We Sent Our Writer to SF’s New (And Not Cheap!) Dog-Only Restaurant
It's not just a gimmick: Dogue's Bone Appetit Cafe has something valuable to offer your pooch
It’s not unusual for new restaurants in San Francisco to make headlines, but this is the first time the focus of the conversation is a cafe for dogs.
Dogue’s Bone Appetit Cafe opened for Sunday services in San Francisco’s Mission District on September 26, and everyone had something to say about it. Many were thrilled to see San Francisco once again leading the way on creative culinary enterprises. Others took to social media to bemoan the cafe’s opening as the end of the city as we know it.
Considering the restaurant has only been in operation for three Sundays since opening, it’s hard to imagine every hot take has resulted from a thorough, thoughtful visit to the establishment. So I decided to head to Valencia Street and forge my own opinion instead of relying on others, and visited the Bone Appetit Cafe with my 90-pound mutt, Vinny.
What immediately took me by surprise is the fact that Dogue is not just the Bone Appetit Cafe; it’s primarily a raw food store, selling everything from bespoke meal plans to artfully crafted mini-meals at the Pawtisserie bakery. The discourse has been so heavily focused on the $75 three-course menu (more on that shortly), that the fact that Chef Rahmi Massarweh has made raw food accessible to San Francisco’s dogs has gotten completely lost in the conversation.
Earlier this year I put both of my dogs on raw food diets to try to extend their lives, a decision Massarweh and his wife Alejandra also made 12 years ago after bringing home their mastiff puppy, Grizzly. Massarweh asked himself, “How can I buy as much time as possible with this spiritual being — this thing that I now have responsibility over, that I love so much?” After consulting with veterinarians, the answer was unequivocally a raw food diet. Grizzly is now 12 years old, far surpassing the breed’s average lifespan. Dogue was conceived of as a place for other dog owners to learn about the benefits of fresh, raw food, and potentially begin their journey into it.
Dogue, which is mastiff en français, evokes Chef Massarweh’s training in the French culinary arts. It feels upscale, with seafoam and gold foil accents reminiscent of a Parisian bakery, and clean branding and decor that is oh so Instagrammable. Vinny, who has spent most of his life as a country dog in Montana and Sonoma County, wasn’t sure what to make of the steel bowl of cucumber spa water at the store’s entrance. In fact, most dogs walking by elected not to drink from it, except for one coat-wearing dachshund, whose owner admitted, “She’s a very bougie dog.”
The cafe is walk-in only, so we got on the waitlist shortly after their 11 a.m. opening. With only four tables inside, expect to wait between 45 minutes to an hour. Fortunately there is seating outside in a parklet, and Dolores Park is only a few blocks away. They text you when it’s your time to dine, and you can watch a virtual waitlist as well.
Vinny waited patiently as the other guests enjoyed their meals. Inside were a pair of corgis with bowties, an array of small breeds like chihuahuas and Bichon Frisés, a fluffy husky and even a giant namesake mastiff. Other guests came by to shop from the Pawtisserie, including an active Seeing Eye dog celebrating her birthday with a rose-shaped antelope heart pastry ($15) and a dogguccino, which are made of fresh, natural ingredients (not whipped cream), and begin at $4.75.
Once our wait was over, Vinny passed by a family with an Australian shepherd and the trio of friends filming a Klee Kai, and happily hopped up on the tan banquette. He greeted (okay, licked) our neighbors, a five-year old black chihuahua named S’Nari and her person, Kris, who was raving about the experience. “She doesn’t eat anything, she’s so particular, but she wolfed it down,” she said with tears in her eyes. We commiserated over how hard it can be when your dog won’t eat, which is often the case for picky Vinny, too. After seeing S’Nari eat so readily, Kris left with a new raw food plan of action.
Vinny ordered the $75 three-course chef’s tasting menu, which rotates regularly and seasonally. I sipped sparkling water from a crystal glass (mimosas are also an option) while Vinny enjoyed the pumpkin amuse-bouche. Next came the first course, a chicken and chaga mushroom soup, which Vinny inhaled as it was served. As we waited for the second course — a chicken-skin waffle and charcoal flan — he stared with jealousy at the 15-year-old golden retriever next to us enjoying the soup. Finally came the beef tartare topped with sprouts, which I had to remove before he would eat the fresh, raw meat. For dessert was a cube of antelope heart mousse, which he enjoyed so much that I had to buy the pastry version for my other dog at home.
The meal was artfully plated, and paced perfectly for an upscale dining experience meant for guests that aren’t accustomed to having meals brought out over any period of time. Chef Massarweh took the time to get to know each dog that visited, and most of us guests were excited to socialize with other dog lovers. It was delightfully adorable the whole way through. And the meal may have even cultured our Vinny — he drained that bowl of cucumber water on the way out with no hesitation.
As exciting as it was to do something unique with my dog, it’s Dogue’s bespoke raw food plans that have my attention, which is the store’s main purpose. While we in San Francisco have a reputation for feeding ourselves locally sourced, organic, unpackaged fresh food, it’s only just becoming accepted that this style of eating can benefit our dogs, too.
“Plating and presentation is my vehicle to shine a light on [fresh food],” Massarweh told me. “The whole point was just to bring fresh food to as many dogs as we can. That’s our mission.”
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