Petiquette: Etiquette Tips for Dining al Fresco with Your Pet

petiquette Petiquette: Etiquette Tips for Dining al Fresco with Your PetI love dogs as much as I love dining out. My husband and I eat out often with our shelter rescues Nortyn, a Lab-Husky mix, Indiana, a German Shorthaired Pointer, and Bernie, a Patterdale Terrier. We’ll be doing so even more during the last days of September as that’s when dog owners celebrate National Dog Week.

Here are my tips for making any meal out a success for people and pets.

  1. Obey the rules. Don’t request to sit somewhere that would violate the restaurant’s policies regarding pets. Likewise, don’t try to sneak your dog into places that are off-limits.
  2. Be mindful of other guests and keep your pet near you and under your control at all times. Even when other diners express an interest in your pets, they’ll still want to eat their meal in peace
  3. Be aware of your pet’s well-being (Is she hot? Cold? Hungry?). While many restaurants will bend over backwards to provide for your pet, it’s up to you to arrive with treats and other essentials (see our suggestions).
  4. If your pet  happens to have an accident, clean it up immediately and discretely. Do not burden wait staff with this, ahem, duty.
  5. Praise and pet your pet. Ignoring your furry friend can lead to destructive, attention-getting behavior. The point of dining out with your pet is to enjoy quality time together.

Take part in National Dog Week by dining out with your pet at one of these top pet-friendly restaurants or another eatery near you.

Dining with the Stars: 10 Best Restaurants for Celebrity-Spotting

dining with the stars Dining with the Stars: 10 Best Restaurants for Celebrity SpottingHave you been dreaming of dining with Bradley Cooper since you first saw The Hangover? Been dying to share a steak with the sultry Scarlett Johansson? Now you can. Perhaps not at the same table. But there are many restaurants that play host to some of today’s hottest celebrities. What makes some restaurants a draw for famous folks over others? Says Noora Raj from Alison Brod Public Relations, “Celebrities tend to frequent the same places, such as STK, because it’s easier for them to go somewhere where they know their presence won’t cause a sensation.” Find out the top 10 restaurants where you are most likely to break bread alongside some of today’s biggest names and brightest stars—in your hometown or while on vacation—while also enjoying a delicious meal.

1. Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
This restaurant continually earns critical accolades year after year for its farm-to-table American cuisine, prepared in time-honored techniques that honor our nation’s culinary history. Foodies love it as do big-name celebrities and politicos. Renee Sharrow, Marketing Communications Manager for Park Hyatt Washington D.C., says, “While we are still waiting for President Obama to join us, we have welcomed Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Richard Gere, and Condoleezza Rice to name a few.” The secret to the restaurant’s success with famous diners? “I think celebrities like to go somewhere that is comfortable.  I once read about a celebrity frequenting a specific restaurant numerous times but kept getting heckled by fans so this celebrity eventually stopped going there,” she shares.

2. BOA Steakhouse, West Hollywood, California
If Los Angeles is the land of celebrities, BOA Steakhouse could well be its capital city. This meat mecca, also known as Balboa Restaurant and Lounge, serves up super-fresh seafood as well as superb steaks. Fans of this hotspot include Paula Abdul, Scarlett Johansson, Sharon Stone, Sheryl Crow, Kate Beckinsale, Audrina Patridge, Jaime Pressly, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, and Ryan Seacrest. BOA credits its popularity among the rich and fabulous to the fact that celebrities are drawn to a “quality restaurant that understands their needs, keeps things confidential and does not overly fawn over them or take advantage of them. It should be noted, whether you are a celeb, a doctor, or a regular, we offer everyone who dines at BOA the same level of hospitality,” states IDG (Innovative Dining Group) Partner Lee Maen.

3. Butter, New York, New York
Butter might just be as yummy as its name. There are three distinct dining areas and a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list at this chic NoHo hotspot. Owned by Ashley Olsen’s ex-boyfriend Scott Sartiano, the seasonal menu and the notorious Monday night parties have attracted bold-faced names including Travis Barker, comeback kid Mickey Rourke, Beyoncé, Shakira, perennial party girl Paris Hilton, P. Diddy protégé Aubrey O’Day, Emile Hirsch, Leonardo DiCaprio, the Olsen twins, Sarah Jessica Parker, and “Gossip Girl” Leighton Meester.

4. Il Cantinori, New York, New York
Nestled on a sleepy street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, this neighborhood favorite features classic Tuscan cuisine served with a smile in a decidedly cozy setting. Mega stars that are drawn to the perfect pastas and romantic lighting include co-stars Jennifer Aniston and Bradley Cooper; designer Isaac Mizrahi and muse Veronica Webb, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Suri supping with the Beckhams and their three sons, and Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson. Sarah Jessica Parker also notably filmed scenes here for her 35th birthday celebration for the popular “Sex and the City” series.

5. Japonais, Chicago, Illinois.
A super-stylish Japanese restaurant, Japonais might as well be in Los Angeles with a steady stream of celebs dining here when they’re in the Windy City. Reveals Ashley Berg of LFB MEDIA GROUP, “Generally if a celeb is promoting a project they will come into Japonais and sit where they be seen and photographed (It’s part of the job.). However, they can also visit at a time when they don’t want to be seen and request a private lounge where they can sit back, relax and enjoy their favorite dishes in an intimate environment.” Japonais has accommodated countless celebrities, including the Jolie-Pitt’s (a.k.a Brad and Angie), Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Charlize Theron, Goldie Hawn, Hugh Hefner, Nicolas Cage, Samantha Ronson, James Woods, and the one and only Oprah Winfrey.

6. Katsuya, Los Angeles, California
It shouldn’t be any surprise that this sexy sushi restaurant, designed by Phillipe Starck, is popular with health-conscious celebs. With innovative appetizers and rolls along with cuts of tender Kobe beef, Katsuya’s menu draws stars including Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher dining with Moore’s ex, Bruce Willis, and his current wife Emma Hemming, Eva Longoria-Parker and Tony Parker, Nicole Scherzinger, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Jessica Simpson, Audrina Partridge, Stephanie Pratt, Joe Jonas, and odd It-couple of the moment, Kathy Griffin and Levi Johnston.

7. Sam & Harry’s, Washington, D.C.
One of the capitals’ hottest power dining spots, this classic American steakhouse serves up some of the best beef in town as deals are often sealed over a steak and a handshake. Sam & Harry’s (along with sister restaurant The Caucus Room, which also attracts many A-listers) remains a popular choice for high-profile diners. “In an environment like DC, we seem to be more accustomed to seeing VIPs, especially politicians, in our day-to-day lives, so they can typically sit in our main dining rooms and have their privacy respected by other diners and by our staff,” says Abbie Elliott, Director of Public Relations & Marketing for Sam & Harry’s Management Company. Sam & Harry’s has hosted former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the late chef and author Julia Child, actor (and dad to Angelina Jolie) Jon Voight, head of US Central Command General David Petraeus, the late singer and actor Roy Rogers, astronaut Neil Armstrong, Nicolas Cage, Mel Gibson, the late broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, and many more.

8. STK, Los Angeles, California
You may think that super-fit celebs wouldn’t be as drawn to a place called STK – but you’d be wrong. Raj points out, “Restaurants that are used to catering to celebrities usually anticipate their needs. For example, STK LA is primarily a steakhouse, but they also have a slew of healthy and/or vegetarian options – which are great for celebrities who are preparing for a movie or big event.  As a result, they still get to go to these scene-y places without sacrificing their diets or appetite.” High-profile guests have included Rihanna, Shenae Grimes, Kim Kardashian, Sheryl Burke, Paula Abdul, Lance Bass, Lauren Conrad, Ed Westwick and Jessica Szhor, Kanye West, and Nicole Richie. STK also “guest-starred” in a recent episode of HBO’s “Entourage.”

9. ‘21’ Club, New York, New York
No list of celebrity hotspots would be complete without ’21.’ This venerable Manhattan institution started out as a speakeasy and has since become home to some of the city’s most powerful tables. Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra was a regular—as were Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon and Marilyn Monroe. Still exercising copious amounts of star appeal, ’21′ draws the likes of film stars, television personalities, and politicos, including Dan Rather and Eliot Spitzer, Morley Safer, Bob Scheiffer, and Chris Matthews, Kathie Lee Gifford, quarterback Peyton Manning, and Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. Earlier this year, Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams filmed scenes here for the upcoming Morning Glory.

10. Table Fifty-Two, Chicago, Illinois.
Celebrity chef Art Smith, recently seen on “Top Chef Masters,” opened his 36-seat eatery in 2007 with a Southern-inspired menu, highlighted by Smith’s famous buttermilk biscuits. His most famous regulars are Oprah Winfrey (his former employer) and longtime beau Stedman Graham (and, one can only assume that Gayle King, who handles foodie duties for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” has stopped by, too!). In addition to the most powerful woman in TV, the most powerful couple in the nation have shared a table at Table Fifty-Two. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spent this past Valentine’s Day here.

So, if you’re ready to make your dreams of dining with the stars come true, reserve tables today at these restaurants.  Now, you’ll know where you should keep your eyes peeled for fellow diners who may look more than a little familiar. And, when those sightings occur, be prepared by checking out exclusive tips from Lizzie Post great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and author/spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute on what—and what not—to do when you spot a celebrity at the next table.

Seeing Stars: Celebrity Sighting Etiquette Tips

Want to know what to do when you spy a celebrity dining out? We do, too, so we asked Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and author/spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute, for her expert etiquette advice.

Here are her exclusive do’s and don’ts for OpenTable diners who encounter celebrities at a restaurant.

DO’s…

  1. Do maintain composure. Yes, she may be as captivating in person as she is on screen, but hold yourself together, and keep your inner teeny bopper at bay.
  2. Do make small talk. If you run into a celebrity at the valet stand, bar, or restroom, and it seems appropriate, you can make small talk (about the weather, the food you just ate, etc.). The trick is to only do it if it feels natural.
  3. Do ask for an autograph politely. If you’d really like an autograph, ask in the right moment: Outside the restaurant, not during their time at the establishment. If you aren’t interrupting her time with the people she’s with, you may ask, again, politely, for an autograph or a photo. (Don’t forget to have your own pen and paper handy, if seeking an autograph.)
  4. Do give praise. If you have a chance to chat, it’s perfectly acceptable to let a celeb know that you truly appreciate his work or body of work. Just don’t overdo it.
  5. Do take a deep breath and remember that celebs are people, too. Most of the time they just want a moment with those they are close to.

DON’Ts…

  1. Don’t interrupt celebrities while they’re eating — no matter whom they are with or if they are alone.
  2. Don’t actively follow (i.e. stalk) a celebrity to any part of the establishment – restroom included!
  3. Don’t ask celebrities any personal questions, try to slip them a script or piece of your own work, or make negative or questioning comments about their careers or projects.
  4. Don’t stare – enough said.
  5. Don’t take pictures or video of celebrities without their permission.

You can find more etiquette tips from Lizzie Post and the rest of the Emily Post Institute staff at Etiquette Daily.

Great American Dine Out: Help End Childhood Hunger

gado Great American Dine Out: Help End Childhood HungerDoing good never tasted so, well, good, thanks to Share Our Strength‘s Great American Dine Out. From September 20-26, your dining dollars will help end childhood hunger in America.  Participating restaurants will graciously donate a portion of their sales to support Share Our Strength, a national organization working to ensure that no child in our country grows up hungry.

Dine out — and dine out often — to show your support for this most worthy cause. Find a participating restaurant near you, and reserve your tables today.

Remember, when you eat, they eat.

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.