The Dog Dates of Summer

STORY and PHOTOS BY LESLIE PLESSER , Vita.mn | Updated 8/14/2013

Try these five dog-friendly itineraries for social outings around the Twin Cities.

We all agree that summer in Minnesota can be bliss — you have patios and the lakes and (hopefully) beautiful weather. Which makes it that much harder to leave your dog at home when you head out on the town. You know that guilting look that’s thrown your way when you ease your way toward the door with keys in hand.

But have you considered bringing your pooch with you? Not to Target or the grocery store — but how about on dates?

“Having a dog around on a first date is especially fun because it instantly gives you something to talk about, and you can see how the other person reacts around your animal,” says Angie Gwiazdon, founder of K-9 Connection, a Twin Cities social group that creates monthly events for dog owners.

We’ve come up with five dates around the Twin Cities where you can have a great time out — and bring your dog.

 

UPTOWN MINNEAPOLIS

LUCIA’S

1432 W 31st St., • 612-825-1572 • www.lucias.com

The food’s superb, and there are wonderful patios. The staff provides a bowl of water for Fido upon your arrival, and when your food arrives, a side of homemade dog treats fresh from their bakery is included. The staff is super-dog-friendly (many come over to pet your pup), and the people-watching is great, as well. Caveat: Lucia’s tables are pretty close together, so it can get tight. The poor staff had to keep climbing over our 75-lb. collie. This place is probably best for small to medium-sized dogs.

MAGERS & QUINN BOOKSELLERS

3038 Hennepin Av. S. • 612-822-4611 • www.magersandquinn.com

Next, head here to browse the books. The selection is top-notch, and dogs love to roam the isles, sniffing each corner. The store also has its own dogs — Emma (a Yorkie), Wanda (a Yorkie/shih tzu mix), Tuula (a poodle/min-pin mix) and Trudy (a Havanese) — which provides excitement for everyone. Besides the dog factor, perusing books is a great way to suss out what you and your date have in common. Does he read mostly self-help? Is she trying to get rich quick? Is he a huge fan of classic lit? You get my drift.

DOG YOGA

6:30-7:45 p.m. Wed. • Thomas Beach, Lake Calhoun • $15/$12 for your date • www.k9-connection.com

Another great option in Uptown is exercise. If you really want to get creative, take the dog yoga class (a k a Doga) offered on the south side of Lake Calhoun on Aug. 21. The beginner-friendly class is geared as a time to connect with your pup and stretch (and laugh at the dog shenanigans).

Instructor Tracy Miller explains that dog yoga isn’t so much about teaching your pup how to do yoga as it is using your dog as a prop during your practice, focusing your energy on the dog to help keep you present. Plus, practicing with man’s best friend while taking in the view of the skyline is pretty nice.

The class begins with 15 minutes of “socialization” so the dogs and owners can meet and hopefully get all of the greetings out of their system. That said, if you have a barking dog, this might not be the best class for you. My collie was so excited that he barked the entire class, which I’m pretty sure left no one in a zen state.

SMITTEN KITTEN

3010 Lyndale Av. S. • 612-721-6088 • www.smittenkittenonline.com

If your date is going extremely well, the indie sex shop Smitten Kitten is also dog-friendly (ironically). A stop there on your way home might be appropriate. Just a thought.

 

NORTHEAST & NORTH MINNEAPOLIS

MPLS PHOTO CENTER

2400 N. 2nd St. • 612-643-3511 • www.mplsphotocenter.com

Yes, the Photo Center allows pups in their gallery. On top of that, they have a dog photography exhibit (“Mary Ludington: The Nature of Dogs”) running through Sept. 1, so you can peruse the show with your dog at your side. The gallery is open until 5:30 p.m. It’s not air-conditioned, though, so you might want to avoid it on super-hot days.

ST. ANTHONY PARKWAY OFF-LEASH RECREATION AREA

700 St. Anthony Pkwy. • www.minneapolisparks.org

This dog park often has a good group of dogs, and it’s a great way to get your pooch a little exercise before heading to dinner. It’s heavily woodchipped, and there are several benches for you to sit on and chat while your dog runs around you. Note: You need to have an off-leash dog permit, or you could be fined. And bring an old towel so you can clean up your dog after all the running/rolling/digging.

THE SAMPLE ROOM

2124 NE. Marshall St. • 612-789-0333 • www.the-sample-room.com

One of the gems of Northeast, the Sample Room’s patio offers great shade and is the perfect size. The staff will bring out a bowl with ice water for your pup while you partake in delicious wine flights and tasting plates. Plus, Gluek Park is right next door, where you can take Rover for a bathroom break. It even has a drinking fountain at dog level.

PSYCHO SUZI’S

1900 NE. Marshall St. • 612-788-9069 • www.psychosuzis.com

If the quiet atmosphere of the Sample Room is not your cup of tea, you can easily substitute (or add on) Suzi’s. Dogs are allowed on the lower patio, and often get served water before their people counterparts. If you’re meeting a large group or other dogs, this is a good spot. You’ll likely need to wait about 30 minutes for a table, so make sure you can keep your pup occupied during that time (see Gluek Park, above).

 

DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS

BUTCHER & THE BOAR

1121 Hennepin Av. S. • 612-238-8888 • www.butcherandtheboar.com

The beer garden out back is a wonderful drinking hole for anyone, but it’s also a great spot to bring your pooch. The tables have plenty of room for your dog to maneuver around, and half of the patio is covered. In the colder months, they add space heaters and cover it fully. There’s a small garden near the parking lot where dogs can relieve themselves if needed.

BRIT’S PUB

1110 Nicollet Mall • 612-332-3908 • www.britspub.com

Another fun option is the bocce courts at Brit’s. The staff is clear that your dog must be in top form behavior-wise, and if you play bocce, your dog must always be attended by someone in your group. If you can meet these requirements, it’s a fun and unexpected date idea.

NORTH LOOP DOG PARK

3rd St. & 8th Av. N. • www.doggrounds.org

After your dog watches you eat, drink and play bocce, it’s only fair to take him or her to the nearest dog park to run off some energy. The North Loop park is small and tucked between lofts and industrial buildings, but it’s a nice spot to let them run free and chase tennis balls.

TOAST WINE BAR AND CAFE

415 N. 1st St. • 612-333-4305 • www.toastwine­bar­andcafe.com

This hidden gem is tucked away in the North Loop (walkable from the dog park), and is extremely dog-friendly. A bowl of ice water and even a few toys are supplied on the nice patio. The staff loves to greet the pups; as other dogs came and went, it was clear that they knew the regulars.

 

SOUTHWEST MINNEAPOLIS

PIZZERIA LOLA

5557 Xerxes Av. S. • 612-424-8334 • www.pizzerialola.com

I prefer late lunch here, since evening crowds scare me and my pup away. In the middle of the afternoon, the patio is quiet and you can enjoy great conversation under an ample umbrella while your dog sips water from an adorable birch-bowl setup. The staff brings handmade dog biscuits provided by Minnesota Life College, and many servers will swing by to dole out head and belly rubs. If your dog enjoys children, many will approach your table and ask if it’s OK to pet your dog. Pro tip: Don’t get too full on pizza, because their ice cream is not to be missed.

FRANCE 44 WINE & SPIRITS

4351 France Av. S. • 612-925-3252 • www.france44.com

After filling up on pizza and ice cream (heaven on Earth), take things to the next level with a wine tasting. France 44 is dog-friendly (as long as you stay out of the deli), and offers free tastings 4-7 p.m. Friday and 1-6 p.m. Saturday. They break down the tastings by region, and it’s a wonderful way to pick up a few new bottles. A good practice is to get your sample and peruse the aisles with your dog so it doesn’t get bored. And if you end up purchasing a bottle or two, sometimes the cashier will surprise your pup with a treat. Bonus! Pro tip: On a hot day, a dog with a heavy coat might enjoy a stroll through the beer cooler.

SEBASTIAN JOE’S

4321 Upton Av. S. • 612-926-7916 • www.sebastian­joesicecream.com

If you foolishly skipped the ice cream at Lola, or you’re in need of a coffee, Seb Joe’s is another great neighborhood spot. The ice cream is divine, but the patio might be even better. A vending machine offers several flavors of dog treats for only 25 cents.

LAKE HARRIET

End the evening with music (and on Fridays, movies!) at the Lake Harriet Bandshell. Cuddle on a blanket and maybe pop open one of your new bottles of wine while listening to music and watching the sunset.

 

ST. PAUL/ EAST METRO

NGON VIETNAMESE BISTRO

799 W. University Av., St. Paul • 651-222-3301 • www.ngonbistro.com

One of my favorite restaurants in the metro, Ngon has a gorgeous patio that welcomes dogs and supplies water bowls. The food and the beer list are phenomenal — try the bún salad or the sweet potato ravioli. The patio is quiet, provides amazing shade and is a perfect spot for a romantic evening while your dog naps at your feet.

IZZY’S ICE CREAM

2034 Marshall Av., St. Paul • 651-603-1458 • www.izzysicecream.com

Check out the current flavors on Izzy’s website, which is updated every three minutes, then send your date in to pick up your scoop while you secure patio seating with your dog. Don’t forget to get a vanilla Izzy scoop for the hound, who will love you even more for remembering.

VALI-HI DRIVE IN

11260 Hudson Blvd. N., Lake Elmo • 651-436-7464 • www.valihi.com

There’s ample room for walks between movies, and the bonus of being in your car is that you can provide treats for your date and your dog as well. Food treats. Get your mind out of the gutter. Leave your dog in the back seat while you and your date occupy the front. Or, if it’s chilly, all three of you can pile in the back of an SUV and keep warm while watching the flick. Just be aware that if you’re seeing a movie that involves other dogs, “movie barking” can easily lead to “real-life barking.”

 

OTHER DOG-FRIENDLY SPOTS

UPTOWN

Barbette: 1600 W. Lake St., 612-827-5710, www.barbette.com.

Lake of the Isles Off-Leash Recreation Area: 2845 Lake of the Isles Pkwy., 612-230-6400, www.minneapolisparks.org.

Muddy Waters (until 5 p.m.): 2933 Lyndale Av. S. 612-872-2232, www.muddywatersmpls.com.

Paper Source: 3048 Hennepin Av. S., 612-377-0700, www.paper-source.com.

Tin Fish: 3000 E. Calhoun Pkwy., 612-823-5840, www.thetinfishrestaurants.com.

 

DOWNTOWN

Bar Lurcat: 1624 Harmon Pl., 612-486-5500, www.cafelurcat.com.

Clubhouse Jäger: 923 Washington Av. N., 332-2686, www.clubjager.com.

Electric Fetus: 2000 4th Av. S., 612-870-9300, www.electricfetus.com.

 

NORTHEAST

331 Club: 331 14th Av. NE., 612-331-1746 www.331.mn.

The Bulldog NE. (of course): 401 E. Hennepin Av., 612-378-2855, www.thebulldognortheast.com.

Red Stag Supperclub: 509 1st Av. NE., 612-767-7766, www.redstagsupperclub.com.

Punch Pizza: 201 E. Hennepin Av., 612-623-8114, www.punchpizza.com.

 

SOUTHWEST

Chatterbox Pub: 4501 France Av. S., 612-920-3221, www.chatterboxpub.net.

Trattoria Tosca: 3415 W. 44th St., 612-924-1900, www.trattoriatosca.com.

Turtle Bread Company: 3421 W. 44th St., 612-924-6013, www.turtlebread.com.

 

ST. PAUL

Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar: 308 E. Prince St., 651-228-9274, www.blackdogstpaul.com.

The Happy Gnome: 498 Selby Av., 651-287-2018, www.thehappygnome.com.

Shish: 1668 Grand Av., 651-690-2212, www.shishongrand.com.