When we go out on the town for three to four hours at a time, we don’t like to leave our little boo at home alone staring at carpet lint or breaking into our fridge. Plus, she really appreciates a good boozy beverage.* Enter: the top 10 dog bars in Durham.
In our dog Syba’s almost 14 years of life, our default is to bring her with us, even when we tour the US by Westfalia. Though we once had some issues with an audience member feeding her whiskey while we were performing somewhere in Colorado, typically she just chills out at the bar, licking the occasional alcohol spill-up for the establishment. It’s a win/win.
But let’s face it: not everyone loves your pup. There are health codes. Your dog’s hair might drift into an unsuspecting Old Fashioned, and, well, choke someone. Which, folks, I find quite ironic and unfair given that hair of the dog is just the cure for a hangover.
* For those who may be sucking in breath, wondering how irresponsible people like us have a dog, first I say: you’re right. We totally shouldn’t have a dog. Second, I submit: her liver was tested and she/it passed with flying colors.
What’s a dog-having person to do when they want to get on their buzz with their best friend nearby?
Luckily, Durham has several option for canine-loving cosmopolitans like you. Below, please find our favorites — with caveats that you will want to plan for. Please note that our selections are within a few mile radius, centered in downtown Durham.
Before you go out: 4 essential dog accompaniments
But first: are you new to hangin’ with pups out on the town? You might want to read the tips below for a successful night. Much like a diaper bag, you totally need a doggy bag, which unfortunately I can’t call it since it was co-opted by the takeout food industry (sheesh!) – but here are the items we always bring with us on our person.
If you purchase any of the below through our links, we get a percentage as Amazon affiliates. That means more doggy treats for Syba.
1. Water, H20, clear liquid
In addition to sips of your beer, you’ll want to have some water on hand for your dog. Most of the bars below will have a nicely placed water bowl for your pup, but not all the time. It’s best to be prepared. After all, those bar snacks are awful salty and your doggy will thirst.
We just have a simple collapsible bowl that we stuff into a nylon water-bottle carrier. However, should we do it over again, we’d pick this:
Or, you can carry your dog AND her treats, size-permitting, in this.
When all else fails, just bring a covered non-leaking Tupperware filled with water.
Sure, you like hanging out at the bar. But for your dog, it’s just a bunch of legs, laughing, and drips of random alcohol on their furry head. If your dog is anything like Syba, he or she will want something to keep occupied while you engage in your conversations about your latest podcast discovery.
In addition to keeping your pooch occupied so you can drink, the following are reportedly good puzzles for your dog’s brain. Here are our top three treat-stuffers, and our favorite treats.*
One: Kong dog bone
In my mind, this is the classic. We’ve had about three, each lost on trips rather than destruction. The KONG Goodie Bone Dog Toy is a sure winner.
Pros: It’s durable, and easy to say, “Go get your bone!” then fill it with a treat. Also, and critically in this case, it is easy to find on bar floors.
Cons: It looks like a dildo. I suppose this can be a pro.
Two: Bento ball
We felt like it was much too easy for Syba to crack the Kong, so a couple of years ago searched for a more challenging toy. After reading Bento Balls could entertain dogs with high intelligence and/or a propensity to get into mischief due to boredom (I think I have mentioned this?) we bought one. It comes with a treat, which isn’t vegan (Syba’s been vegan for almost 14 years), but it’s easily refillable with other treats. Introducing the StarMark Everlasting Bento Ball.
Pros: Harder for Syba to get treats out than the Kong.
Cons: Looks like a sex toy for … men. Easy to lose in bars. Especially if someone takes it thinking it’s a sex toy. (Which might have happened in our case, with a mysterious disappearance of the Bento following a pub-crawl crowd, with a lot of … men.)
Cons, part II: What do you say to your dog when you ask her to go get it? You can’t say, “Go get your bone.” Maybe, “Go get your … sex toy?”
Three: Kong bear treat toy
Finally, the perfect cutsie-pie toy. After losing our Bento (see above) we were happy to find this treat dispenser.
Pros: It’s a conversation piece. And so danged cute. Though it’s easier to “crack” than the Bento above, it has one very important advantage: it does not appear to be a sex toy.
Cons: A little to easy to get some treats out. Makes an oddly disturbing slurpy sound when stuffed with peanut butter and dog attempts to extract.
* Note: We have not had any troubles with Syba chewing these up, but if you have a tough chewer, you might want to read reviews from similar owners.
Our favorite treats
You need something that will fit in your treat toy, TREATS, namely, and that will vary depending on the toy and its size.
It you want over-the-top cute, you’ll have to try these heart-shaped numbers that fit right into the bear’s heart. GHOZH! I don’t know if my heart can take it. OVERLOAD. Try some Bocce’s Bakery Dog Biscuits – PB & Banana.
These treats have only three ingredients: oat flour, peanut butter, banana. We have the peppermint variety, currently (not available on Amazon), and Syba loved them as stocking stuffers, esp. out of her stocking, into her mouth.
Our go-to for years (when we can find them) are Mr Barkys Vegetarian Dog Biscuits. The peanut butter flavor are also good (Syba says, and a friend of ours who tried them.)
And a place to hold your treats, if not your pockets: Large Dog Treat Pouch.
No one wants a stinky room-clearing accident while tossing back a cold one. Make sure your dog poops before you get into the bar space, maybe on your walk there. Just grab this ZippyPaws Dog Poop Bag Holder Leash Attachment getup and you’ll be fine.
You just finished the final touches on your hot pants and go-go boots, but what about Fido? Should he just go in his own … fur? I think not.
He needs one of the following.
A nice bow tie makes a statement for all occasions. And that statement is:
“I am a sophisticated dog, with discerning owners. Or, companions, as is PC to call them, these days. Though, if truth be told, I consider them my oppressors.”
Syba has had her polka-dotted bow tie attached to her collar for years, and enjoys many compliments, such as, “Oh! She has a bow tie!”
Here are two you can attach to your mutt:
- Wedding Dog Bow Tie/ Collar Bow. I prefer the clip-on variety, rather than the all-in one collar. This is them.
We all like to be merry, and so does your dog. We’ve found the following jingle collar to be a “hit” during the holiday season (as well as a warning to the bar of our arrival) through the years. And, it’s quite … dignified … without being committed to any particular tradition or religion. Introducing the Outward Hound Kyjen PP01771 Dog Bell Collar Holiday Pet Accessories, Medium, Red
Testimonial from Syba:
“It’s so light and fluffy, I don’t even notice that it’s on. Not even with the constant ringing of the bells when I shake my head, or scratch my ear.”
As a final note on holiday garb, I *know* it’s tempting, but PLEASE don’t do this to your dog.
It’s just embarrassing, for both of you. Go with the understated. Your dogs social standing (and yours) will thank you for this choice.
Honorable mention: Bedding
Okay, we never bring bedding. But maybe we’re jerks. Perhaps your dog is sensitive to bar floors. Ours sleeps on the floor even with a bed available here at home.
“That’s because my bed SUCKS.”
However, we did see a couple at the Pinhook’s recent Star Wars screening who brought bedding for their dogs, and we felt very much the underachievers that night. If you pamper your pet, you may want to bring their fave hairy blanky or the Travel Bed Throw Blanket.
And now, without further ado. Let’s find your new favorite watering Spot(s)!
Top 10 dog bars in Durham
In no particular order, the top 10 dog bars in Durham. Many have indoor and outdoor dog seating, while some only allow your dog to sit outdoors due to food/code requirements. We’ve noted this in italics, below.
One of our favorite local bars is the Pinhook: a home to everyone who can get along and treat one another well. Utopia! Your dog is welcome to hang out inside or on the back outdoor porch. Syba tests her luck behind the bar, but we recommend keeping your fur friend nearby. Plenty of water available, but bring a bowl.
Caveat: Unless your pooch has ear protection, you’ll want to avoid nights with loud bands. Alternately, weather permitting, sit back in the nice covered porch. If your dog is loose, and anything like Syba, just watch they don’t dumpster-dive the neighboring bins.
Does your dog like television? She’s come to the right place. However, if your dog is like us, you can find seating away from the screens and play a game of Rummy while your dog Kongs it out below. A very friendly bar with delicious martinis (and this means tasty floor drips for your dog, too!).
Parts & Labor
One of our favorite places to bring Syba is to Parts & Labor right beside Motorco. Here, we can enjoy delicious food (with plenty of vegan options), followed by drink.
They have self-serve water which you can use to fill your dog’s bowl. Or, if your dog hurls when drinking ice water like Syba does, you can fill up with lukewarm water in the nearby bathroom.
Caveat: If you’re thinking of hitting a show at Motorco afterward, they don’t allow dogs inside, even for the quiet bands.
Reportedly the best place to lick beer off the floor,* this brewery is very dog and kid-friendly. On any given night, you’ll see plenty of people walking around with their dogs. It’s a great winter spot since indoor seating is allowed.
Caveat: At certain times of day, it’s filled with kids who might tug your dog’s tail. Beware!
*Based on observation of floor-licking.
Does your dog like dark places with the occasional metal soundtrack? The Surf Club is a nice place to hang out with spaces indoors or out for your boo.
Caveat: It can get a bit loud/crowded, so warm weather and outdoor seating are your best bet.
I love that this space opened up where Syba and I used to walk to find a bit of deserted isolation. Last night, we enjoyed a beer and cider, respectively, while Syba whined at us for to spill some for her (and I relented). She received plenty of pets and compliments, and did well overall considering we forgot to bring her treat toys. Ponysaurus supplies a water bowl, so your dog’s thirst is in good hands.
A food truck usually parks outside, so your meals are covered, too.
Caveat: If your dog is on the wimpy side like Syba (and I) they may not like walking over the metal grates on the high deck (which are located at both staircase tops and as a middle “bridge” to each section). In this case, keep your pup low — you’ll find plenty of seating below, too.
Bull City Ciderworks
Right around the corner from Ponysaurus (at the moment) you’ll find one of my favorite spots. Syba’s too: when we walk by, she lunges in their direction. There is limited seating inside, but plenty outdoors. A food truck is usually available, too. They supply a water bowl for your dog right near the bar, and treats, too.
Caveat: Eventually, they are moving — so check their site if you’re reading this well after December 2015.
Sometimes craft beer is just not good enough for your canine. You’ll need to step up your bar game and bring them to the fancy (and pricey) Bar Lusconi. Maybe it’s their birthday. Maybe they just deserve something a little special tonight.
Try their various wines and spill a little in you dog’s water dish if you’re feeling generous.
Caveat: Limited seating, and you’ll need to access this back space through the alley.
The Green Room
It used to be the smokiest room in Durham. Now, it’s smoke-free, but somehow still … smokey. Play some pool or shuffleboard and bring your dog along. This might be a good spot to debut that hat your dog bought last summer.
In the golden days of McCabe’s* you could let your dog loose in the huge yard where you sip your beer, eat your veggie burger, and watch your dog hunt for scraps.
Though your dog must now be leashed, never fear: there is a new small enclosure that appears to be a tiny dog park! Let your pal loose and sip your bubbly nearby. It’s very dog friendly and a nice grassy space for them too, unless they prefer bar floors they can lick.
Caveat: This is the go-to location for both kids and dogs, depending on the time of day. As with Fullsteam, beware your pup’s tail/ears/placement to nearby toddlers.
* Well, silver. The Golden Days were when Joe and Jo’s was still here, technically.
Drinking without dog: verified locales your pup is *not* welcome
Just when I was about to include the Atomic Fern in my top 10 dog bars of Durham, I read “No Pets” in their rules, here.
We love our local game-having bar, and were originally told that dogs were OK as long as it was only one dog at a time, so have brought Syba on several occasions without incident. We did lose Syba’s aforementioned Bento Ball here one night (see above), so maybe that was a sign of rules to come?
You may also be curious about our newest basement bar off of Main Street. Last night, Rob and I headed to try out the Arcana. Rob went downstairs to check and see if dogs were allowed.
Nope. Too bad, because Syba is really into reading Tarot, and loves New Orleans.
In between bars? Don’t forget to let your dog run off some steam at the Downtown Durham Dog Park.
Does your dog have a hangover from too much floor-licking?
Now might be the time to check out her liver at the newish (and friendly) Broadway Vet.
Located in stumbling distance from most of these bars, it’s very convenient. Syba is a new customer and has good reports, so far.