4237 Alabama Street, University Heights
Most of the time, even dedicated dog-friendly dining establishments don't allow a pooch inside. I'm sure this is due to some issue of sanitation or municipal regulation, etc. So, as pup and I walked up to Mama's Bakery at the edge of University Heights, I leashed her to an outside table, looked up at the sky and hoped the bright sun wouldn't prove too much for her — otherwise this would be a brief meal.
Fortunately, Mama's is an unusual structure, the kind that makes it tough to define whether its wood frame and corrugated plastic roof dining room is technically indoors or out. More to the point, the kitchen and ordering counter are completely walled off from the dining area, so they gladly welcomed me and mutt into the shaded, brick-floor space. They even provided a small pie tin to serve as water dish.
I consider this a great victory for dog-diners, as this screened-in room is just open enough to provide a sun-dappled eating experience without forcing you to watch cars try to parallel park out front. The large-leaf plants and piped-in Mediterranean music also provide a decent match for sort of "off the sajj" falafel and shawarma dishes that are the Lebanese deli's specialties.
Since I'm the type of guy who always craves a little fried chickpea flour even when I really want to order a garlic chicken wrap, ordering a lunch combo with a side of falafel always works out great. I grabbed my dog and we grabbed an indoor table, and I sat wondering whether I were stuck in a Mediterranean food rut. Now that I knew how receptive this place is to dogs, I endeavored to order something different on subsequent visits. I mean, how can you go wrong ordering baba ghanouj once in a while?
Only one problem: my dine-in meal was served to me in a Styrofoam container. I'm no friend of Styrofoam, and if I know a place uses it I'll just cross them off my list as a take-out option. But serving Styrofoam in-house is tough to reconcile. Makes it tough to enjoy a meal facing the realization that my plate's going to sit in a nearby landfill, slowly deteriorating for decades after I'm gone, especially knowing I will probably wind up eating out of another Styrofoam container within the next couple of weeks, and potentially thousands in the course of my life. Is this the kind of example I want to set for my dog?
Oh I know, she doesn't care, she just wants to stick her nose in that planter in the corner and maybe suss out what the guy at the next table is eating. It smells good, and tastes pretty good too, especially when you get the garlic paste and tahini working together with a little hot sauce. But like all food it would go down a little easier served on something sustainable. Even my dog's dish was recyclable.