Chicken soup, steak tartare: US$75 tasting menu for dogs at San Francisco cafe for canines has treats for humans thrown in too
- At Dogue in San Francisco, French bulldogs, corgis, mastiffs, goldendoodles and other dogs sit at tables with their owners to eat an array of healthy dishes
- Dogue’s owner, trained chef Rahmi Massarweh, learned about animal nutrition to extend his own dog’s life, and applies his knowledge to the once-a-week menu
Dogue (rhymes with “vogue”) is a new shop, cafe, and “pawtisserie” for dogs and their owners in San Francisco’s Mission District. It opened in September 2022 on a stretch of Valencia Street, in one of the sunniest parts of the city.
Dogue has offered fresh foods to canines online since 2015. After learning about the new bricks-and-mortar spot, I decided to take my 20lb (9kg), seven-year-old mini Aussie, Heidi, and my five-year-old daughter to check it out.
It has had a lot of attention as a restaurant for dogs, but it’s also a store selling fresh dog food, custom meal plans and decadent dog treats.
It was started by Rahmi Massarweh, a trained chef who told me he “went down a rabbit hole” learning about animal nutrition in an effort to extend his own dog’s life.
Dogue sells refrigerated raw dog food. 12oz packages include wild venison for US$14.50; pastured chicken for US$24; and grass-fed beef for US$34.
Dogue sells dog supplements for gut, coat and skin, with prices ranging from US$9.95 to US$14.95. Its website contains information on how to transition a dog to a raw-food diet.
The dog-centric vibe at Dogue matches the city. It sells stylish dog accessories like bowls, leashes, and collars – perfect for San Franciscans. In 2016, the city had between 5,000 and 35,000 more dogs than children. Dogue caters to this crowd by selling merchandise as well as dried treats.
It’s also become a place for dog owners to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions. Dogue offers a seated meal at its Bone Appétit Cafe, on Sundays only. Guests – four-legged and human – are encouraged to get comfortable on the furniture. There are four small tables for dining, each with plenty of space to prevent any unwanted dog jealousy.
When I arrived, around 11am, all the tables were occupied. We saw a small Frenchie, a large mastiff, a happy goldendoodle, and two excited corgis.
After a 40-minute wait, our table was available. The Bone Appétit Cafe is walk-in only. I loved the detailed rugs. Even the lighting was elegant. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling to create a vibe that’s more “full-service restaurant” than “dog food”.
We were presented with the menu in a leather portfolio, like in a typical restaurant. On this Sunday, the rotating menu had three options, each available à la carte or as part of the full tasting menu.
My daughter read Heidi the options, but we were already set on trying the US$75 tasting. After we were seated, staff waited for a few minutes before checking our decision.
There were some complimentary human treats included in the experience. We were offered a choice of sparkling water, orange juice or mimosas served in carafes and tiny crystal goblets.
The first course arrived quickly: chicken and chaga mushroom soup made with whole pasture-raised chicken and simmered with apple-cider vinegar for eight hours. This dish individually costs US$27.
Massarweh poured the broth for Heidi at the table. It’s served lukewarm so dogs don’t burn their mouths. At first, Heidi seemed confused about eating the food off the table. She started by hesitantly licking the broth, looking at me for permission every few licks, but she was clearly excited.
Her trepidation lasted only seconds as she realised it was all for her. She finished the broth and quickly ate three pieces of cooked chicken breast. It took her about 90 seconds to finish the dish.
By now, Heidi understood that this experience was for her. She stood quietly on her chair anticipating what might come next. Other dogs in the space behaved similarly.
The tasting menu also comes with some off-menu surprises, much like a human tasting menu. Heidi enjoyed some organic pumpkin, served by Massarweh. The second course arrived shortly after the pumpkin: chicken skin waffle and charcoal flan (US$29).
Heidi stood up on two legs to snag the small waffle, made from chicken skin and ground cassava. She ate it in one bite, before I could photograph it and before Massarweh could put it down on the table.
Heidi paused after licking the gelatinous flan, briefly confused. She ate the garnish first, but pushed through to finish the entire dish. Massarweh served my daughter and I a take on Caprese salad, with burrata and basil.
Massarweh worked closely with California’s Department of Food and Agriculture to get his business state-inspected and licensed. He said human restaurants need only two certificates to open, but Dogue needed seven.
Heidi was decidedly less well-behaved as Massarweh displayed the final course. She jumped onto the table to get closer, and probably would have jumped onto the plate if she could have. This behaviour is totally allowed.
Massarweh holds a plate of grass-fed steak tartare made from fillet mignon, quail egg, and sprouting broccoli (US$32).
The steak tartare looked nearly identical to a restaurant dish for humans. Massarweh said he’s tried nearly everything on the menu and the tartare is good, but lacks the seasoning human diners expect.
This dish contained the only ingredient that Heidi didn’t appreciate – sprouts. She seemed frustrated as they got stuck in her teeth.
Sprouts removed, she regained interest in the beef, but seemed to be getting full. Massarweh serves the same portions to every dog who visits the cafe, but Dogue’s custom meal plans include serving sizes adjusted to a specific dog’s calorific needs.
Then came an off-menu dessert made from raw antelope heart. It’s one of the few dishes Masserweh hasn’t tried. (He tastes for balance before adding the heart.)
Besides special days, like birthdays, many people bring elderly animals to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime, extra-special meal.
The total, after the tip, came to US$100. “If ingredients of this quality were being served to humans, they would be like four times the price,” Massarweh said.
My dog, and others in the space, were remarkably calm throughout the entire meal. Most owners kept their dogs leashed, but every animal seemed too engaged with the experience to stray.
Massarweh said the point of Dogue is to rethink the way we feed animals. “I think the idea of presenting and plating this food is my vehicle for shining a light on this,” he said.
Dogue also offers a variety of beautiful treats crafted to look like pastries (US$15 each), but made from ingredients like chicken and antelope. The case was full when we arrived and nearly empty when we left.
No detail was forgotten! The dog theme continues even inside Dogue’s bathroom, which is decorated with dog decals and funny signage.
We enjoyed our visit to Dogue. Heidi left with a full stomach, but had normal energy on our walk home. We didn’t notice any changes to her digestion or bathroom habits, either. I’d save this splurge for a special event, but I’d go back to Dogue, maybe next time with a group.
Kristen Hawley is a freelance writer and founder of Expedite, a weekly restaurant technology newsletter.