting too tongue tied.

Just as dogs need to be socialized, so do we. And dogs and bars — independently and especially in combination — can help those of us who have difficulty in that area achieve that.

Dogs in bars lead to more social dogs, and more social people. (With the exception of those humans who are aghast by the prospect of a dog in a bar or restaurant and feel the need to file an official complaint, as opposed to just avoiding the establishment.)

“One of my favorite parts about going to The Gate was that I could enjoy a quiet night out without the lingering guilt of knowing my dog was waiting for me at home,” one dog owner told Park Slope Stoop. “… It’s disappointing that they are losing part of their character because of the DOH’s overreach in enforcing the Health Law.”

thegateWhile the city health department is barking out orders, the proprietor of The Gate, we’re pleased to read, isn’t just going to roll over.

The Gate’s owner, Bobby Gagnon, reportedly plans to fight the health department edict when he appears before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on Nov. 18 — not so much to be granted an exception as to clarify the law.

Dog owners need to push back from time to time, as opposed to just letting themselves be pushed around. I think that happens because dog owners are generally calm, easy-going, reasonable, level-headed people (thanks, at least in part, to their dogs), and because they realize having a dog — whether it’s a right or not — is truly a privilege.

Maybe if dog owners got political, played dirty, sported bumper stickers and insisted on exercising the right to have a Bud with their bud, we could resolve the problem, short of a Constitutional amendment.

Maybe if dog owners could be as strident and overbearing as gun lobbyists, they could enjoy more freedoms with their dogs.

Maybe, when authorities come to take our dogs out of a bar in which he or she is otherwise welcome, we should say, “Sure, you can take my dog out of this establishment … when you pry the leash out of my cold dead fingers.”

Maybe someday the Supreme Court will address the burning questions: Is ice food? And even if so, do we have a right to walk into a bar with our dog?

I’m sure critics will say it’s frivolous of me to compare taking your terrier to a tavern with our right to tote firearms, or our Constitutionally granted freedoms of religion and speech.

But are they really that different?

My dog protects me, like a gun. My dog nourishes and consoles me, like a religion. And he frees up my speech better than the First Amendment ever did.

(Photos: Ace and his friend Stringer at a Recreation Billiards, a dog friendly bar in Winston-Salem, Ace at The Dog Bar in Charlotte, and a Great Dane at The Dog Bar, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; sign outside The Gate in New York, from Park Slope Stoop)

Is dog meat on the way out in South Korea?

oh

Daegyo, a Seoul restaurant famous for its dog meat-based offerings, is closing shop — just the latest sign that, as the popularity of dogs as pets increases in South Korea, the centuries-old tradition of eating them is on its way out.

Between the rise of a younger generation, with a deeper affinity to dogs as pets, and a burgeoning animal welfare movement, the consumption of dog meat has been declining steadily — so much so that the owner of Daegyo, at least, has come to see there’s no future in serving it to diners.

Oh Keum-il says Daegyo, which opened in a Seoul alley in 1981, will serve its last bowl of boshintang, or dog stew, today.

Oh, both chef and owner of the restaurant, is known for the dog meat dishes she developed and served for over three decades. But she has noticed that the popularity of dog meat  is mostly limited to older customers.

“There is too much generational gap in boshintang. There are no young customers,” she is quoted as saying in an Associated Press report featured in USA Today.

“The closure of Oh’s restaurant, dubbed by a local newspaper as the “Holy Land of boshintang” and frequented by two former presidents, Lee Myung-bak and late Roh Moo-hyun, shows one view of dogs is gaining more traction among young South Koreans,” the article reports.

Oh plans to reopen her restaurant as a Korean beef barbecue diner.

It’s has been estimated more than 2 million dogs are killed each year for their meat in South Korea.

Butcher Shin Jang-gun, who supplies dog meat to restaurants, said the number of merchants selling dog meat  has shrunk to half of what it was. Between 700 and 800 restaurants in Seoul now serve it, he said. Once more than 1,500 did.

“Dog is not an industry with a long-term future,” Shin said. “New generations don’t eat a lot.”

Dogs are still raised as meat on farms in South Korea, and they are still killed and butchered to order at street markets in and around Seoul.

At the same time, about one in five South Korean households now have a cat or dog as a pet, and economic forecasters say that number is increasing. One institute says the pet industry is expected to grow six-fold — from less than a billion to about six billion dollars — between 2012 and 2020.

South Korea is also where dog was first cloned, and the only country in which dogs are being cloned. Farm raised dogs were frequently used as surrogates and egg cell donors as that industry came into existence — not to produce meat, but to allow bereaved pet owners to get laboratory-made duplicates of their dogs.

(Photo: Lee Jin-Man / Associated Press)

Privileged Pooch: Going pupscale in SoCal

After perusing “The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet in Southern California,” I’ve decided if Ace and I ever run into author Maggie Espinosa and her dog, Marcel, on the road … they’re buying.

Unlike my Travels with Ace project, “The Privileged Pooch” – not to be confused with the fine pet boutique in Baltimore of the same name – is a guidebook that focuses on high end luxury travel with your pet.

“Now you can share Southern California’s celebrity lifestyle with your furry friend,” reads the summary on the back of the book. “The days of staying at substandard hotels and dining at drive-thru’s when traveling with the family pet are over.”

Not for me, they ain’t. But that’s not the point.

Espinosa’s point is that bringing a dog along on your trip no longer automatically relegates you to economy-level accommodations. And her book, provides plenty of examples, in highly readable form, of where you can stay, play and eat with your pet — in Palm Springs, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara and greater Los Angeles.

High-end establishments are starting to wise up to the fact that about 10 million pets each year vacation with their owners — and that many of those owners are from the demographic at which tourism-related businesses commonly take aim.

“The Privileged Pooch” lists 69 hotels (not a Motel 6 among them),  55 restaurants, 56 dog-friendly activities and 38 “trendy shops” where you and your dog are welcome.

Espinosa has done some culling, weeding out those establishments that have too many restrictions or silly and unrealistic weight limits. (For the dogs, I mean. Southern California doesn’t have weight limits for people. Yet.)

She uses a rating system of one wag to four wags for pet friendliness — one being “pooches permitted,” four being “pooches paradise.”

Maggie and Marcel

At the latter, you might find such features as special puppy menus, a “togetherness massage” for you and your dog (at Casa Laguna Inn & Spa) or ”blueberry and plum pet facials” at a dog-friendly spa called The Healthy Spot.

Espinosa and her bichon frise, Marcel, tested all 69 hotels, and each section of the book, region by region, includes recommendations for everything from dog-friendly beaches to emergency veterinary care.

Our favorite example was the Doggie Bus in Tustin, which totes dogs and their humans to the beach at no charge. An Orange County man started providing the service not to get rich, but simply because he enjoyed doing it.

Now that’s dog-friendly.

Dining with dog? Maryland makes it legal

Maryland restaurants may allow dogs in their outdoor seating areas as of July 1 under a bill approved by the Senate yesterday and headed for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk for final approval.

O’Malley, whose family has two dogs, is expected to sign the bill, the Baltimore Sun reports on its Maryland Politics blog.

The bill permits restaurants with outdoor patios and tables to welcome dogs, if they want to.

Del. Dan Morhaim sponsored the legislation, and said it will provide a financial boost for restaurants and bars heading into the outdoor dining season.

The Dining Out Growth Act of 2011 permits restaurants statewide to have outdoor space for humans and dogs to eat together — as is already the case in Frederick County, for which similar legislation was passed last year.

Opponents of the bill said it could lead to more dog bites and other health hazards.

Home sweet trailer

Say you forked over $650 to spend the month in a trailer in the desert – actually one of those big pull-it-yourself RV campers with popouts – and when you arrived the next day to move in, a little earlier than expected, you saw that not only were the pop-outs popped in, but the trailer was hitched to a truck, appearing as if it was ready to hit the highway.

Would you:

(A) Immediately assume you’d been scammed?

(B) Shoot first and ask questions later?

(C) Politely inquire as to what might be going on?

Fortunately I chose (C) when Ace and I pulled into Petite Acres last week to move into what, after six months on the road, we’d arranged to be our home – we presumed, a stationary one – for a month in Cave Creek, Arizona.

As it turned out, my landlady wasn’t hauling the trailer away, only moving it a few feet over so that I might enjoy my entire concrete slab patio, as opposed to just the half of it that the trailer wasn’t resting on.

After a week of trailer life, Ace and I (though I shouldn’t speak for him) couldn’t be happier.

I can sit at the dinette (across from the kitchenette — midway between the bedroomette and the living roomette) and blog while looking out my windowette and enjoying a view of the mountains, strutting quail and rabbits everywhere. At night, I hear whinnying horses and howling coyotes and a few other sounds, and soundettes, I haven’t identified yet.

Ace — when he’s not resting on my camping cot — likes to position himself at the end of the trailer, where he can lay in the shade and keep an eye on all that transpires at Petite Acres.

He has learned, somewhat, not to wander off to visit other trailers, though twice I’ve caught him at the homes of my two closest neighbors, where he tends to venture when they are cooking or eating.

One of them, who introduced himself as Romero, informed me that he didn’t mind Ace dropping by, but asked that I pick up any poop he might leave there, which, unknown to me, he had done yesterday. I apologized, and Romero, who was slow cooking some pork on an outside stovetop, was very  nice about it.

Romero’s dinner smelled so good that I couldn’t be too hard on Ace for the transgression. Besides, it had happened hours before.

We’ve yet to encounter any javelina, those wild pig-like creatures who roam in the desert nearby, but I thought one morning I heard some snorting outside the trailer. We have a woodpecker friend who hangs out on the telephone pole in my dusty yard, and other birds — since I generally keep the trailer door open — have wandered inside to look around.

Yesterday, I went outside to absorb some sun — not to tan, just to bake out the morning chill. I’d just about dozed off on my lounge chair when a bird landed on me. Feeling little webbed feet on my thigh, I jerked awake, scaring him off before I could see what kind it was.

I found my temporary home on Craigslist, and, though it’s a trailer, it’s actually wider than my former rowhome in Baltimore — at least when the pop-outs, in the living room and bedroom, are popped out. I worried a little bit about hitting the wrong switch while in bed and getting compacted — hydraulically turned into a John-ette — but it turns out keys need to be inserted for the pop outs to move.

My landlady, Tami, has been wonderful, jumping on any problems that arise, showing me the ropes of RV life, and intent on making sure — though I’m only here for three more weeks — that I feel at home.

She took me to the library to get a library card, introduced me to some of her dog-loving friends and left me stocked up with movies on DVD, since there’s no TV reception. She invited me to join her and some friends at the American Legion Hall last night.

Ace and I have checked out the biker bar next door, The Hideaway Grill, enjoying some nice time there before being informed that, because of a recent incident involving a customer tripping over a leash, dogs are no longer invited to sit on the patio, at least not on busy  nights. Last night, I visited the next closest bar, The Buffalo Chip, where Wednesday nights feature bull riding. Not mechanical bulls. Real ones. Dogs are welcome there, but not on bull riding night, or Friday nights, so Ace stayed home. I didn’t ride a bull. Maybe next week.

We’ve found some nice spots to romp nearby — down the dry river bed just a few hundred yards away, at the foot of a mountain across the street, and a conservation area just a short drive away.

In addition to not getting TV reception – maybe a good thing — we don’t get mail delivery, and I have to walk my trailer trash down to the Dumpster next to the biker bar.

We’ve had some minor plumbing issues — the trailer, not me — but they were quickly resolved. (Oh, and that missing dental crown? I found it on the car floor while unpacking, and have reinstalled it in my mouth.)

I couldn’t imagine pulling this trailer — it’s a late 90′s Sea Breeze — down the highway, getting it leveled and hooked up at every stop, but, sitting still, it makes for a cozy little home that sways only slightly when Ace jumps on or off the bed or the couch.

I’ve thought I should give it a name, like John Steinbeck did with his camper, Rocinante. (Feel free to submit nominations.) There’s one I like — it’s both modest and Spanish-sounding — but it isn’t original. I saw it etched into a sign at a gift shop:

Almosta Ranch.

Woof on the wharf: A doggie menu

Ace and I were strolling down Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey – a place where one can make a meal out of the free samples of clam chowder offered by hawkers trying to lure you into their establishments.

Rather than mooch samples all afternoon, though, and in need of more copious amounts of chowder, I started eyeing the restaurants, looking for an affordable one with outdoor seating — one that might permit Ace to sit with me and watch me while I ate.

That’s when the hostess at Cafe Fina called out. Well, she didn’t really call out — the city has cracked down on that practice. Instead she quietly and casually mentioned:

“We have a doggie menu.”

When I approached, she went on to explain that Cafe Fina had some pretty good human food, too, and how the restaurant grew many of its own vegetables and how they were organic.

But she had us at doggie menu.

It offered “Chicken a la pooch,” “Hungry pup’s half pounder,” “Hound dog heaven,” and a 14-ounce steak that went for $15.95

We were offered our choice of patio seats and got situated, and I ordered the half-pound burger for Ace, clam chowder in a bread bowl for myself.

The hostess came out with a treat, which of course made Ace get unsituated, so that he might paw her arm in a gesture of affection, which really translated into “I’ll have that dog treat. NOW.”

With some work, I got him back down, but he was nearly trembling with excitement — if not in anticipation of the burger, at least by the noises and scents that emanated from the kitchen, which was on the other side of an open window just a few feet away.

It was chilly, with intermittent rain showers, but the canopy protected us and it was a perfect spot for people watching.

Ace had other ideas.

He took a seat right in front of the window, watching intently as the chef ladled my clam chowder into the bread bowl, its severed lid covered with melted cheese and garlic.

Yes, we were luxuriating a bit — forgetting for the moment about our budgetary limits, and straying from our near steady diet of fast food “Value Meals.”

I saw no reason we couldn’t live it up — at least for one meal.

I think maybe we were both drooling a bit when it finally arrived.

His burger, cut into bite-sized chunks, was steaming, so I kept it on the tabletop for a minute. He waited impatiently — somehow seemingly knowing it was for him. Rather than just sit still and hope I’d toss him a piece, he was up and down, up and down, wriggling this way and that.

Finally, I set it down before him, and it was gone in less than five seconds — inhaled almost as opposed to chewed.

The check came to $17 — more than we’ve been spending on dinner, much less lunch.

How much was it worth?

Every penny of it.

Compromising principles in Coeur d’Alene

If I’m a senior citizen — and I do not consider myself such — then so is Denny’s, which makes me wonder why they are trying to kill me.

While Denny’s has more than 1,500 outlets across the country, we haven’t stopped at them on our trip across America, vaguely recollecting some of the chain’s restaurants were accused of discriminating against black customers at some point in its 57-year history.

It’s the same reason – 21 years after the oil spill in Alaska – I still don’t gas up at Exxon stations (unless it’s the only choice at the exit, or their prices are the lowest). It’s my way-outdated and somewhat variable sense of social justice – old grudges still held against corporations, often long after I’ve forgotten why I’m holding them, and easily overlooked if the price is right.

I’m willing to let bygones be bygones if you let a couple of decades pass, and tempt me with a “Value Meal.” It helps, too, if you’ve cleaned up your act in the interim.

So, passing through Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, I pulled in under the bright yellow sign, told Ace I’d only be a minute, and went inside for a quick bite — fully intending, of course, as we did with the Waffle House, to share the experience with you, the reader.

By way of history, Denny’s, like the Waffle House, started off as one restaurant — actually a donut shop, named Danny’s Donuts, in Lakewood, California. It had 20 locations by 1959, when the name was changed to Denny’s to avoid confusion with another chain called ”Doughnut Dan’s.” In 1977, it would introduce its “Grand Slam Breakfasts,” reportedly in honor of Hank Aaron.

In the 1990s, Denny’s was named in a class action suit filed by African-American customers who claimed they’d been refused service and forced to wait longer or pay more than white customers. The case resulted in a $54.4 million settlement in 1994.

After that, Denny’s created a racial sensitivity training program for its employees, and began running advertisements featuring Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford, from the television show, “The Jeffersons.” In 2001, Fortune magazine named Denny’s the “Best Company for Minorities.”

This year, though, Denny’s came under ethnic fire again, for a commercial that used the 150th anniversary of the Irish potato famine, which left more than a million dead, to promote an all-you-can-eat french fries and pancakes offer. It later apologized and pulled the ad.

My visit to Denny’s was the first in a year or so, so I took some time familiarizing myself with the multi-page menu. There was a page of special entrees for people 55 and over (quite an arbitrary cut off point, in my view), and another page of ”Value Menu” items (not restricted to old farts) – low-priced entrees that the restaurant seems to make up for with higher prices for everything else (including $2 sodas).

Among the Value Menu offerings, at $4, was the “Fried Cheese Melt.”

It’s a grilled cheese sandwich, with mozarella sticks embedded in the American cheese — that’s right, four breaded and deep fried sticks of cheese, on a bed of cheese, between two pieces of sourdough bread, buttered and fried.

Fortunately, the Fried Cheese Melt is not on the senior menu, because it would probably kill us after just a few bites — and by us, I mean both actual seniors and those of us still enjoying that frolicsome, vital and exploratory stage of life known as our fifties.

At 57 — the same age as me — Denny’s should be smart enough, sympatico enough not to thrust us 50-somethings into the category of seniors. Or at least, if they insist on doing so, offer us some sweeter deals.

That, of course, would make everything – even the Fried Cheese Melt — OK.

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