It’s not uncommon for high-end restaurants to go above and beyond to make diners feel welcome. But at Michelin-starred seafood destination Angler on the Embarcadero, where there’s a live fire in the kitchen and photo-worthy bay views out front, the team is no longer just catering to their typical, well-heeled clientele. As of earlier this month, they’re also opening their arms, patio, and parklet to their customers’ four-legged friends. The restaurant recently launched a two-item menu just for dogs, letting pups of all sizes, ages, and colors enjoy a complimentary a salmon or chicken biscuit topped with “caviar” that’s made with canine-friendly ingredients by the restaurant’s award-winning culinary team.
And the seafood-centric stunner isn’t the only place where San Franciscans can not only dine out next to their pets, but also dine with them. A number of restaurants, from casual to high-end, are hoping to coax customers out of their pandemic dining routines by encouraging them to bring their dogs along to dinner.
Saison Hospitality Chief of Staff Jessica Kapoor says the idea for Angler’s menu came up after the staff noticed more people bringing their dogs to the restaurant. She’d also had conversations with pet owners who were reluctant to leave their dogs at home while they were out. “I think during quarantine a lot of people were at home by themselves, and I think their pets really helped them get through that time,” Kapoor says. “And going out to eat has been a celebration of people being able to be outside, and I think a lot of them have taken their dogs out with them, because they roughed it out through this period of time where they were at home in solitude.”
The pet adoption boom caused by pandemic-induced stay-home orders has been well documented. And despite much hand-wringing about all those “pandemic pups” being sent back to shelters, reports indicate the crisis has been largely side-stepped in San Francisco. But where then, aside from “at home” and “anxious,” does that leave those good boys and girls? Well, for at least some owners, the answer seems to be at restaurants — something that’s only become more achievable thanks to the massive expansion of outdoor dining space in the city, via all those now-permanent parklets.
Marina District Peruvian restaurant Jaranita, a more-casual spinoff of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana that opened in January, also announced a new Yappy Hour every Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m., during which time dogs get free treats and $1 from every cocktail purchased goes to local dog rescue Muttville. Of course, dogs are always welcome on the restaurant’s 40-seat parklet, but general manager Diego A. Pilares says the once-weekly event is a way for the restaurant to re-establish and bolster their connections with the neighborhood. “We’re obviously not the cookie cutter option for this,” he says. “[But] it just felt kind of natural. A lot of people got dogs during the pandemic and are starting to come out a little bit more. We want to make them feel at home here. ”
Tacolicious, a mini-chain of Mexican restaurants with three locations across the city, is going a similar route to Angler, not only welcoming pups but creating a menu of food options for them, too. Their weekly Barklet Happy Hour, which launched at the Marina location on October 6, means dogs owners can pay $6 to have the kitchen prepare a Happy Meal of chopped sweet potato and chicken thigh or $2 for a “churro” chew made with coconut oil and cinnamon — bowls of water, however, are free.
At Angler, Saison Hospitality Corporate Chef Brian Limoges — who’s spent time in the kitchen at some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants including Birdsong, Quince, and Atelier Crenn — admits he was skeptical when the team approached him about making food for dogs. “But, I mean, I approached it like I approach any other challenge,” he says, emphasizing that Angler’s dog menu is still rooted in the restaurant’s ethos of using high-quality ingredients and thoughtful preparation.
The resulting menu includes two options, both inspired by the restaurant’s signature caviar-topped banana pancake, which is not recommended for pup consumption. Limoges says the biscuits, which are shaped like either a bone or a fish, are made from oat flour the kitchen makes in-house, grilling the oats and then grinding them, and bananas that the team ripens to “their optimal nutrition level.” Even the chicken stock is prepared without alliums, which can be toxic to dogs. They then top them with Jinx brand salmon or chicken toppers, providing two options as an attempt to be sensitive to some dog’s dietary restrictions. All said and done, the treats might be the most delicious thing any dog has ever enjoyed. “I’ve eaten myself to make sure,” Limoges says, laughing.