A guide to living local in New Hampshire

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Canine Cuisine

& Doggie Bags

By Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer / Fiddlehead Contributing Editors

This is the story of Kiki the Wonder Dog’s great adventure. It may not seem like much to you, but it made her feel like queen for a day.

Kiki doesn’t get out much; she’s a rescue dog who rode a van up from Alabama, where she was beaten and starved. And she’s not really a wonder dog – though we sometimes like to think so.

She hates UPS trucks and thunder. She loves food and tennis balls. She’s a mutt with a grey muzzle, an undeniable underbite and breath that could peel paint.

And we love her as much as she loves us. Which is a lot.

We dread looking at her forlorn face when we leave the house – her perpetual “you’re abandoning me” puss. So, on a recent sunny day when we were heading out to lunch at T-Bone’s Great American Eatery in Bedford, we dressed Kiki up in a bright, blue kerchief and took her to what could very well be the most dog-friendly restaurant in the state.

And it was magic.

T-Bones has been serving dogs on its shady and cool outside patio for a few years. It’s one of the first restaurants in the state to welcome dogs and even has a special menu for them.

We had to wait for a table, but Kiki was magnanimous. She wagged her tail invitingly while she cooled her paws at the head of the waiting line, getting more attention and flattery than a mutt with a beard and an overbite could expect.

“Oh, you’re beautiful,” said the woman in the floral print.

“What a cute doggie,” said the woman who left three pooches at home.

True, she did growl a little at the man in the crutches who tried to pet her, but as he said, “it was probably the right choice.” We didn’t tell him that she’d had been beaten with a broom and crutches frightened her. After all, this was supposed to be a cheerful lunch.

When a table was ready, we were escorted to the far end of the patio that had about a dozen umbrella-topped tables.

“Hi, doggie,” the server said to Kiki, when she came to take our drink orders. “We get a good number of dogs,” said our server. And why not? It’s got everything dogs and dog lovers want – fresh air, plenty of shade and good food – for pets and people.

While we perused both our menus – the dog’s and ours – we let Kiki “sample” the bacon from our wrapped scallop appetizer. She approved.

We checked out her choices from the “Tails on the Terrace” menu – “for our four-legged friends only” and named for owner’s and employees’ dogs. They include the “T” Treat ($2.99) – from-scratch cookies with all-natural ingredients; Eddy’s Assorted Cheeses ($2.99); Frank’s Bacon Wrap Bites ($2.99); the Moose Bowl ($5.99), ground beef, whole grain rotini, cheese and bacon bits; Teddy’s Tasty Tips ($5.99), steak tips with rotini; and Kiki’s choice, the Bear Burger ($5.99), a quarter-pound cooked burger grilled sans seasoning (“so no upset tummies”) topped with melted American cheese over whole-grain pasta ($5.99).

That afternoon Kiki was the only dog on deck. She settled in the shade under the table.

When our appetizers arrived, so did a metal bowl filled with ice water for Kiki. We got the free tap, but we could have gone for a bottled Dasani.

As soon as we laid eyes on our bacon-wrapped scallops we remembered Kiki’s biggest flaw – incessant, food-induced, mouth watering – a scar from her days in the puppy pound where she was under loved and underfed. It’s so bad, we’ve nicknamed her Drooly Andrews.

Maybe it was the gentle wind carrying away the scent of scallops. Maybe it was because she couldn’t see what was on the table. But for some reason, dining al fresco cured her – at least for the moment.

She accepted our gift of a piece of bacon, gracefully and without so much as a dribble.

The dog’s meal (restaurant rules) came out separately from ours. And she became the center of attention as she made her way through the heaping bowl of yumminess, unlike the ravenous food vacuum she is at home.

“I’m not allowed to pat them,” said our server, “but when I’m off the clock, that’s different.”

“What a well-behaved dog,” said the diner at an adjoining table.

And with those compliments and her stellar behavior we were tempted to treat Kiki to dessert – Bones & Cones, a French vanilla ice cream cone sprinkled with petite rainbow dog biscuits. But we were a little worried about what that and a 20-minute ride home might do to her stomach. Next time. And there will definitely be a next time.

At the end of the meal, we hoped Kiki would pick up the check. She did not. But we left with a doggie bag - and she didn’t.

While the state only allows service animals inside restaurants, many welcome dogs to their outdoor areas including Cheers Grille & Bar in Concord, Firefly American Bistro and Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester and Martha’s Exchange in Nashua. Grill 603 on Elm Street in Milford also welcomes dogs on their charming patio.

The Anheuser-Busch Biergarten in Merrimack welcomes dogs for its Yappy Hour on the second Tuesday of the month when $1 of every beer ordered will be donated to the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.