Mr. Ming was looking to get outdoors. After a long holiday season spent watching his humans shop, wrap presents and go out, it was his turn. His time to sniff, bark and be merry.
Enter Yard Bar, Austin’s newest venue for furry friends to run, jump and be social. By combining food, drink and a variety of fun activities, this hidden gem on Burnet Road is quickly becoming the city’s premier doggy destination.
Born From Necessity
Like most things awesome, the inspiration for Yard Bar came from need. While frequenting the dog runs at Auditorium Shores, owner Kristen Heaney realized the sad reality of dog parks: there’s not much there for people to do. What if there was a place where pet owners could grab a drink and a bite while their dog frolicked in the park?
After testing a number of business models, Heaney leased the lot on Burnet Road where the old Putt-Putt Golf and Games used to live, and began building the dog park of her dreams. When it opened in August 2015, word quickly spread among Austin’s pet friendly community. Yard Bar was the place to be.
Fun for the Whole Fur-mily
The first thing at Yard Bar that catches your eye is the main play area. The park is expansive and has ample room for dogs to run at full-tilt. Jumps, agility tubes and other play elements are scattered around the grounds, providing much needed stimulation for active pups.
Yard Bar also features a separate small dog play area for the little ones. Small dogs are allowed in the main area, but if your little guy is easily intimidated, he has a separate space to play. Picnic tables and lawn chairs dot the park’s perimeter, providing plenty of room for parents to chill out as their dogs run amok.
And the best thing of all? Yard Bar employs an army of “Bark Rangers” to police the grounds and keep dogs safe. No more fretting about your two-year-old boxer getting into it with the crabby pug from down the street. The Bark Rangers are there to watch for aggressive behavior and make sure everyone is having a fun, yet safe, time.
Putting the Bar in Yard Bar
And it’s a good thing somebody’s watching your fur baby because you’ll want to take advantage of Yard Bar’s extensive beer, wine and cocktail menu. The beer list consists of eight taps and over 20 cans, all of which are from craft breweries, with a heavy emphasis on local favorites. Nothing like having a Hops and Grain Pale Dog while watching Mr. Ming socialize. What a coincidence!
The bar also features an impressive cocktail list. Concocted from 100% housemade ingredients, the list feels more Rainey Street than dog park. From a rock solid Bloody Mary with pickled green beans to the whiskey kick of a Blue Lacy (bourbon, blueberry, basil, lemon juice and rhubarb bitters), there’s something for everyone.
And they give back. $1 from the sale of their Moscow mule-inspired cocktail (called Rescue Me) and a full order of their housemade hush puppies go towards local charities via their non-profit, Yard Bar Loves (#YBLOVES).
The food menu is no slouch, either. While grub isn’t allowed in the main park, Yard Bar has a full covered dining area, complete with wait service. The menu features comfort food with a gourmet twist. Salads, sandwiches and snacks dominate the list and have been getting rave reviews.
Yard Bar also offers treats like beef sliders and ice cream for your furry friend. Ever think you could enjoy a charcuterie board after running around with your dog? Consider that dream a reality!
Oasis of Furry Fun
Yard Bar isn’t just about drinks, eats and supervised play. The venue also hosts a number of fun affairs within their dedicated event space. Aside from the usual birthday parties and scheduled events, local dog training organization Leaps and Hounds holds regular obedience classes. Just a few weeks ago, Yard Bar held “Hair of the Dog,” a New Year’s Day party that not only gave late night revelers a place to unwind, but also handed out prizes to the shaggiest dogs and their scruffy owners.
As I sat on a lawn chair watching Mr. Ming stalk about and beg for human attention, I felt like I was at a relaxed, laid back puppy party. With string lights casting an amber glow on running canines, and the sound of softly rushing traffic in the distance, my Yard Bar experience was serene. Conversation was spirited; Mr. Ming was content; and I had a beer in hand, taking in a balmy Thursday night. In the words of Kristen Heaney, that’s the whole point.
“We want it to feel like an extension of your own backyard. It’s just a place that generates a lot of community, conversation and good feeling.”
As my dog snoozed on my lap after an hour of sniffing, begging and socializing, it was clear that Heaney’s goal was achieved. Mr. Ming tested; Mr. Ming approved.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Where do you go when your dog needs some outside time?