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Dog-Friendly Date Spots

Where you can bring a pup – or two

Pooja Salhotra
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Pooja Salhotra

POOJA PLUS PEARL Buzz writer Pooja Salhotra has found her pup Pearl to be the perfect wingwoman. Here, the duo are pictured at Hermann Park, which features plenty of dog-friendly spaces and trails. (Photo: Michael Hoffman)

I’m no relationship expert, but I can offer one piece of wisdom from my years of online dating: Dogs make it better. Here are a few reasons I’ve taken to bringing my pup, Pearl, along with me on dates – and why you might consider bringing your pooch to your next date night, too. 

My No. 1 reason is safety. You can never be too cautious when meeting someone new, and when Pearl is around, nobody can try anything on me. Pearl, 4 and medium-sized, is a protective shield, with an attentive eye and a growl if needed. Even my parents are calmer knowing Pearl is by my side. 

Second, dogs are discerning and intuitive creatures who are skilled at perceiving potential threats and sniffing out bad vibes. And if you don’t feel ready to introduce your potential partner to human friends, your dog might be the next best thing, or better. I also like to scope out how my date feels about meeting my dog. If they are not excited, then I know I’m wasting my time.  

Your dog can also get you out of a sub-par date. Let’s say your date is a dud. If you have your dog with you, your escape is easy. It’s time for Pearl to be fed is my go-to excuse.

Finally, a date can be more fun with your dog. If your date is a dog owner, why not make it a double date?

You may think it would be a challenge to find enough dog-friendly date spots here in Houston, but there are plenty of places: restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and parks. Here are some of my favorites, as well as places I am excited to check out. (Of course, always check with your date before bringing your dog along to make sure they’re not afraid or allergic. And unless you’re in a designated dog run, keep your dog on a leash and be mindful of other people.) 

Dining

Leeland House

2119 Leeland St.; Wed.-Sun., 8 a.m-2 p.m.  

This café just east of downtown is a great spot for a weekend brunch date. With a covered patio, fresh coffee, and fruity cocktails, you can’t go wrong. (Pro tip: Order the Crème Brulee French Toast.) I brought Pearl on a Sunday brunch date, and she made friends with a nearby dog, Toro. The waitstaff was friendly, offering Pearl a bowl of water and lots of love. 

Barnaby’s Café 

Locations in River Oaks, the Heights, Midtown, Downtown, Museum District, Montrose, and Memorial; hours vary

This laid-back American café is a fun spot to take a date and your dog, whether it’s lunch, dinner, or brunch. 

Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino 

3215 Westheimer Road; Tues.-Sat., 4-9 p.m.

Located in River Oaks, this friendly, neighborhood Italian restaurant and wine spot knows how to treat your dog. They’ll offer a treat plus a bowl of water while you sip on wine, and they even donate the proceeds from their seasonal dessert to support the Rescued Pets Movement, which helps find homes for abandoned dogs and cats.  

Tacos A Go Go 

Locations in The Heights, Oak Forest, Downtown tunnels, and Cinco Ranch; hours vary

This funky and affordable Tex-Mex spot is known for its street tacos and laid-back atmosphere. There’s not much more I need in life than queso and dogs, so I’ll be at their dog-friendly patio soon (with or without a date). 

Izakaya 

318 Gray St.; Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-11 p.m.; Sat., noon-11 p.m.; Sun., noon-10 p.m.

This Japanese restaurant from the Azuma Group opened in Midtown in 2015 and quickly became my favorite ramen spot in Houston. Sit on the dog-friendly patio and order some Szechuan dumplings and tonkotsu ramen. 

Drinking

Kirby Ice House

Locations in Upper Kirby and Memorial; Mon.-Fri., 2 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. 

I love the sprawling, one-acre backyard area at the Upper Kirby bar. There are even lounge chairs and ceiling fans outside to keep you and your pup cool and comfy. 

Barkley’s 

2300 Louisiana St.; Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-midnight

Dogs take center stage at this Midtown patio bar and grill that features an off-leash dog park. Happy hour is known as Yappy Hour. Need I say more? 

Axelrad Beer Garden 

1517 Alabama St.; Mon.-Thurs., 2 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., noon-2 a.m.; Sun., noon-midnight

Axelrad is a low-key beer garden hangout in Midtown, offering fun concerts and events year-round. It’s right by Luigi’s Pizzeria and has backyard hammocks perfect for lounging. Take your date to drink and relax while your pup enjoys the lawn, the company, and, of course, the pizza crust. 

8th Wonder Brewery 

2202 Dallas St., Mon.-Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-8 p.m.

This East End brewery offers a ton of beer options and has an expansive back area called “WonderWorld” that’s dog-friendly. Since this is walking distance from Minute Maid Park, it’s a great pre-game spot the next time Minute Maid has its annual Dog Day.  

Saint Arnold Brewing Company

2000 Lyons Ave.; Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

The oldest craft brewery in Texas, Saint Arnold also features a beer garden and full-menu restaurant. Bring Fido to hang in the sun as you throw back a cold one and enjoy expansive views of the skyline from just north of downtown. With a giant outdoor screen, this is also an ideal spot to watch the Astros. 

Caffeinating

Coral Sword 

1318 Telephone Road, #2; Mon.-Sun., 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

Coral Sword is a neighborhood coffee and board games café in the Eastwood neighborhood. They host weekly Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons events, perfect for gamers. During the pandemic, the parking lot was transformed into a dog-friendly patio.

Siphon Coffee 

701 W Alabama St.; Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

The namesake siphon brew is perfect for sharing, along with a pastry or breakfast tacos. This Montrose coffee shop also has a solid iced coffee and a cute patio that welcomes dogs. 

Antidote Coffee  

729 Studewood St.; daily, 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. 

This quirky spot in the Heights offers both coffee and beer/wine, so it’s ideal if you and your date can’t decide whether you need a stimulant or a depressant. Their patio is pet friendly and filled with brightly colored tables and chairs. The only downside is limited nearby parking.

Parks and trails 

Discovery Green  

1500 McKinney St.; daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.

There’s always something going on in this sprawling, urban park in the heart of downtown, whether it’s a new art exhibit, a festival, or a concert. There’s two dog runs onsite where you can let your four-legged friend off the leash. And as The Grove restaurant has a first-floor patio deck that is entirely dog-friendly, you can spend a whole day here with your date and your dog. 

Market Square Park 

301 Milam St.; daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m

This urban space sits in a single square block of downtown, near The Alley Theatre and Jones Hall. The park has two dog runs with water features and canine drinking fountains. In the summer months, the park offers monthly movies on the lawn. With Niko Niko’s food truck located onsite, this is a perfect dinner and movie date night where your dog is welcome. 

TRAILS AND TAILS

TRAILS AND TAILS On the western edge of Memorial Park sits the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, a 155-acre nature sanctuary with trails, a bird sanctuary, and exhibits. The trails are free and dog-friendly – perfect for a date, or a double date. (Photo courtesy of Houston Arboretum)

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center 

4501 Woodway Dr.; daily, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. 

With more than five miles of nature trails, this is a fun date spot for the outdoorsy folks. The Arboretum sits within Memorial Park, Houston’s largest park, so you can even branch out to other areas, such as the new Eastern Glades or the 3-mile Seymour Lieberman Trail.  

Hermann Park  

6001 Fannin St.; daily, 6 a.m.-11 p.m. 

Hermann Park is a beautiful 445-acre urban park with plenty of dog-friendly spaces, including the hilltop Miller Outdoor Theatre, which offers free performances and films, plus the McGovern Centennial Gardens. 

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