Al Updike's goal for his restaurant, Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails in Cornelius, is to be a good neighborhood restaurant where everyone is welcome, including families and pets.
Dogs, with their owners, have been welcome on the outdoor patio since the restaurant opened earlier this year. "It's one of those fun things," said Updike. "We have dog bowls and biscuits," he said. "I have a few recipes for dog biscuits and I may start making my own.
"When no one is above you, no one can tell you what you can't do."
Updike is an alumnus of 131 Main, also in Cornelius. He took over the space in the Jetton Village retail center once occupied by Charleston Chops and later Mia Famiglia.
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Several folks and their dogs are already regulars, Updike said.
He and his wife, Heather Clark, are dog lovers with a border collie mix and a Lab mix. They came up with the idea for the restaurant while visiting at Ramsey Creek Park's dog park and talking with other pet owners who noted there's really no eatery where you can take your dog. Some restaurants in Birkdale Village in Huntersville are an option for those who don't mind larger crowds.
Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails has a long patio with nine tables enclosed by a railing that is handy for securing leashes. Pets are expected to be well-behaved and to get along with other patrons. If you want to bring a cat? Updike chuckles and says that's at your own risk.
The restaurant has a "yappy" hour 4-6 p.m. on the patio with two-for-one appetizers, while happy hour is indoors at the bar. There's live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.
New specials are added to the menu daily. Some of the crowd pleasers include the Three Course Peninsula Special, offered 4-6 p.m. for $14. Entrée selections includes prime rib, grilled trout, braised lamb shanks and baby back ribs. Meals are served with a house salad and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Other regular deals include half-price bottle of wine on Sundays; $3 pints of beer on Mondays; $4 Pinnacle martini's on Tuesdays; lobster dinner for $19.99 on Wednesdays. www.altonskitchen.com.
Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails, 19918 North Cove Road, Cornelius. 704-655-2727.
The Dog Bar and others
Perhaps the most well-known bar open to canines in the region is The Dog Bar in the historic North Davidson neighborhood of Charlotte. No food is served at the neighborhood pub, but dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcomed, as long as they are well-behaved. There is a $10 per dog membership and some rules to follow. Due to liability, children are not allowed.
That concern was echoed by some Lake Norman restaurants, including Updike who said the experience should be good for all parties. "We don't want anyone to get hurt," he said.
John Morris, the general manager of Brixx Pizza at Birkdale Village, says patrons are welcome to bring their dogs, but must sit outside the railing that encloses the restaurant's outdoor patio. The restaurant is popular with families with small children who like to run around, Morris said, and there could be a frightening encounter if a child accidentally stepped on a dog's tail, for example. He does keep dog bowls that the wait staff will fill with water and bring to the canines.
Also in Birkdale Village, JD Rockers Subs & Salads allows patrons with pets to be seated outdoors, although the restaurant doesn't actively encourage it, said restaurant manager Jason Selter. "If they bring their pet, it's not a problem."