Even the simplest restaurant meal or coffee shop visit turns into a memorable outing when you bring your dog. A growing number of dog-friendly chain restaurants and coffee houses are welcoming dogs on their patios. (US restaurants do not allow dogs other than service dogs indoors due to health regulations.)
You’ll find many local establishments that welcome you and your dog–just give your favorites a call– but we’ve also rounded up a list of chain restaurants that welcome dogs at many locations. Again, you’ll want to make a call to your local location because city ordinances–or even just a manager’s preferences–can mean that some locations do not permit dogs even if the restaurant has a patio with an exterior entrance. (And, in some cases, waitstaff only serve the outdoor tables during peak summer season. We’ve run into a few instances where we sat at the outdoor tables with the dogs but went inside to place and pick up our orders to enjoy on the patio, basically like takeout.)
If you are new to dog dining, be sure to check out our tips below on where your dog should sit (always on the ground, never in a chair) and what you should pack for an al fresco dinner with your dog.
Here’s a list of nationwide dog-friendly restaurants that just might say “bone appetit” to your dog. Check for locations near you then give them a call to see if you and your dog would be welcome on their patio!
- Applebee’s: Many Applebee’s locations have outdoor tables that welcome dog diners; call your local restaurant to check.
- Baja Fresh Mexican Grill: This chain is known for its all-fresh, fire-grilled dishes.
- Bruster’s Real Ice Cream: This popular chain doesn’t just welcome dogs on their patio but also offers them a special treat! According to the Bruster’s website, “Bring your dog with you into your neighborhood store, and they’ll be rewarded with a free Doggie Sundae. And you’ll be rewarded with their everlasting devotion.”
- Cracker Barrel: Call your local Cracker Barrel to ask if the porch (with those famous rocking chairs) is dog-friendly; many are.
- Dairy Queen: The drive-thru window of this popular chain offers free Pup Cups, vanilla soft serve topped with a dog biscuit! Ask if the patio is dog-friendly at your local Dairy Queen or drive through and head to your local park to enjoy.
- In-N-Out Burger: Not only are most In-N-Out Burger patios dog-friendly but they also offer two secret menu items for four-legged diners. The Pup Patty is a salt-free, unseasoned hamburger patty for dogs while the Flying Dutchman is two plain hamburger patties with two slices of cheese, for the big boys.
- Joe’s Crab Shack: Enjoy seafood while your dog hangs out with you at the restaurant’s outdoor tables.
- Johnny Rockets: Outdoor tables welcome dogs at many locations.
- La Madeline: We love having breakfast at La Madeline with our dogs; the large patio gives us all plenty of space, even on busy weekends.
- Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar: With a name like “Lazy Dog,” it’s no surprise that this eatery has its own dog menu! Order your dog a grilled hamburger patty or grilled chicken breast, either accompanied by brown rice, all to be enjoyed on the restaurant’s outdoor patio.
- Olive Garden: Not all Olive Garden locations have patio seating but, if yours does, ask if your dog can join you–many welcome dogs!
- Outback Steakhouse: Like Olive Garden, not all Outback Steakhouse locations have patio seating but, if you see it, it pays to ask if they permit dogs.
- Panera Bread: Just about every Panera location we’ve visited has welcomed dogs on the outdoor patio. One location even told us that single diners often order via the Panera app so food can be delivered to their outdoor table without having to go inside!
- Shake Shack: Shake Shack doesn’t just welcome your dog to join you on the patio, they also feature special offerings for your dog! Available at all US locations except those Shake Shack locations in stadiums, ballparks, and airports, the dog menu features the Pooch-ini®, vanilla custard with ShackBurger® dog biscuits (made especially for Shake Shake by New York City’s Bocce Bakery). This is a large treat so multiple dogs can share. You can also just opt for a Bag O’ Bones, five ShackBurger® dog biscuits.
- Sonic Drive-In: The car hops at many Sonic locations have dog treats in their aprons, a sign of the popularity of this drive-in with dog travelers. Along with eating in your car or taking your food to go, some locations also have patio seating that welcomes dogs; ask if yours permits dogs.
- Sprinkles Cupcakes: Enjoy dessert with your dog thanks to the sugar-free cupcakes frosted with yogurt-based goodness, all designed for dogs.
- Starbucks: Dogs are invited to join you on the patio of most Starbucks locations which also feature a secret menu item just for four-legged visitors: the Puppuccino, a free little cup of whipped cream.
13 Tips for Taking Your Dog to a Restaurant
We love to dine out with our dogs whenever possible so we’re always on the lookout for dog-friendly restaurants to add to our day trip list. It’s not always possible to take them but a growing number of restaurants are accepting of dogs on their patios and al fresco dining options. Living in Texas, we’re fortunate that our winters are usually mild enough to enjoy at least lunch on the patio (although summer lunches can be quite toasty so we often opt for breakfasts with the dogs during those months!)
(And for those of you wondering if you can take your dog inside a dog-friendly restaurant, the answer is almost always no. In general, U.S. restaurants do not permit pets indoors at restaurants, with the exception of service animals.)
Here are our tips for enjoying a dog-friendly restaurant with your dog:
1. Eat early or late.
Whether you pick the early bird special or you wait until the rush hour is done, select a time when the restaurant isn’t completely packed.
2. Make sure your dog is walked before you dine.
If possible, schedule a nice walk and potty break before visiting the restaurant. If your dog is hungry, feed your dog before going in the restaurant, allowing a half hour after the meal for a predictable potty time.
3. Look for restaurants with some elbow room.
We don’t like to be crowded and neither do our dogs. If you have large dogs, this is extra important. We also like restaurants with very easy to access patio areas (with more than one entrance, if possible). Dog-friendly patio restaurants have to accessible without walking through the restaurant itself.
4. Look for a corner table.
If you predict that the restaurant will get busy, ask for a corner table or one near the back. You won’t have to worry about one of the dogs being in the way as people try to walk through the patio restaurant.
5. Bring your own water dish.
We travel with both silicone water dishes (I purchased silicone cake pans at the thrift store and they work great both in the car and on location) and pop up bowls like this one.
6. Keep your dog on a short leash.
Unless it’s very warm, our dogs remain in the same dog harness they wear in the car, on a leash attached to me.
7. Bring a chew and/or treats.
Our dogs love a long-lasting bully stick or esophagus chew when we’re at restaurants–but some city ordinances prohibit feeding dogs on dog-friendly patios (this is rare). Even if it’s fine, be discreet and leave the smellier chews at home. Also, bring small training treats to redirect your dog’s attention if he should become too interest in fellow diners, other doggie diners, or all that food the waitstaff keeps walking by with!
8. Don’t tether your dog to the table.
This is a recipe for disaster of slapstick proportions. If you have a waist leash, this is a great time to use it to keep your dogs nearby. I have a small coupler that I use to attach the dogs’ leashes to my chair (again, not the table!); it doesn’t provide them any extra room to wander to adjacent tables or the aisle but it keeps my hands free for what we’re here for: dining! If I need to get up to go to the restroom, John comes to sit in my chair while I’m away.
9. Don’t feed or water your dog from restaurant plates.
We always carry a popup silicone bowl, attached to my dog walking bag, but many restaurants will be happy to bring out a bowl or carry-out container for your dog’s water. And never let your dog lick from the restaurant plate, even if that’s a practice you’re OK with at home.
10. Don’t permit your dog to sit in the restaurant chairs or on the table.
Yep, we’ve all seen the small dog sitting in the restaurant chair, often with his front feet on the table. Don’t be that person. All it takes is one complaint for a restaurant to reconsider its dog-friendly policy.
11. Bring a mat for your dog.
If the weather’s cold, bring a mat or blanket for your dog to enjoy; if it’s hot, a cooling mat can be a great relief. (Thanks, Something Wagging This Way Comes, for this great tip!)
12. Watch for discarded food beneath the table.
Let’s face it: even in the neatest establishments, discarded food from previous diners winds up beneath tables. When you sit down, make sure there are no tossed chicken bones or onion rings for Fido to find.
13. Don’t expect everyone to love your dog as much as you do.
Of course, we find our dogs immeasurably adorable but we know that not everyone shares our feelings. We try to keep the dogs as unobtrusive as possible before, during, and after the meal.
We love it when we receive good feedback from fellow diners and especially restaurant management. After a recent meal in Fredericksburg, Texas, the manager came over to us after the meal and asked to meet the dogs, saying they were “great dogs and so well behaved,” a sweeter end to our meal than the scrumptious dessert we’d just enjoyed!
Updated and revised. Portions of this post were first published in 2014.
What is YOUR favorite patio restaurant to enjoy with your dog? Please leave us a comment below!