Essential Utensils for Your Domesticated Dining Partner

essential dining utensils Essential Utensils for Your Domesticated Dining PartnerYou can ensure a smooth al fresco dining experience for you and your pet if you’ve got the right gear in tow. Check out these five must-haves for your restaurant-loving pet.

1.    The Popware Travel Dog Bowl: This 1-cup+ travel disc pops up to provide your animal companion with its own drinking bowl. It easily clips onto a leash, belt buckle, or knapsack and comes in pink or blue.

2.    REI Adventure Dog Pack: Going out for the tasting menu? Make sure your dog is prepared for the long haul with this practical pack. She can carry her own bottled water, treats, and toys – and perhaps even a doggie bag on the way home.

3.    Florence Bella Bag: Dog owners never know when nature will call, but no one wants to carry plastic baggies into a fine-dining establishment’s outdoor seating area. The Florence Bella Bag is designed for pet-owners (and diners) who are interested in fashion and discretion.

4.    Buddy Belts Dog Harness: No matter how well behaved your dog (or other pet) is, most restaurants will ask that you keep him leashed during your meal. Instead of tugging at its neck all night, set your pet up in a Buddy Belts dog harness designed for style and comfort.

5.    Hang Loose Hawaiian Cooling Top: Even though it’s fall, dogs can still overheat easily if they’re seated in the strong sun for too long. Help your pet remain cool with this cute shirt that holds a 65-degree temperature for three days after being dipped in water.

The Best Restaurants to Feast with Your Furry Friend

pet friendly restaurants The Best Restaurants to Feast with Your Furry FriendNow that the dog days of summer (and the hot and humid weather that usually accompanies them) are behind us and National Dog Week is about to begin, it’s a great time to take your pet (or two…or three) out on the town and to your favorite restaurant. Not every dining establishment will accommodate pets.  But, typically, those with outside seating can. And many go out of their way to welcome your four-legged or two-winged dining companions. Of course, some folks take more exotic companions out with them. Our fans on Facebook have reported seeing everything from a ferret and a cockatoo to a baby pig and a skunk!

Here’s a list of 10 restaurants around the U.S. that don’t mind accommodating pet-obsessed owners and their animals.

1.  FARM at The Carneros Inn, Napa, California
OpenTable diner Kathy Johnson enjoys taking her canine companion to wine country. “FARM at the Carneros Inn is very pet-friendly. If you are in their outdoor lounge/bar area, you can have your dog at your feet while you sip great wines and choose items from the bar menu.  Dogs can also be nearby if you are seated in the outdoor terrace of the formal restaurant.” FARM specializes in serving food that complements wine, so go hungry and thirsty.

2.  Tabla, New York, New York
Diner Lisa Hanock and her husband are fans of this pet-friendly, upscale Indian restaurant. “We’ve found quite a few restaurants that enjoy hosting four-legged pals, but the most welcoming restaurateur has got to be Danny Meyer. At Tabla, (across from Madison Square Park, which has a popular dog run), you can order from the dinner menu while your dog enjoys a designer bowl of water and packaged cookie treats. We’ve taken our 90-pound Belgian Shepherd many times.”

3.  Log Haven, Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City’s Log Haven takes its appreciation for dogs to a new level during the months of June through the second week of October with a “Dog Days of Summer” special. Diner Kathleen Bratcher, her husband, and their dog Bella give Log Heaven’s seasonal American cuisine and canine hospitality a rave review. She says, “We were offered spacious patio seating, cool water, high-quality dog treats in a stainless steel doggie dish, and brass-plated dog tags with ‘Log Haven’ embossed. They also offer a reasonably priced dog meal created by their chef, Dave Jones, and a special cocktail menu for adults with a refreshing ‘Salty Dog.’

4.  Besito, Huntington, New York
Besito (which means ‘little kiss’ in Spanish) embraces all of its customers, including those who can’t order for themselves. With outdoor seating ideal for people- and pet-watching, Besito, known for its authentic Mexican cuisine and tableside guacamole, has an ever-present bowl of Milk Bones on the sidewalk along with an endless supply of cool water. It’s the perfect place for Fido to make friends.

5.  The Farm of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California
The Farm (no relation to FARM at The Carneros Inn) serves innovative American cuisine at each of its locations around Los Angeles and happily welcomes animal companions. The Farm’s Kelli Richardson reveals, “The Farm is one of the most pet-friendly restaurants around. We have even hosted an event, ‘Eat With Your Paws for a Good Cause,’ to help raise money for needy animal shelters.  At each of our locations, we are more than happy to accommodate four-legged guests of guests. We will set up a bowl of water for the dog just outside our patio or next to the table. We are very mindful of health department rules regarding animals in restaurants.  But, our patio allows us to comply by keeping animals just outside of the railing.”

6.  Old Homestead Steak House, New York, New York
A meat lover’s paradise, this classic (and, yes, old) Manhattan steakhouse is situated – where else? – in New York City’s hip Meatpacking District. With weather-permitting outdoor seating, you and your pet will be conflicted as to the real appeal of this location: the smell of your perfectly cooked steak or the sight of perfectly coiffed people strolling by. The warm staff at this carnivores’ paradise provide superb service and lots of cool water for your pet upon request.

7.  Solbar at Solage Calistoga, Calistoga, California
Another favorite of the Johnsons and their faithful dog is Solbar at the Solage Resort in Calistoga, which serves up seasonal California cuisine. She says, “The servers will bring your pet freshly baked dog cookies and a bowl of water as soon as you are seated at their outdoor terrace.”

8.  Savore, New York, New York
Yvonne Conza, founder of Woof Patrol, an organization that celebrates dogs and helps fight for pet-owners’ rights, says her pup Pomo’s favorite restaurant is Soho’s much-heralded Savore, where owner Paolo Alavian serves up outstanding customer service with his authentic regional Italian cuisine. Conza says, “Paolo—who’s even remembered my dog’s favorite table— often asks diners their dogs’ names and will try to guess the breeds while silently signaling to his staff to bring water for pets.  Savore also enables diners to order mini portions of chicken and tomatoes for their four-legged friends.”

9.  Paggi House, Austin, Texas
This Austin gem prides itself on being pet-friendly. A historic Austin landmark dating back to the 1840s, Paggi House serves up innovative American fare inside and on its outdoor lounge. The friendly staff provides pets with water in champagne buckets and ample attention. Austin diner Christine Harmel, who frequents Paggi House with her dog Dax says, “I’ve met plenty of people by bringing my dog to dinner with me!” Another diner/food blogger told us they recently celebrated their dog’s seventh birthday at Paggi House.

10.  Café Milano, Washington, D.C.
You may think power lunches over pups when you think of Café Milano, but this Italian restaurant welcomes pets on its patio. Known for stellar service, sublime Italian dishes, pizzas, and an impressive wine list, Café Milano is recommended by Modern Dog magazine as a top location for your pooch to rub elbows (or noses!) with the pets of the capital’s most powerful and beautiful people.

OpenTable for Android Now Available

opentable for android OpenTable for Android Now AvailableOpenTable is pleased to announce that OpenTable for Android is here. Users of the open source Android platform can now enjoy the convenience of making confirmated restaurant reservations on the go and in an instant at more than 10,000 restaurants nationwide. OpenTable for Android allows diners to:

• Find nearby restaurants and see real-time availability
• Display restaurants on an interactive map
• Refine by cuisine, price, points and availability
• View restaurant profile pages with detailed information, including photos, menus and diner reviews
• Send an invite to fellow diners via email
• Get directions to the restaurant
• Earn Dining Rewards Points including 1,000 Dining Points on eligible dining times.

OpenTable for Android also leverages the Android platform’s unique integration capability between applications. Using this feature, WHERE® and GoodFood, two location-based applications in Android Market™, now enable their users to make restaurant reservations via OpenTable when they are on the go.  WHERE® users on Android powered-devices will not only be able to search for restaurants nearby and read reviews, but they will also be able to book reservations while on the go. The GoodFood application makes it easier and faster to find and share restaurant recommendations.

Download OpenTable for Android for free from Android Market on Android-powered devices today. To learn more about OpenTable’s mobile applications for smartphones, click here.

Music to Your Ears: Austin Restaurant Week Is Almost Here!

austin restaurant week Music to Your Ears: Austin Restaurant Week Is Almost Here!Austin, Texas, is the live music capital of the world. But man — and woman — does not live by music alone. Thankfully, Austin has a vibrant dining scene that makes it a draw for foodies, too. Beginning on September 13, Austin residents and visitors can enjoy deals on meals as Austin Restaurant Week begins. Running through September 16 and then from September 20-23, some of Austin’s tastiest dishes will be available at a discount. You can choose from $25 or $35 prix-fixe, three-course dinners at restaurants including Hudson’s on the Bend, Jeffrey’s Restaurant, Paggi House, Roaring Fork, and many more. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit AIDS Services of Austin and Sustainable Food Center.

Reserve your tables today to enjoy gourmet dinners while helping two non-profit agencies better serve their communities.

Happy Labor Day from Everyone at OpenTable

Although it’s not technically the last weekend of summer, it sure feels like it. The bad news is…fall is almost upon us. The good news is…there’s much to look forward to this autumn in the world of fine dining. Philadelphia’s Center City District Restaurant Week begins on September 13. Right behind that, diners in Arizona will be dining out at a discount during Arizona Restaurant Week. And, get ready for the Great American Dine Out, which starts September 20 and gives you an opportunity to help Share Our Strength end childhood hunger in America.

Enjoy what we hope is a three-day weekend for you and yours. And, if you live in or are visiting New York, be sure not to miss the last days of New York City Restaurant Week, which runs through Labor Day.

Why Great Restaurants Still Struggle

why great restaurants still struggle Why Great Restaurants Still StruggleA lot of people, in and out of the food industry, dream of opening their own restaurants one day. It’s an incredibly difficult pursuit, one that requires a deep passion for food and an array of skills almost no other profession does. Successful restaurant owners must have superb people skills to manage the people who help run the restaurant as well as the patrons who dine there. They must also possess bargaining and negotiating prowess, accounting abilities, a clear-cut vision for their establishments, boundless creativity, a take-charge, can-do attitude, and endless energy. They should also be good with a mop. Seriously. Owner-operators have to be willing to do anything and everything to have a successful lunch and/or dinner service each day, no matter what that entails. And most are.

So, why, then, do restaurants fail? Some may be ill-conceived or simply cursed with a bad location. Others may be run by people with a lot of heart yet not enough experience or financial backing. But a lot of restaurants get everything right and, still, things go wrong. To understand how this happens, read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Samin Nosrat, former sous chef at the now-shuttered Eccolo in Berkeley. Across the coast, the famous Café des Artistes has also shut its doors after more than a half a century. Theirs is a slightly different, but nonetheless sad, tale.

As a diner, it’s truly important to support your neighborhood restaurants on a regular basis. When local favorites close their doors, the effects, as Nosrat points out, are far-reaching.

What You Can Do When a Restaurant Isn’t on OpenTable

what to do when a restaurant What You Can Do When a Restaurant Isnt on OpenTableIt doesn’t happen terribly often – but it happens. You’re searching for a particular restaurant on OpenTable, and you discover that they’re not part of the OpenTable network. Quelle horreur! If you’re like me, you probably just find somewhere else to dine (I seriously cannot live without OpenTable’s automated email invitations and reminders. If they didn’t send them to me, I know I’d be a no-show offender!). I wondered what other diners do – so I asked our Facebook fans to chime in.

Turns out, many folks also love the convenience of OpenTable. In our 2009 Diner’s Choice Survey, 79% of OpenTable diners cited the ease of making a reservation and of coordinating plans with others as among the reasons they prefer reserving online rather than using the telephone.” Michele Stanley says, “I very rarely dine somewhere that isn’t on OpenTable…. There are a lot of restaurants on OpenTable that I have never tried, so to me I have plenty of options.” Frequent traveler  (and fan of our Dining Rewards Program) James Bowler says that if a restaurant isn’t on OpenTable, “I don’t eat there; as a road warrior with an expense account, OT is free money.” Diner Sunny Drohan admits she’ll go to off-network restaurants, but, she says, “I always ask why they aren’t on OpenTable. I am pitching them all the time.”

If you’ve got your heart set on a particular place that’s not on OpenTable, you’re probably forced to pick up the phone and make a reservation the old-fashioned way. Is there a way to avoid this in the future? Yes! First, you can politely tell the reservationist and/or host that you were hoping the restaurant was on OpenTable, as some of our diners do. Next, you can suggest restaurants (and additional metropolitan areas) where you would like to use OpenTable to reserve tables online. Just visit www.OpenTable.com, select a metropolitan area, and use the “Suggest a New Restaurant” link located below the “Just Added” list of new OpenTable partner restaurants in that area. The more suggestions we get, the more likely you are to find that restaurant on OpenTable in the future.

Top 50 Scenic Restaurants: How You See It

eiffel tower las vegas1 Top 50 Scenic Restaurants: How You See ItJust in time for the last days of high summer (and the long Labor Day weekend), we  are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2009 Diners’ Choice Awards for Most Scenic View. Derived from more than 3 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for nearly 10,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this varied list speaks to not just the natural beauty of our nation, but also the creativity of restaurateurs in choosing unique locations for restaurants.

The Chart House family of restaurants, renowned for their spectacular waterfront views and seafood offerings, earned kudos several times over, alongside such man-made feats including the Eiffel Tower restaurant, where the City of Lights meets Sin City, Boston’s Top of the Hub, which sits atop the Prudential Tower, and Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck, which is perched on the 50th floor of Reunion Tower in Dallas.

Add more to your next meal when you book a table at one of these 50 restaurants with breathtaking (and sometimes heart-stopping) vistas. Reserve a table today.

Is Your Dining Companion Making You Overeat?

is your dining companion influencing Is Your Dining Companion Making You Overeat?The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog discusses a new study by Duke University, the University of British Columbia, and Arizona State University that suggests the size of your dining companion can influence how much you order.

Contrary to what you might think, researchers have found that you’re more susceptible to overeating if your partner is petite in size but with eyes far bigger than her belly. Conversely, folks who ate with overweight partners actually ordered more modestly than their less-svelte companions. The research also revealed that we all order similarly to those we’re dining with, regardless of body type.

Are you guilty of this? If your size-0 girlfriend orders a big plate of pasta, are you likely to follow suit? Or, if your chubby hubby chooses a juicy steak and sumptuous sides, do you get a salad?

Let’s Eat: Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week Is Here

dc restaurant week Lets Eat: Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week Is HereThe founding foodies who live and work in our nation’s capital (excepting the vacationing First Family), as well as visitors, can take advantage of delicious dining deals during Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week. Sumptuous prix-fixe lunches and dinners are being offered for just $20.09 and $35.09, respectively. Participating restaurants include B. Smith’s, Cafe Promenade, Charlie Palmer Steak, The Prime Rib, Sam & Harry’s, and scores of other fine eateries.

Show your patriotic spirit and dine out around town during this affordable and fun week. Reserve tables here!