Restaurants are going to the dogs ... and the cats, and various other friends of the four-legged variety.
From Doggie Happy Hours to seasonal dinners raising money for animal charities, the white tablecloth set is serving up a little pet philanthropy.
The eat well, do good movement marries two trends — the fascination with things furry (kitten videos, anyone?) as well as our nearly insatiable appetite for great, memorable food.
"I think we're a good match with a lot of charitable events because of the nature of our business," points out Ron Patak, vice president of student operations at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, which runs the Kitchen on George restaurant in Mobile, Ala.
So, when Kitchen on George opened late last year, it decided to throw a "Pooches on the Patio" event to benefit the Mobile SPCA. The event — which indeed featured pooches quite literary on the restaurant's patio — was such a success, the restaurant repeated it this spring, drawing 80 to 100 people and about 15 dogs.
Guests donated $25 for admission to the party, which included wine, cheese and hors d'oeuvres, and the SPCA brought along animals in need of homes. The visiting dogs were well behaved, money was raised for the SPCA and three homeless dogs were adopted, the same number as were adopted in the earlier fundraiser, says Patak.
A little further up the East Coast, dogs are welcome at regular Doggie Happy Hours in the courtyard of the Jackson 20 restaurant at Hotel Monaco-Alexandria near Washington, D.C. The restaurant also has been hosting "Bitch & Whine" tastings featuring the libations of Virginia vineyards to benefit local pet charities. And at Halloween they put on a Doggie Happy Howl-o-ween costume contest with registration and door donations going to the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.