Dining with Dogs in Restaurants: What Pet Owners Need to Know

Raleigh, NC, USA
Update: August 2023
This post was originally written in 2019. My dear Andy passed away in 2020 from congestive heart failure. We welcomed Ollie, a toy poodle puppy, into the family within weeks of his death.  In 2022, I became a volunteer with Freedom Ride Rescue which holds adoption events at breweries all the time. By November of 2022, I adopted my second dog, Hannah, a feisty senior chihuahua. Ollie, the poodle, is very friendly but is incredibly barky and the chihuahua is sometimes not friendly. therefore, I personally have not dined with my own personal dog since Andy passed away. 

The "dog days of summer" are upon us, literally.  That long-time expression has a couple of meanings, but one thing is for sure: this is the time of year when we tend to take our pets more to public places simply because of outdoor dining.

A Guide to Dining with Pets
Photo by Curious Notions Photography


Public Health Laws regarding animals vary from state to state. Just because a restaurant has an outdoor patio does not automatically mean your pet can dine with you. Service dogs abide by different laws than normal pets. In my home state of North Carolina, only service dogs can dine inside a restaurant with its owner. Normal dogs who are considered personal pets need to dine on an outdoor patio instead of inside the restaurant.


If a restaurant uses glassware and utensils, then state health laws put breweries in a restaurant category for public health inspection. If a brewery does not serve food on the premises or serves food packaged in individual containers, dogs are allowed inside, much to the delight of brewery and pet owners. This was the law as of June 2019. 

Dining with Dogs in Outdoor Areas in Restaurants or Breweries

Wine-tasting rooms allow dogs.  If unsure, it's best to ask staff before taking a dog inside. 

There have been many public debates lately about what qualifies as a working service dog in 2019. There are a lot of dogs licensed now for therapeutic reasons. In the past, service dogs primarily helped people with physical disabilities such as blindness or someone in a wheelchair.  But regardless, of its primary working role, service dogs are like people and can go anywhere, but there are rules and regulations for service dogs, too. On the other hand, regular pets are more limited in where they can go.

Dogs at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC

We ran into this issue at Biltmore Estate in Asheville. We were going to ride the bus to the house from the parking lot where we parked our car. As we got ready to board the bus, the driver informed us that dogs were not allowed. The people chanted, "Let the dog ride. Let the dog ride." I mean he is really cute and all, but it was against the rules. We then asked the driver how we could park closer to the house and he easily gave us directions. It was a minor inconvenience, but as new pet travelers, we just were not aware of the limitations. Biltmore Estate does have a kennel nearby that parking lot though to kennel your dog. It is first serve-first come. I personally chose not to do that Andy.


When we first adopted Andy, I could not wait to take him out to eat. It's like, "Oh, I have a dog now. Let's go eat out." Why? I have no idea. I will tell you that it is like taking a toddler to a restaurant. He's good, but it is still a lot of work, so I primarily do it when traveling now that I've been a pet owner for a while now.

Cantina 18 is a pet-friendly restaurant in Raleigh, NC

Our first official dining experience was at a Southwest-inspired Southern roots restaurant in Raleigh called Cantina 18 in the  Village District.  It's a favorite lunch spot of mine. Chef Jason Smith uses fresh seasonal ingredients, and I've never been disappointed in all my meals there.

Burrito at Cantina 18 in Cameron Village

I've eaten there more times now than I have fingers. Cantina 18, now with two locations, has a good kid's menu for families. Jason is a parent, so I believe when chefs have their own children, they really grasp that parents want to dine on great-tasting seasonal fresh food, but be able to supply the simple basics for their children that do not cost them $10 to $15 each child.

Cantina 18 was the first restaurant we dined in with our pet, Andy.

I have only one child that dines off a kid's menu now. Liza loves the chicken nachos at Cantina 18, but she leaves off the chicken every single time and adds a big strawberry sorbet at the end of the meal.

Strawberry Sorbet at Cantina 18

I called the restaurant to ensure their outdoor dining area was pet-friendly. 

The Village District is great for dog owners. Most of the patio areas are public sidewalks, so it's a natural fit for dogs to dine with their owners outside.

Cantina 18 went the extra mile for Andy. Even though I had brought him water because I had no idea what to expect, the wait staff at Cantina 18 brought him a water bowl when they brought out water for us.

As a first-time dog owner dining with a pet for the first time, that was a nice perk. 

Now that I've dined a few times impromptu with Andy, I learned that not all restaurants may go out of their way like Cantina 18 did for us, but I've found that overall, most restaurants that allow dogs are very welcoming.

Dogs can dine at Cowfish on the patio at North HIlls

Andy has also been to North Hills in Raleigh, another outdoor shopping and entertainment area.  He felt welcomed at Cowfish, a local sushi and burger restaurant located in both Raleigh and  Charlotte. My biggest gripe is that Andy wants to look at everyone and will not sit down. It is easier to keep it at home to relax. He is like a third child, although the best one is.


I've learned through trial and error that it is more challenging to dine at counter-service restaurants with a dog if you are alone or have very young children who cannot be left alone with the dog outside while you go inside to do what you need. 

Even though I have an eight-pound dog that I can carry around like a baby, it is against the law for me to take him inside a restaurant and order food. Someone must stay with the dog outside while you order food or request a patio table with the hostess. One may be able to put a dog in a dog purse briefly to do this, but if you have a big dog, it is more challenging to abide by the public health laws to order, even if you plan to dine outside.


There are so many cities in the U.S. that are pet-friendly. Raleigh is a pet-friendly city, but Asheville, North Carolina, is touted as the most pet-friendly city in the U.S. It has its own doggy welcome center, a first in the U.S. 

It was not open when we took Andy to Asheville with us last year. But what's great about this center is that it will guide you to pet-friendly attractions and restaurants.

Andy the Poodle at the DoubleTree Biltmore in Asheville, NC

When we visited last summer, Andy took his dog bed to the Doubletree Biltmore in Biltmore Village in Asheville.  The staff was excellent with us as first-time pet travelers, Andy was allowed to be in the lobby, and the front desk gave us a list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, which was very nice for that first night we checked in.


The Biltmore DoubleTree Hotel has a TGIF restaurant with a beautiful patio attached to it. Still, dogs are not allowed to dine there because the patio has no exterior entrance. You have to walk through the restaurant to get to the patio. Keep that tidbit in mind when you spot restaurants. A good rule of thumb is that if you see other dogs, you are fine, or ask staff. 


When traveling with your dog and staying in a hotel, information about area restaurants is so important; honestly, it takes some planning. Heaven forbid it if it rains. What then? Some dogs may bark in a hotel room when crated, and then you risk getting called by the hotel with a noise complaint.

Dogs are part of the family

I feared the "barking dog" when I traveled with Andy for the first time in Asheville. As a result, we ate in restaurants where we knew Andy could go easily. Some Asheville establishments even have a doggie menu.

During my time in Asheville, NC,  I sometimes felt as if more dogs were walking the sidewalks than people. It truly is a dog-friendly city. Raleigh is dog-friendly, too, but it can also be hot during the "dog days of summer," too.


Pedestrian safety is important. Be mindful at crosswalks with your pets, watch for cars, and always keep your dogs on a leash. Ensure you have your dog's shots records and that your dog is always wearing identification and rabies tags.

Always have water available for your pet, and always be diligent about your safety and other's safety if your dog has been known to bite. When traveling in a car, make sure your dog is safely secured in the vehicle.

Dining with Pets in Restaurants: What Pet Owners Need to Know. #pets #dogs #pettravel

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