I’ve often wished Henri would start riding in the back seat of my car instead of on high alert in the front- staring at me, panting, and dripping drool on my cup lid. Who knew a trip to Dallas could fix this?

I’m not sure if it was the five lanes of traffic or Mommy’s cussing that did it, but every time we got on the expressway, Henri got in the back seat. Maybe he doesn’t believe I’m any good at Frogger. Maybe he’s just smart like that.

Henri IS the Star of Texas.

Henri IS the Star of Texas.

Our next adventure was planned around the Texas Rangers Bark at the Park event, where Henri would be attending his first major league baseball game (Sorry, Cardinals. Sorry his first time wasn’t with you). I booked a weekend room at the dog-friendly Aloft in Las Colinas in order to split the distance between Dallas and Arlington. We’d play in Dallas Friday night and Saturday morning, then go to the game in Arlington on Saturday night.

I timed our departure from Fayetteville, Arkansas in order to beat rush hour and make hotel happy hour and check-in by 3:30. Best laid plans of mice and men being what they are, and Oklahoma construction (GRRRRR!) being what it is, we were nearing Dallas around 4:30 p.m. Not good.

 

Here’s where I admit to having been to Dallas many times, but always letting someone else drive. Thankfully, my GPS pinged with a message that I was being rerouted due to traffic, and I had 24 seconds to accept the new route. Wait. What? It does that? Yes. Yes! OMG. I accept.

That avoided the 5-lane expressway of standstill traffic and got us to our hotel around 5:00. For a brief moment, I was thanking iPhone maps app. That would soon end.

Aloft courtyard

Aloft courtyard

Check-in at Aloft Las Colinas is anytime after 3:00, and check-out, God love ’em, is at noon. There is a dog water bowl in the entry, and Henri was greeted with a doggie bag of Milkbones and some extra poop bags.

If you’re counting travel points, Aloft is part of the Starwood hotel family. The Starwood website says Aloft has a special ARF program that includes a bed, bowls, and toys to be used during your stay. We weren’t offered those amenities at this hotel, but we were on the first floor, as were other dog guests.

I don’t know if this ‘pets on the first floor’ policy effort is chain-wide or just Los Colinas, but it’s super-convenient and much appreciated. Smart thinking, Aloft!

 

There is no additional deposit to stay with your dog, though you do have to sign a waiver, and this Aloft (they are all a little different) allows dogs up to 50 lbs without question. Most Aloft Hotels have a 40-50 lb weight limit, but all of them can make exceptions for larger well-behaved dogs on a case-by-case basis. I was told the best way to handle this is to just show up with your dog.

I would recommend that if you ever stay at the Las Colinas hotel with your pooch that you request to be on the backside. I’m betting it’s a bit quieter facing the courtyard and pool area than it is facing the front. Terriers being what they are, I had to keep the blinds shut for the duration of our stay.

I really can’t say enough good things about this particular Aloft. It was my first experience with this hotel chain, and I was really impressed with the staff. The marketing person who booked my stay, also named Denise, came out to greet us upon arrival. On Friday evening, when I called the front desk for an extra blanket, there was a knock on my door while I was still holding on the phone. I was always greeted when coming and going, and even though they didn’t know much about dog-friendly places around Las Colinas, everyone was really friendly.

Dogs are welcome in the W XYZ bar area, and the courtyard is a great place for morning coffee, afternoon cocktails, and potty duties.

After unpacking our things, I decided we needed a bit of break before getting back in the car. I also didn’t want to head into Dallas until rush hour traffic had subsided. So, we (I) grabbed a drink from the bar and went outside to enjoy the sun and the grass. By 7:00 I was ready for dinner, and based on my perusal of the interwebs had decided to check out a place called Bolsa in the Bishop Arts District.

I found out about Bishop when some friends posted a pic on Facebook a few months ago. I visited the website and thought it looked like a cool place. In addition, I’d discovered an article featuring dog-friendly Dallas hot spots. Low and behold, one of those was in Bishop. A convenient coincidence.

It was an easy 15-minute drive from Las Colinas to Dallas (why I chose LC), and I was in the ‘arts district’ in no time. I use quotations because it didn’t quite resemble the photos from their website. Maybe it looks different at night, but I didn’t find a block or several of local shops and artisans, and what I did see was closed. If you find yourself feeling like you’re in the middle of Westside Story waiting for the Sharks to burst into song, you’re in the right place.  There was an eclectic mix of traffic and I did not feel unsafe; it just wasn’t what I pictured in my mind. I found Bolsa, and circled the block twice before lucking into a space next to their building.

The place was packed both inside and out, and since I wasn’t sure whether the patio was seat yourself, I looked for someone to ask. A customer was able to point me toward the inside host stand. I poked my head in the door and indicated that I needed a place on the patio. There was a bit a of wait, and since all the outdoor tables were set for four or more, I decided the bar would be fine.

A note about the bar: I had to step on the foot rail to get to the bench seat. My Mom, who is only 4’10, probably couldn’t have made that jump. It was a lot like getting into a truck when you’re wearing a skirt. Fortunately, I know how to do this. The good part was there was plenty of room for Henri beneath me, and he was well out of the way. I was immediately greeted by two very entertaining fellows (drunk golfers) who were also seated at the bar. At some point, without me ever even noticing, a waiter slipped a water bowl to Henri. The bar service at Bolsa is excellent, and the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu.

Bolsa is one of those small plate, locally sourced, creative food places with craft cocktails. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it isn’t what I think of when I think of Texas. Hours later after a ‘small plate, 5-lane, I might die, where the hell am I’, rant on Facebook, my friends told me I wasn’t in Texas; I was in Dallas. If I wanted Texas, I’d have to go to Ft. Worth. Apparently, that’s also where I’d have to be if I wanted to pick-up The Ranch on my radio instead of my iPhone app.

(My Dallas friends said I wasn’t trying.)

Yellowtail tuna with radish, pickled green papaya and chili-infused pop rocks.

Yellowtail tuna with radish, pickled green papaya and chili-infused pop rocks.

Speaking of trying…My inner child turned occasional foodie decided to try the Bolsa appetizer of Yellowtail Tuna with pickled green papaya, radish, and chili-infused pop rocks.

No. You did not misread that.

I said ‘POP ROCKS.’

Like straight from the 70’s, explode in your mouth, make you giggle ‘cause it’s fun, Pop Rocks.

It was good. It was fun. It was small. Like Rhode Island, not Texas. I was still hungry, and the dudes next to me had become annoying. I decided to take my chances elsewhere.

 

I wish I’d looked at the Bolsa online menu and that Dallas dog-friendly article more closely before choosing. That’s not really Bolsa’s fault, and while I appreciate that they are dog-friendly, it’s more of a girls night cocktails (try the sangria!), group of friends, or date kind of place. At least on Friday night. There seemed to be a lot of that happening, but no other dogs.

I wanted a big ol’ plate of Texas BBQ, a cold beer, and some friendly dog people.  I suspect Lee Harvey’s is more our style, and I’ve also just learned of a place called Chicken Scratch.

We’ll have to go back! Anybody else want to drive?

I looked at my watch and decided there was time to make it to Mutt’s Canine Cantina for a burger before the kitchen closed at 9:00 p.m. Mutt’s is a dog park/diner with a full bar, and it made our Dallas to-do list long before we even knew when we might go to Dallas. According to my map, which had done an awesome job of navigating me thus far, I was only 15 minutes away.

30 minutes later I was cussing Dallas, it’s 5-lane expressway with exits to the left followed immediately, like within 50 yards, by exits to the right, and my navigation system for cutting out and re-routing, re-routing, re-routing.

Thank all the saints and angels for Mutt’s Cantina! The kitchen was closed when I got there, but they serve bourbon. Maker’s and water, please.

Mutt’s is an awesome place, and it’s not just the bourbon. They have a full menu of burgers and hotdogs, a picnic style area open to the public where dogs must be on-leash, and two attended off-leash areas for member dogs. They are a completely outdoor facility, so keep that in mind. They operate the restaurant, and staff the dog park as weather permits.

As a trainer and dog mom, I love that their dog park is frequently staffed with extra eyes. We don’t go to dog parks very often because so many pet parents are completely inattentive, or bring dogs that really shouldn’t be there. They would not provide me any information on attendant training, which leads me to guess that attendants aren’t specifically trained on canine behavior, but just the fact that they are there is pretty great.  You can choose to hand your dog over while you enjoy something to eat and drink on the patio (and I judge you), or you can join your dog with your plastic cup beverage in hand (no food in the dog park).

It was after 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night by the time we got there, so it wasn’t crowded at all. They was a group lounging in the small dog yard, and only one boxer in the big yard. This was perfection considering my state of mind.

Mutt’s didn’t charge us admittance to the dog park because it was so late in the evening (or because I looked desperate), but day passes are $5.95. Residents of Dallas or those who visit frequently might want to check out their membership for $15.95/mo or $119.40/yr. It includes unlimited use of the park, but there are breed restrictions that their lawyers simply will not let them skirt.

All breeds of well-behaved leashed dogs are welcome on the public patio. However, Pit Bulls are not allowed in the off-leash dog park.

In no hurry to get back on the expressway, and having made friends with two well-behaved Bernese and their dog nanny (who’d flown in on a private plane and were staying in the Penthouse at the Ritz), we shut it down.

Mutt’s was our last Friday night stop and a great end to a mostly frustrating day. Once back to our hotel, our heads hit the pillows and we were out.

You can see our Dallas photos in our Facebook album, and read part two of our Dallas adventure in our next blog post. We’ll tell you about our Saturday morning outing on the Katy Trail- where we met a guy walking his chicken, had brunch at Company Cafe, and made new friends at Katy Trail Icehouse. We’ll also tell you where to get some great fried pickles in Arlington, and grab Sunday breakfast in Las Colinas before heading home. 

 

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