Get your best friend out of the (dog) house! Read on for our city’s hottest spots for well, Spot.
by Ian Kretz
Just because summer’s coming to an end, doesn’t mean you should stop making the outdoors your playground. And for all of us doggie lovers, no family outing is complete without our pups by our sides. Fortunately, digging up exciting and enjoyable experiences we can share with our dogs right here at home is, sometimes literally, a walk in the park. Here are some of our favorite, distinctly Houstonian destinations where your whole family can have a ball together this season.
Why it’s a doggie do: The Barnaby’s Café franchise offers Houston’s best-loved doggie dining experience by far. What began in Montrose as a comfortable neighborhood café and tribute to the owner’s departed childhood best friend, Barnaby the Sheepdog, has expanded into eight locations spread among some of Houston’s most recognizable neighborhoods, from The Heights and Memorial to Midtown and Downtown. Each location is dog friendly, though some are friendlier than others; the River Oaks location, in particular, has the same quirky menu as the others but the most spacious patio area, where Fido foodies are invited to sit with their families and enjoy a relaxed evening.
H Texas recommends: Barnaby’s French Dip sandwich, served on fresh bread with natural au jus, makes for a decadent diner classic, and every salad on the menu is fresh, surprising and generous (smaller sizes are available, too). Kids will love the burgers, hot dogs and warm brownies served à la mode. Dog biscuits and water will make your pooch’s evening extra special.
For more information: www.barnabyscafe.com
Why it’s a doggie do: Saint Dane’s is a fantastic bar to take your children to…as long as your children walk on four legs and prefer barking to talking. One of the few Midtown bars that welcome fur babies, Saint Dane’s prides itself on having “plasmas everywhere you look,” making any spot ideal for watching the big game. Wood-framed, raised tables and plenty of neon lend the bar a dive-y quality that belies a well-stocked bar with daily drink specials and a draft beer selection that will impress. Dogs will love lounging on the covered porch or on the street front before a spectacular view of Downtown; all the game day excitement is sure to keep them entertained.
H Texas recommends: The “Wes” Burger, served with a fried egg on top, is one of Houston’s great bar burgers (available at lunchtime as a special), and the Sweet Chili Lime buffalo wings are crispy to a fault and offer a flavor (and how) off the beaten bar fare path. Live music (most Saturday nights) includes a selection of classic rock favorites; bands usually take requests, so be sure to ask for “Hound Dog.”
For more information: www.saintdanes.com
Why it’s a doggie do: Even dogs appreciate the finer things in life, and despite its name and buttoned-up British air, all breeds are welcome to enjoy a dining experience worth begging for at The Black Labrador. Since 1986, this English-style pub, a favorite of Houstonians, has served a mix of authentic British cuisine and more familiar fare in a meticulously recreated English-pub atmosphere. The interior is warm and bright, with characteristically low ceilings and wood paneling aplenty, while the outdoor seating area (complete with cobblestones) is airy, comfortable and shaded by a canopy of trees—perfect for an after-lunch dog nap. All in all, The Black Labrador offers a quiet, distinctly British environment to enjoy delicious food with English Mastiffs, Scottish Terriers and everything in between.
H Texas recommends: The mussels on the appetizer menu are a bountiful yet light entrée to any of the traditional English menu items, including piping hot, flaky Beef Wellington and classic English-style Fish & Chips. The Black Labrador Pub exceeds the promise of its name, offering an exhaustive roster of delicious beers that pair well with any dish. Sunday brunch begins at 11 a.m., and the Bangers & Mash hounds of Houston tend to come running-—be sure to get there early for a cozy table outside.
For more information: www.blacklabradorpub.com
Why it’s a doggie do: Reward your dog with a trip to Good Dog Houston, where local ingredients and that American standard, the hot dog, are celebrated par excellence. The restaurant gained its pack of loyal followers during its incarnation as a favorite food truck before setting up a permanent shop in The Heights. You’ll find a curated menu of one-of-a-kind franks (including tofu dogs), handcrafted toppings, classic sides and an ever-changing selection of locally sourced beers on tap. Good dogs and humans alike will find plenty of space on the comfortable outdoor deck to enjoy these highbrow hot dogs.
H Texas recommends: The Texican Dog is a spicy, South-of-the-Border dream that combines refried black beans, Oaxaca cheese, avocado, pickled jalapeños and fresh vegetables atop a perfectly cooked frank. The Fried Corny Dog, served with signature sriracha ketchup, is the be-all, end-all ideal corndog. The average price of one of these masterpieces is about $7, so don’t forget to order something for Rover.
For more information: www.gooddoghouston.com
Why it’s a doggie do: Think of Bill Archer Bark Park as Houston’s doggie Disneyworld. Located north of I-10, about halfway between Houston and Katy, the park features more than 20 acres of off-leash play space for your pup. These expansive, beautiful grounds alone make the park well worth the trip (about a 30-minute drive from Downtown), and attractions like canine agility equipment for large and small breeds and swimming ponds seal the deal. Extensive, manicured walking trails and shaded benches provide relaxing options for owners and those dogs deemed people persons.
H Texas recommends: The park is open from 7 a.m. until dusk, so peak hours tend to coincide with evening free time during the workweek, while weekend days are busy throughout. Depending on your dog’s temperament around other dogs, you may want to plan your trip accordingly. Note: All the usual dog park rules apply, including no outside food or drink (for either you or your pet), so be sure you both have a snack before your outdoor romp. Water fountains for two- and four-legged friends are available inside the park.
For more information: www.visithoustontexas.com
Why it’s a doggie do: This dog park gives adventurous pups a chance to walk or run on the wild side. Gene Green Beltway 8 Dog Park, located about 20 minutes from Downtown, on the northeast side, boasts, in addition to spacious grounds, off-leash play areas and other standard dog park attractions, several areas of natural Texas brush and flora that offer all dogs, particularly sporting breeds, an opportunity to use their instincts and get in touch with their wolfish ancestors. For those dogs that don’t know they are of the canine species, manicured green space enjoyed from one of many shaded benches offers all of nature’s best aspects.
H Texas recommends: The equally top-flight splash park, skate park and children’s playground at Gene Green Beltway 8 Park will be difficult for younger kids to resist for any length of time; be sure to bring swimwear, skateboards and another adult to supervise the kids in their own adventures without taking any time out of Rover’s. Don’t forget the camera!
For more information: www.hcp1.net/Parks/GeneGreen.aspx
Why it’s a doggie do: Hotel Derek is arguably Houston’s most lavish and popular boutique destination hotel. Located a stone’s throw from The Galleria in Uptown, Hotel Derek is a beacon of contemporary glamour in our city. Elegant, comfortable rooms and refined dining, spas and amenities are perfect for Houstonians looking for a luxurious staycation or travelers who prefer to do so in style. Best of all, Hotel Derek is dog friendly, with several unique amenities geared specifically toward pups. Pets do stay for an additional fee, a large portion of which is donated to the Houston SPCA. Your pooch will thank you for, and quickly become used to, a seat in the lap of luxury over a splendid stay at Hotel Derek.
H Texas recommends: Dog-friendly rooms are all on the “dedicated pet floor” with convenient outdoor access for making such trips fast and easy. However, space is limited, so be sure to book your room well in advance. For pampered pooches, the recently unveiled Wag Lounge is an unforgettable relaxation destination located just down the hall from your suite. Beyond the hotel, Memorial Park, just five minutes away, offers exciting possibilities for doggie daytrips.
For more information: www.hotelderek.com/about/pet-friendly-hotels-houston
Why it’s a doggie do: Discovery Green in Downtown Houston is a vibrant, verdant oasis hidden among the buildings and bustle of our city’s center. With athletic fields and walking trails, jungle gyms and paddleboats, and of course, plenty of greenery, Discovery Green has something for everyone, including dogs. Pups are sure to enjoy the more literal jungle within the urban one; the shaded off-leash dog runs (one for large dogs, one for small) offer a chance to play in a new environment filled with fascinating sights and sounds. And when your pup is all done, feel free to leash him up and take him on a tour of the larger Discovery Green area for an even more vivid day of adventure.
H Texas recommends: From outdoor art installations and film to ice skating and free yoga and Pilates classes, something fun is always going on at Discovery Green. Try to time your dog park trip to take advantage of interesting and usually free community activities. A full events calendar is available on the Discovery Green website.
For more information: www.discoverygreen.com/the-dog-runs H