Dog park restaurants tap into $64 billion pet industry

Mutts Dog Patron

Joanna Fantozzi

Running in packs: Six concepts for dining with canine companions

Restaurants have become more welcoming to dogs in recent years, inviting them to dine on patios along with human companions in many cities. Now dog parks are becoming more welcoming to restaurants.

Unique dining and recreation options for pooches and their human parents are popping up across the country, particularly in Texas. Many even provide canine-appropriate refreshments alongside regular menu offerings, and some offer events like adopt-a-thons, all with the hope of carving out a piece of the estimated $64 billion people spend on their pets.

“A lot of times, dog people want to hang out with dog lovers,” said Natasha Muniz, co-owner of Doghouse Drinkery and Dog Park in Leander, Texas. “This gives people an opportunity to sit back and unwind with a beer and play with their dog at the same time.”

Here are six dog park/restaurant hybrids around the country — but mainly in Texas — where Fido can be free to wander around an enclosed area while his owner is equally free to drink and dine just a frisbee’s throw away.

Mutts Canine Cantina, Dallas 

Mutts Cantina is a franchised off-leash dog park concept famous for its human-friendly tequila “Barkaritas,” as well as the “Woof!” menu for well-behaved canines, featuring a frozen “pupsicle” and a dog-sized beef frank.

With corporate locations in Dallas and Fort Worth, Mutts recently announced its first franchise agreement, with three units planned in Austin over the next three years. The concept was created in Dallas in 2013 — with Fort Worth opening in 2018 — by Kyle Noonan and Josh Sepkowitz, founders of Dallas-based FreeRange Concepts.

Mutts has aspirations to expand to 40 major markets in the U.S., with Arizona and Nevada at the top of the list.

Each Cantina — where dog owners and bar patrons can sit down and enjoy a fried chicken sandwich, burger or milkshake — is situated on about 1,100 square feet of land with two enclosed dog runs on three-quarters of an acre for their four-legged friends. There’s also free WiFi, televisions, a dog washing area, and “bark rangers,” who keep the park tidy.

“Mutts wanted to offer more than a dog-friendly restaurant and aims to provide a guest experience that’s outside the ordinary,” a representative from Mutts said. “It’s an actual urban oasis for guests and their four-legged best friends.”

Mutts offers a daily ($5.95), monthly ($15.95), or annual membership ($119.40). Customers spend an average check of $14.35 for food and drink, not including membership fees. Members and guests can also take advantage of events like movie nights, dog birthday parties and “yappy hours.”

Bar K, Kansas City, Mo.

As a dog-friendly destination, Bar K wears many hats: bar, restaurant, outdoor patio, and coffeehouse situated in the middle of a two-acre dog park. Kansas City’s first dog park restaurant initially had a “pup-up” location before transferring to its permanent home in August 2018, according to founding partner Leib Dodell, who owns and operates the bar with his partner David Hensley.

Dog-loving patrons can enjoy a menu of American classics for breakfast, lunch or dinner like burgers, salads and bowls for an average check of $14 per person, as well as a separate menu for their furry friends, who can chow down on beef stew, doggie breakfast burritos, and homemade pup-friendly cookies.

For guests who want their dogs to run around freely, guest passes cost $10 and annual membership is $225. Bar K hosts daily unique events, like a dog-speed-dating date night, as well as events dedicated to puppies, service dogs, and specific breeds. If your dog gets muddy from rolling around in the play area with his new friends, Bar K also offers convenient in-house grooming services.

Bar K currently has plans to expand across the country, but no specific markets or locations have been nailed down.

Doghouse Drinkery, Leander, Texas

When Natasha Muniz and Jodie Hooks opened Doghouse Drinkery in 2013, it was one of the first dog park/restaurant hybrid of its kind in the Austin area — a city that’s currently home to several dog-friendly parks and eateries. Doghouse Drinkery is situated in the middle of a half-acre dog park attached to a 1,300-square foot bar.

Although the drinks offered inside the bar and the food truck parked outside the bar on weekends are mainly for humans — with an average check of $25 per person — pups are allowed both indoors and outdoors and can cool off with homemade, seasonal “pupsicles.”

Inside the privately-owned park itself, Doghouse Drinkery provides tennis balls and water for dogs, and guest passes cost $5, while annual memberships cost $75, with a two-dog maximum. An adjacent 10,000-square-foot park offers dog-training sessions for canine refinement.

Once a month, Doghouse Drinkery hosts an event that raises money for local nonprofit animal shelters and rescue groups with 20 percent of sales going to charity. Starting in June, the dog park will also host a Bow Wow Film Festival featuring short films about dogs.

Yard Bar, Austin

Situated on a 20,000-square foot dog park also staffed by “bark rangers,” Yard Bar is another dog park restaurant in Austin, which opened in 2015.

Pets can play while their owners enjoy sliders, salads, hush puppies, fried chicken, sandwiches and more indoors, or on the outdoor porch. For the dogs, there are homemade dog treats, pup-friendly beer, ice cream or a Nathan’s hot dog. While humans can visit for free, dog guest passes cost $5.50 per dog, $20 for a five-visit pass, or $200 for an annual membership.

“I opened Yard Bar because I wanted to have a beer in the dog park,” Kristen Heaney, owner and founder of Yard Bar said. “I wanted to create a place where people could enjoy socializing as much as their dogs were. We’re cultivating community here.”

Yard Bar also hosts plenty of regular events and most recently had a Puppy Bowl party with adoptable dogs on-site.

Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden, Austin

This expansive beer garden opened in 2012 as a craft beer and homemade sausage epicenter, with a penchant for live country music events, pig roasts on Saturdays, and a dog-friendly atmosphere. The 1,800-person venue, founded by entrepreneur Ben Siegel on the famously dog-friendly Rainey Street, has an attached off-leash dog park.

“The neighborhood feel logically makes you want to go bar hopping with your furry friend, which is such a wonderfully Austin pastime,” said Karan Sethi, a representative for Bangers.

Beer and sausage are sold for an average check of about $20 per person and humans can order their dogs specialty “woofwurst” made of pork, beef, and vegetables.

Every month, Bangers hosts “Mega Mutt Monday” with dog-friendly vendors, giveaways and food specials.

The Watering Bowl, Denver

Claiming to be the only off-leash dog park bar in Colorado, the Watering Bowl — which was opened by entrepreneur Justin Henry in 2014 — has plenty of dog-loving clientele who enjoy the 7,000-square foot dog park with an attached heated area for the winter.

Admission is free, but humans can enjoy the 15 beers on tap, wings and appetizers for an average price of $9.35 per plate, or burgers, tacos, salads, and wraps for an average price of $11.64 per entrée, as well as family-sized pizzas for $18.75. Pups can chow down on dog treats for 80 cents each or a dog birthday cake for $18.

It’s a place where dog lovers can host private birthday parties and shelters host adoption events. Denver Comic Con also hosts an annual dog cosplay event at The Watering Bowl.

“People treat their dogs much like their own child, and many feel bad that they cannot take them out on the town with them,” Ryan Leopando, representative for The Watering Bowl said. “At the Watering Bowl, you get the best of both worlds.”

The Watering Bowl is scheduled to open its second location in Colorado this summer, which is expected to be three times the size of the current location.