Austin is such a dog-friendly town that it’s common to see the family pet in grocery stores, hardware stores, upscale retail stores and, yes, restaurants. Most eateries don’t allow the pets inside, but they provide sprawling outdoor areas with water bowls, and a few even offer extras such as snacks and toys. Here’s a sampling of the restaurants in town that are a little over-the-top in their love for dogs.
A dog-friendly hamburger joint on Lake Austin, Ski Shores has been a top weekend destination for Austin families since 1954. It can get very busy on weekends, but even the wait is pleasant while lounging next to the lake sipping a beer. There’s also a play area for the kids and dogs. If you want to go directly from swimming in the lake to having a burger and a beer without bothering to change, this is the best choice. Most of the customers wear little more than bathing suits and towels. Ski Shores often has live bands playing in the evenings.
Yard Bar is so eager to attract dogs and their humans that the proprietors built an on-site dog park. All the seating is outdoors, so it’s really more like a dog park with a top-notch concession stand. There is an admission fee for the dog park, but it’s worth it for the extra amenities, which include kiddie pools for cooling off and agility equipment for high-energy dogs. There are even “bark rangers” to help make sure the dogs play well together. The menu offers salads, soups, appetizers and special treats for dogs such as meatballs, hot dog bites, doggy ice cream and Bone Star Dog Beer (a bowl of beef and vegetable stock). Plus, there’s a full bar, a rotating selection of draft beers and wine on tap.
True to its name, Austin Terrier welcomes pups on its patio. Water bowls and free treats are provided. The human menu includes gourmet pizzas, Angus beef burgers and an array of sandwiches made with locally sourced ingredients. The Trio of Fries appetizer is a crowd pleaser, featuring parmesan-and-truffle fries, sweet potato fries, and paprika-and-mustard fries. There are also several vegetarian and gluten-free options. An ever-changing lineup of craft beers and wines keeps the regulars coming back time and again to this friendly neighborhood hangout.
The lake view from the outdoor deck at Mozart’s is an endless source of fascination for dogs, but Mozart’s also has wonderful coffee and desserts for the humans. Don’t miss out on the tiramisu and pecan tarts. If you prefer something savory, there’s also a selection of gourmet sandwiches, quiches and empanadas. While the parking can be a pain due to the proximity to Hula Hut, you can enjoy a nice long stay because of the reasonably priced Bottomless Coffee option. During the Christmas season, the restaurant is decked out in holiday lights and other decorations.
The full name is the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company, but most locals refer to it simply as the ABGB. While the focus here is award-winning beer brewed by local brewmasters, the food is also excellent. Some menu items such as salads, sandwiches and pizza are always available, but the chef is always trying out new dishes too, usually drawn from foods currently in season and available from local producers. Dogs have free run of the large outdoor patio, which is equipped with abundant water bowls. The restaurant’s Hell Yes Project puts the owners’ Austin-focused philosophy into action. They donate five percent of profits to local organizations such as Austin Pets Alive, Central Texas Food Bank and local park advocacy groups.
Featuring a huge, tree-shaded outdoor area, Little Darlin’ feels like a neighbor’s backyard party — but with better food. You can belly up to the semi-circular bar in the middle of the yard and supervise your dog from there. The wide-ranging menu includes everything from skillet cornbread and cheese plates to vegan burgers and chicken-and-dumplings. The Austin-famous Toni Price brings her country blues tunes to the Little Darlin’ every Tuesday evening. One of her most famous songs (in Austin) is “Like Cats and Dogs,” which leads to several of the humans barking and the dogs becoming excited and confused.
A relaxed eatery with three separate outdoor areas, Red’s Porch by Quarry Lake serves up burgers, Cajun food and Tex-Mex standards. Standout dishes include the BBQ brisket sandwich, Red’s chili and the chicken-fried chicken. Dogs are welcome on the first-floor patio and in the outdoor game area. Games include corn hole, washers, shuffleboard and darts. The second-floor patio has a fantastic view of the sun setting over Austin’s western hills.
While the pooches might miss the smell of meat, they'll still find plenty of tasty snacks to steal on the dog-friendly patio at this vegetarian mecca. Bouldin Creek Cafe has earned a loyal following due to dishes such as the Veggie Royale, a wonderful veggie-burger creation served on grilled ciabatta bread. Regulars also rave about the hummus, a snack most people don’t get too excited about. If you don’t eat eggs, all the egg dishes can be made with Bouldin Creek’s “tofu scramble.” A re-imagining of eggs Benedict, The Renedict, consists of two eggs, tofu bacon, vegan Hollandaise and baby spinach resting atop grilled ciabatta bread.
Part of a locally owned chain, Galaxy Cafe is a dog-welcoming neighborhood gathering place where you order at the counter. Vegetarians say the veggie burger earns high praise. It’s topped with sliced avocado and tasty pesto mayonnaise. There’s also an extensive gluten-free menu featuring sandwiches, burgers, salads and breakfast dishes. For carnivores who like a little spice, the Zocalo burger is served with jalapeños, and the meat is infused with red pepper.
Never mind that it looks a bit like a roadside tourist trap — this place loves dogs and they’re welcome in the outdoor seating area. Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ has several locations across and Austin and they are serious about their meat. The restaurant serves some of the juiciest beef brisket around. The baby-back ribs are oh-so-tender with just enough spice. The creamed corn, coleslaw and potato salad are also not to be missed.