Now that the weather is a bit cooler, it’s time to get the dogs out for what I tell them are ‘adventures.’ I was on the hunt for outdoor dining destinations where my Chihuahuas Rico and Babi and I could enjoy a leisurely meal outdoors complete with water and an occasional scrap for the excited but patient pups. Pizza crust ranks right up there with steak on my fur-kids’ faves.
Bella Mia Pizzaria Italian Restaurant, 5917 Manatee Ave. W., tops my list for quality Italian cuisine, pizza and outdoor environment. Potted and hanging plants provide adequate separation, privacy, ambience, and barrier to traffic noise on the patio featuring a half- dozen tables.
Jennifer, our friendly waitress, was prompt and attentive, delivering beverages along with a surprise sampling of butter-slathered, homemade garlic knots. The garlic was plentiful, with a sprinkling of shaven parmesan cheese for good measure. There’s nothing like being hungry and not having to wait for a little something to munch on while waiting for the main course…this normally only happens at Mexican restaurants.
I ordered my favorite – thin crust with extra cheese and pepperoni pizza. A sweet basil red tomato sauce topped a hand-tossed, puffy baked crust and the cheese, according to manager Josephine, was a ‘special blend of mozzarella.
Bella Mias is a family-owned restaurant with origins in Sicily. In addition to the pizza, this eatery specializes in seafood pasta and offers daily specials, salads, sandwiches and desserts.
For you water lovers and boaters, the Swordfish Grill and Tiki, 4628 119th St. W. off Cortez Rd allows dogs on leash on the main outdoor waterfront deck. Enjoy appetizers, drinks and early evening entertainment or certainly a delectable fresh seafood meal while your pet date takes in the sights and scents of the salt water setting.
Appetizers include hot items like Firecracker shrimp, Grouper Gratinee, Shrimp Nachos, Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms or Bahamian-Conch fritters. A wide selection of specially prepared oysters, stone crab claws, clams and shrimp will satisfy any seafood lover’s pallet. Fresh greens, shrimp, and chicken salads serve as light meals or compliments to a nice selection of fresh seafood entrees grilled to perfection.
Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar, 801 Riverside Drive E. off Manatee Avenue E., offers great views of the Manatee River and old Florida ambience day and night where you’ll meet plenty of dog-friendly folks.
For those who like to eat, drink and play, this is a great spot. Corn hole games, flat screens, special events and even Wednesday co-ed volleyball are all featured outside the Tiki Bar.
For starters, try the new grouper bites; crew cheesy crab meat dip; or gator bites for the novelty. An extensive menu includes a Panorama Grouper dinner, grilled salmon, fish and chips, rice bowls, burgers, flat bread and hearty sandwiches through key lime pie for dessert. Happy hour runs 3 to 6 pm. daily at the Tiki Bar.
Nothing fancy but authentic Mexican, the El Primo Tacqueria, 1111 East Manatee Avenue, looks like a 50’s ice cream stand with a small indoor area to order and eat at the dining bar, and outdoor picnic tables beneath its awning where you and your pet can dine. Everything is made from scratch and an exceptional choice is the hard corn taco generously filled with your choice of ground beef, chicken, refried beans or seared beef. Homemade green or red salsa sauce is served on the side and both are terrific.
A new menu was just introduced with two breakfast entrees. The traditional Mexican fare and customer favorites include burritos served with refried beans and rice; tamales, gorditas, quesadillas and platos de comida.
Located just south of downtown on 9th Ave., Motorworks, 1014 9th St W. is very pet friendly and quickly becoming the gathering spot for pet and beer lovers. Featuring the largest beer garden in Florida, the outdoor deck is amazing and surrounds an old oak tree strung with lights.
While food trucks are on the premises if you’re hungry, it’s been my experience to stick to the free popcorn, freshly brewed beer or your favorite cocktail. If your dog is well behaved and has a friend to sit with at this expansive outdoor brewery, treat yourself to a game of corn hole or bocce ball or enjoy live music Friday and Saturday evenings. Once a month Yappy Hour on Sundays offers even more pleasure for you and your dog, with giveaways and agility courses.
Finally, there’s nothing like a walk with your dog along the downtown Riverwalk where you’ll meet plenty of other dog walkers. For an upscale twist on casual waterfront dining, Pier 22, 1200 1st Ave. W, is located at the beginning of the Riverwalk trail.
For lunch, more than a dozen excellent sandwiches are highlighted on the Pier 22 menu including an excellent black bean burger, fried gator, reuben, French dip, and crab cake served on an English muffin. Delicious entrees include a fresh catch of the day, jambalaya, crab artichoke pesto and grouper piccata.
Dinner is another story – from rack of lamb through a dozen or more seafood selections, prime rib and more. Perhaps you and Chewy want to celebrate a doggy birthday complete with the bone…just ask.
Snuff dines for birthday dinner…. good dog