"Are people as crazy about dogs in St. Pete as they are in Dunedin?" the bartender asked me.
You know, I'm not really sure.
During my trip to Rosie's Tavern, though, Dunedin did seem conspicuously dog-happy. Pups passing by on Broadway during my visit were only slightly outnumbered by humans, and the patio bar was just about evenly matched.
Maybe it's local culture, or maybe it's the fact that the area around Broadway and Main is one of the more picturesque and pleasantly walkable areas in the bay area, perfectly suited for taking the four-leggers out for a leisurely stroll.
The irony is that Rosie's, a bar that is so beyond dog-friendly as to veer into dog-themed territory, once was not able to welcome canine guests after patrons complained about dogs in the bar. The solution: an addition of an outdoor patio, comfortably wedged into a pedestrian walkway between buildings, where you're nearly certain to meet a dog or several during an average afternoon.
Now the dogs inside the bar are in photographs — an entire wall of them, framed and named. Loving portraits of Maxwell, Eddie, Biscuit, Squiggie, and the rest, arranged like a big-city diner displaying autographed headshots of famous patrons.
So if you're a dog, or a friend of a dog, you'll feel quite welcome at Rosie's. But while many folks visit Rosie's for its Fido-friendly reputation, it's also the quintessential locals bar. Every city has its Cheers, and in Dunedin, Rosie's is it.
"Where friends meet" is the bar's motto, and that seems to be the case. It's a cozy, traditional little bar, with dark wood floors and a shiny, lacquered bar top. In one corner, there's the dog portrait wall, as well as a windowside table for small groups. Opposite the bar, a self-service popcorn machine. The bartender seemed to know most of the patrons by name.
Speaking of friends, there's a neat feature at Rosie's. Behind the bar is a screen with an inventory of prepurchased beers. This "buy a friend a beer" program allows guests to buy a pint or two for absent friends, so the next time they stop into Rosie's, there'll be a tab with credit waiting for them.
There are plenty of beers to choose from, too: 20 on draft, as well as that many or more in the cooler. There's a nice range of local brews, as well as seasonals and import staples, like Tucher and Boddingtons. The selection changes frequently, but you'll have no trouble finding something to like. Not sure where to start? Order a "Willie beer" — a 4-ounce taster pour — for $2.
Rosie's also carries a fair selection of wine, stored above the bar in a large bottle rack. There are about a dozen selections available by the glass, as well as mead. The menu is rounded out by a small cigar list which, of course, is an outdoor patio exclusive.
Aside from being possibly the friendliest place in town for humans and dogs alike, Rosie's is swell for another fun little quirk: the Cowpig. Cowpig is a small ceramic salt shaker with an entirely descriptive name that's hidden somewhere in the bar. Guests have an opportunity each day to spot the glass creature, rewarded with a free beer. If no one finds Cowpig, it stays in place until the next day. I'm ashamed to say that I had no success in this regard.
I can think of many, many reasons to spend an afternoon in Dunedin — yes, breweries are four of them — and Rosie's belongs up there at the top. Next time, I'm bringing the dog.
— [email protected]; @WordsWithJG.