Say you want a quick lunch or leisurely meal with a friend, but your best bud is of the canine persuasion. Luckily for both of you, many O.C. restaurants have put out the welcome mat for pooches. The only dress code for dogs is a collar and leash, and they’ll love the extra time with you. So grab a seat at a hip pub in Orange or enjoy a view of Dana Point Harbor with your meal—some places also offer doggie menus.
Lazy Dog Café
From the get-go, founder Chris Simms made sure his 11-restaurant chain (four in O.C.) would cater to two- and four-legged customers. The international menu features pizza, wok platters, and Mexican fare. A favorite item on the separate menu for dogs is grilled hamburger patty and brown rice ($5). Pets are welcome on the patio, but must avoid “The Three Bs: Begging, Barking & Biting.” Locations in Brea, at left, Irvine, Orange, and Westminster; lazydogcafe.com
The gourmet waffle chain is a hit with dog owners. One couple—regulars—even named their chocolate lab after the restaurant. Treats and bowls of fresh water are staples, and in the summer, the dogs can keep cool under misters. 215 W. Birch St., Brea, 714-255-1188; 292 N. Glassell St., Orange, 714-633-3900; 22205 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, 949-207-6570; bruxie.com
Native Foods Café
This vegan chain welcomes pups with open arms and they’re animal-friendly in more ways than one. One Tuesday a month the management selects a rescue group (nominated by customers) to receive a portion of the day’s sales. Locations in Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Tustin; nativefoods.com
No need to ask for water at these seafood restaurants in Tustin and Newport Beach. A colorful bowl is delivered the minute your hound arrives on the patio. Managing partner Chris Rock says he’s happy to accommodate work events and private parties where guests can bring their dogs. A popular pet item from the regular menu is a cheeseburger, hold the bun ($7). 630 Lido Park Drive, Newport Beach, 949-675-3474; 2409 Park Ave., Tustin, 714-258-3474; bluewatergrill.com
Wind & Sea
The small patio with a view of Dana Point Harbor can fill rather quickly, especially in the summer. Better to take your pet on a cooler day and warm up by the outdoor fire pit. Still, the dog-friendly atmosphere is worth a stop if you’re in search of fresh seafood with a view of the fishing boats. 34699 Golden Lantern St., Dana Point, 949-496-6500, windandsearestaurants.com
You won’t find just any “dog menu” here. Like the pub’s regular fare, it’s comfort gourmet. Executive chef and partner Greg Daniels serves $4 meals from Newport Beach’s Just Food for Dogs. All of the ingredients are USDA certified for human consumption (no “leftover” parts unfit for people) and nutritionally balanced for dogs. Among your pet’s options are beef and russet potato, lamb and brown rice, or fish and sweet potato. 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, 714-221-0680, havengastropub.com
Park Bench Café
The location will have both of you howling with delight—a restaurant alongside 350-acre Huntington Beach Central Park. The 25-year-old cafe draws exercising owners who stop to refuel on all-American fare, and pet rescue groups that hold monthly meetings. A “Canine Cuisine” menu favorite is the Bow Wow Wow Chicken ($3), 6 ounces of chicken breast. 17732 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach, 714-842-0775, parkbenchcafe.com
Back Bay Bistro
The patio is a ramp-walk away—good for pups that have issues with stairs. The Newport Dunes restaurant seats at least 50 at about a dozen outdoor tables, and serves traditional American cuisine. Puppy parties and owner meet-ups are common, and most folks like to order for their dog off the kids’ menu ($7 for a hamburger). 1131 Back Bay Drive, Newport Beach, 949-729-1144, backbay
Photograph by Melissa Valladares
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue.