Dogs, waffles and coffee … what better way to spend a Sunday? I feel so Parisian – in a dog-friendly cafe to boot.
But I’m not in France. Nowhere near it.
Dog Friendly Cafe, Hamilton, Ontario
I’m at Munchies Coffee House and BARKery in Hamilton, Ontario. Here, your pooch can lie at your feet or even move about the room making new friends, like my Victor did (kind of). Despite this province’s ridiculous ‘health and safety’ law that bans dogs from even sitting on patios, Munchies has found ways … many ways… around both provincial and city laws to open my new favourite place in a city where favourite places are hard to come by. (UPDATE: as of 2020, dogs are now permitted on outdoor patios at the restaurant owner’s discretion).
Four years ago, owners Rosie and Gary Henein opened Munchies, at first for people and then for dogs too, and it wasn’t easy.
“Go ahead and try and do what we’ve done,” says Rosie who’s been in the bakery business with her family for decades. “We went through so much with the city to be allowed to do this; it would be challenging to reproduce.” (UPDATE: As of 2020, Hamilton now has a second dog-friendly cafe called Bring Your Dog Cafe),
Rosie started negotiating with the city in 2009, pitching the idea to open an organic homemade dog treat bakery where people could come with their dogs. She first received a flat-out ‘no.’
But where there’s a woof, there’s a way.
After three years of bureaucratic hoop jumping – “I said ‘yes’ to everything they said,” she explains. “I mean everything.”
At Munchies, the front seating area with tables lining the walls and a centre leather couch chill section is cordoned off from the kitchen and food prep area with a floor-to-ceiling window. You have to order and pick up food behind the glass, staff can’t touch or interact with the dogs, and there’s even special ventilation systems we can’t see.
Separate Food Prep and Dining Areas
Behind the glass is where the magic happens. This place is foremost a bakery and what’s cooking baking is worth the visit, even sans doggie. (Don’t take a friend that isn’t comfortable with dogs; but then again, why would you know such a person?)
There’s a least a dozen waffle combos to choose from including my choice – apple cinnamon – or double chocolate, a kid favourite. Fair Trade coffee is mandatory and so are four varieties of organic dog treats including Salmon or Chicken Sniffers, Apple Crisp Twists, Yam Yums and Peanut Butter Claw Tracks (Victor’s choice) beside a fridge full of raw Fido food and doggie takeout.
As a result, today on a cool Canadian afternoon, I get to do what thousands of women in Paris do every weekend: I had brunch with my dog on my lap – indoors. Take that stupid provincial law.
Dog People Dining With Dog People
Munchies Coffee House and BARKery is for dog people and even people looking for dogs. The Sunday I’m here, the place has an indoor dog park vibe because seven rescue Chihuahuas have arrived from Texas. People are dropping by to meet them after seeing the postings on Facebook.
Some, like Joey, are clearly mixed with terrier, but all are very social and cute as a knit sweater to fight the Canadian winter can make them. Within two hours, two are left including Joey, but more people are on their way – a set with their sights on him. It’s like an adoption party in here.
My schnoodle Victor is happy to meet new South-of-the-border buddies, mingle with a Corgi or two and sniff a Pomeranian. But it’s the Huskies and big furry dogs who set him off.
I don’t know why. I suspect he’s had a bad experience in a previous life (he’s had three homes before me) and he doesn’t even give them a chance. He defensively growls and snaps, even at the friendliest Malamute. So he’s on my lap. For now.
Or maybe for the rest of the visit, because he seems to have discovered his inner Parisian. His poodle side is at home with the lap-dog attention. And a bite or two of waffle.
TRAVEL GUIDE: Munchies Coffee House and BARKary is located at 1000 Uppper Gage Ave, #4 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (about 1 hour west of Toronto). Munchies is open Monday and Thursday, 11:30 am to 6 pm; Tuesday and Wednesday, 11:30 am to 8 pm and Saturday and Sundays 10 am to 3 pm. Birthday cakes, both for people or dogs, are sold here along with raw dog food and natural shampoo for dogs and cats.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and a travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research.