As a guy who spends the majority of his time tongue-mopping his own rectum, I don’t necessarily consider myself an epicurean.
That said, I know there are expectations when it comes to blind dates, so the fact that Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room offers a dog-focused happy hour makes it a singular destination for romantic intention-making.
I don’t want you to think I’m not an expert in food. I am a dog. I have eaten a variety of things, many of them not intended for me to eat. I’ve begged from under the couch for leftover home fries. I’ve been placated on a Sunday night with a Kong full of week-old lasagne. I’ve scarfed a cheese donut from a Glam Doll box left on the porch (my porch), but never have I eaten restaurant food intentionally made for me. Stanley’s wants to give me a variety of food and with intention.
Beatrice is my date. She’s a three-year-old dachshund mix who shows up with yogurt on the top of her head from cleaning out a Dannon container. I don’t think the yogurt is always there, but it’s there today and it's alluring. We meet under a timber picnic table and hastily exchange scents. My owner says she is the boss’s daughter, which is the premise of an Ashton Kutcher film I’ve never seen.
Our night begins with a shallow tin carafe of water. I hope “carafe” is the right word, but English is something I only learned as a means to liver treats. These carafes are given to every dog-bearing table, and it’s big enough for us both to bury our faces at the same time. Water is my third favorite drink behind beer and snow, but beer kills me, which would be bad on a date. Cookies — “vanilla woofers” — are also complimentary at Stanley’s, but they come at the end of the meal, as is human custom.
The waiters at Stanley’s like dogs. Beatrice laps the nose of her server and squeaks like a guinea pig when she walks away, making noises I have only heard made by Craigslist box springs. The Yappy Hour, as Stanley’s calls it, coincides with human happy hour ($1 off beer, wine, and cocktails and $2 off appetizers) every day from 3-6 p.m., so our owners drink beer, which does not kill them, or at least does so less obviously.
The first thing that comes to the table is a smoked pig’s ear. This must’ve been a big pig. The ear is the size of a St. Bernard's, which I have tasted only in raw form. I think a dog the size of a St. Bernard would maybe finish the ear in only a bite or two. Perhaps there should be a moose ear or something bigger for dogs of sizier constitutions. Anyway, it’s delicious. Leathery and rich with pig taste. It’s served on a silver platter, though I prefer to taste it over a bed of cedar mulch, so I snatch the ear and hide beneath my owner’s bench, where I dine alone.
Being on a leash is weird. It makes me angry like a laid-off bus driver with alimony. It’s like someone tied a fence to my center. I keep getting tangled, and then my legs work wrongly. I feel not myself, and I snap at Beatrice when she leans in for the ear, jeopardizing the date. She’s scared, and she initially refuses half the pig’s ear, which my owner wrestles from my gnawing yap.
Chivalry is a human idea. Sort of like pants. Or shame. Still, I feel as though I’ve been a poor host. When the Turkey “Mutt” Loaf — a meatloaf made not from dogs but for dogs — arrives, I try to split it cordially. Beatrice takes one slice, and I have two. We gobble our portions — I think there are peas in there, but it all tastes like the color brown, which is the color of gravy and my favorite-tasting color — and I sniff an apology all over Bea.
Full, we’re a bit cozier. Bea has forgotten my nipping, and she gladly nuzzles my owner’s crotch, a crotch I’ve nuzzled often but feel okay about lending. An 18-wheeler drives by, and a cat-calling trucker collie yelps out the window. Beatrice yaps back with a jerking, evolutionarily satisfying surge. Suddenly I love her, and we await dessert.
Stanley’s offers a puppy sundae, but they’re out of ice cream this day, so the waitress (after nose-kissing Beatrice) brings over extra vanilla woofers. She’s a kind person, not like those people who yell at my owner because of my pooping, and the cookies are good. They’re sugary and crunchy in the way that makes you lick the roof of your mouth like nine or eleven times. I clean some yogurt off Beatrice’s brow, and she doesn’t seem to mind. It’s intimate.
I cover the bill, which I’m led to believe is human tradition. It’s an unclear situation — I’m a dog with a surgically removed instinct for procreation meeting another dog with surgically removed instincts over fake meatloaf while we’re both strapped to lawn furniture — but there are many places to be a dog in Minneapolis, and Stanley’s is among the best of them.
I’m not sure whether there’ll be a second date, mainly because there’s no other canine fine dining in Minneapolis, but if I ever see Beatrice again, I hope she still has some of that yogurt on her head.
Stanley's Yappy Hour
3-6 p.m. every day