Dog owners and canine lovers will have a new place to eat, drink and be doggy when Texas-based mini-chain Mutts Canine Cantina trots into Denver.
"Every weekend when it's gorgeous and I am not hiking or doing something outdoors, I just want to find a cool patio where my dogs can go that has a TV, because my husband likes sports and good food that's not just bar food," says Felice Coon, a San Antonio native who moved to Denver just over three years ago and will be the first person to franchise Mutts outside of Texas. "I would Google places like this all the time, and nothing fit the bill, so I am excited to bring that answer to Denver."
Coon first got acquainted with the dog park/restaurant when she lived in Dallas and needed a place to take her then six-month-old puppy to work out his energy. On one side of each location, she explains, there's a leash-free enclosed area where dogs can run around, patrolled by "bark rangers" who break up fights with a small airhorn, refill water bowls and pick up poop as needed. There you can grab a pint of beer or the popular Barkarita — which is your basic margarita with a catchy name — while the dogs run wild.
On the other side, Mutts offers a restaurant with a full menu and picnic tables where leashed dogs are welcome. When Mutts opens in Denver, you can expect grilled cheese and hot pickle sandwiches, a daily popcorn special and breakfast tacos on weekends. One must-try, says Mutts managing partner Michelle Boggs, is the Mutts Original Chicken Sandwich, a fried-chicken sandwich on a grilled bun topped with Szechuan pepper sauce.
To use the dog park side of the operation, guests must first purchase a daily, monthly or annual membership. But once you're in, you and your pup will have access to a small dog playground for those under thirty pounds, or a big-dog area for larger breeds.
"It was my goal to open something like Mutts here," says the 27-year-old Coon, who lives in Platt Park with her husband and two pups, Chef and Cosmo. "I think Denver is just perfect for it, and I'm excited to bring the concept here."
Denver is a great place for dog-themed anything; the sheer number of animal lovers walking their four-legged pets is testament to that. However, the health department hasn't always been so friendly to man's best friend spending a day at the neighborhood bar and grill. Coon explains that she's not too worried about this, since laws are in place to prevent animals from being around food service.
"Given the history with a concept like this, I have already met with the City of Denver before I signed anything," she says. "They were excited to meet with me, and I feel like I got public health on my side after emailing back and forth and choosing the right zone area."
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It helps, she adds, that the original Mutts Canine Cantinas in Texas have done so well. The first opened in Dallas in 2013, and a Fort Worth outpost followed soon afterward. The owners decided to franchise the operation last year, and Coon was one of the first to get on board. Right now the goal is to find an acre of land where she can build her first Mutts, and she has her sights set on three locations for three separate venues.
"I have a love of dogs, and this is a dream come true," says Coon. "I always wanted to open a bar and restaurant since I was ten years old, and the second I found Mutts, I knew this was it."
Although the locations she has scouted aren't set in stone, Coon, who has been in real estate the last year after working as a server at Postino LoHi, feels she has a good handle on where she will land. Look for Mutts to open next year in the summer or fall, bringing a safe haven for dogs and their people.