Many people identify their four-legged friends as members of their family — a sentiment some restaurants in New York City are getting behind.
Instead of a kids menu, La Contenta Oeste in Lower Manhattan has a menu for dogs. The dishes use human-grade ingredients and are prepared specifically for four-legged customers who partake in outdoor dining.
Chef Luis Arce Mota, the owner, is careful to leave out items that are unhealthy or potentially dangerous for dogs, including garlic, onion, avocado and salt.
Another business serving both dogs and their owners is Boris & Horton, which started in the East Village and just opened its second location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The co-owner of the dog cafe and coffee shop, Logan Mikhly, said a lot of their customers are looking for ways to spend time with pets they adopted during the pandemic.
"Overall, the general trend for dog ownership is that people do want to spoil their pets," Mikhly said at her Williamsburg cafe.
As a whole, the American Pet Products Association estimates nearly $144 billion will be spent on pets this year, but it is difficult to estimate how much individual owners spend.
"There are so many things that you can spend money on that it's really hard for us to estimate what that cost of ownership could be," said Mallory Kerley of Muddy Paws Rescue, a pet adoption service in New York City. "The sky's the limit when it comes to spending money."
Mikhly said she tries to keep items in stock that align with a variety of price points, but the average bill at Boris & Horton comes out to nearly double what someone would spend at a standard coffee shop in the area. She attributes that to patrons purchasing treats and toys for their pets during their visits.
"One of the reasons why I think this makes sense as a business is because there are a few different kinds of revenue streams," said Mikhly.
Both Boris & Horton and La Contenta Oeste say they diligently follow requirements set by the New York City Health Department regarding dining with dogs. That includes making sure dogs are not in spaces where food and beverages are made or served.
Since waiters aren't allowed to serve dogs meals, at La Contenta Oeste the dishes are presented on disposable plates to the owners, who then feed their pets.
To allow dogs to hang out off-leash while their owners sip coffee, Boris & Horton is divided into two separate storefronts. Each side has its own address and employees and are connected by a set of double doors.
While some pets love them, dog-friendly establishments aren't the right fit for all.
Kerley said it's important to pay attention to how a dog feels when they're in a new environment.
"Our dogs again can't tell us that they're uncomfortable with their words, but they certainly can with their body language," she said.
If a pet is hiding behind someone's legs or has their ears pushed back, those could be signs it's time to go.
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