I’ve read about pet cafés featuring cats and have wondered if going to one would really be such a nice experience no matter how cute the featured pets may be. Somehow, I can’t seem to reconcile food and furry creatures running around in one small area, especially when pets are now banned from food establishments in certain areas in the south. Moreover, even if I, myself, am a pet owner and used to bring our Boston terrier Quinn with us when dining at certain restaurants, I do not relish the thought of finding pet hair on my food or drinks. (I guess that must be one of the reasons such city ordinance has been enforced.) To satisfy my curiosity, however, Big ‘n Lil Sis and I visited the first and only pet café in San Pedro, Laguna: Pet Lovers Café.
The first thing I looked for when we entered Pet Lovers Café was their pets, of course. There was a small fenced area where a Yorkshire terrier was sitting quietly, and this was the first thing I noticed upon entering. A group of students nearby was crowding on a Shih Tzu, while a pomeranian was standing on a stool by the counter.
The café was really small, but the owners somehow managed to make it cozy. Wooden crates were used as low tables and guests were seated on a carpeted floor with two-inch thick square cushions. There’s also an elevated area (much like the top section of a bunk bed) that guests would have to climb using a ladder if they prefer some privacy.
Big ‘n Lil Sis each immediately went to the unattended dogs, while I tried to look for a corner that’s not too cramped. Although my girls and I have been vaccinated against rabies, I still cautioned them as they approached the dogs, especially that neither of them seemed to be the crowd favorite and I couldn’t help wondering if it’s because they’re not as well-behaved as the other. It didn’t take long, however, before my girls became fast friends with them, and the other patrons started crowding on them too, asking to have their photos taken.
All three dogs were very sociable, but they tend to get overly excited at times, especially Angel the pomeranian and Yupie the Yorkshire terrier. And when they do, they’d start running around just like little kids. They’re actually very fun to watch and I loved how my girls were able to relate to them.
Snappy the Shih Tzu was not as active as the other two and was more like a stuffed toy. I suppose many adults prefer that in a pet, especially when they’re trying to enjoy a meal or when they’re deep in a conversation, and this must be the reason she’s able to attract more guests than her pals. Angel, however, has the tendency to come to your table and sniff your food once he thinks you’re already friends. Yupie, on the other hand, was the noisiest one when excited, and according to their pet mom, he was also the hardest to train. Nevertheless, although these three have different personalities, they’re all very lovable, smart, and cuddly.
There were supposed to be two more dogs in the café, but one, a toy poodle, had a veterinary appointment that day while the other, a chow chow, was already too big to be part of the entourage. Hence, we only met three of them.
The café owners and staff were very hands-on, greeting and talking with the guests, especially Lorie. Lorie, one of the owners and the dog breeder, closely monitors her pets and makes it a point to chat with the guests. When she saw that Angel was interested in our food, she immediately came over to our table and handed us dog treats to give him, and started chatting with us. She was very friendly and I was able to interview her about the business. (When we arrived, there were students interviewing her too.)
I found out that Lorie has been breeding dogs for several years now, i.e., since 2012, if I remember it right, and has already bred around 70 of them. Apparently, one of her friends convinced her to add a café to her pet grooming shop, especially that pet cafés have started gaining popularity in the metro.
She said that Pet Lovers Café first became known as a grooming pad for dogs and a café. She pointed to the small area beneath the bunk bed-like platform and told me that it used to be the grooming corner. Honestly, if I was having difficulty imagining pets and food in a small space at first, I had more difficulty imagining a grooming pad in that cramped space along with a café. I couldn’t help thinking of hair blowing about and getting in the food and drinks while someone’s pet is being groomed! How they managed to keep the whole area clean was remarkable to me.
Since more people started discovering the café, Lorie and her business partner Bam decided to separate the grooming service from the coffee shop in December 2016. They retained the business name Pet Lovers Grooming and Café (in their business logo), though they’re more known now simply as Pet Lovers Café.
Of course, a café won’t be a café without serving refreshments, would it? They had catchy names for their frappés, which were coined with popular dog breeds. We sampled their Overload Frappé (with KitKat, Pepéro, Luxury wafers, and marshmallows), with Donutela Lie Bichon (Nutella) as the base drink, along with French fries with cheese and beef, and Corginara (carbonara).
Their Donutela Lie Bichon Overload Frappé came really loaded with goodness in every sip. It’s a wonder the three of us got to even share it at all! Big Sis also loved the French fries and at PHP108.00, it was really worth the price. They didn’t spare on the cheese sauce and beef, and the fries itself was good for 2–3 persons. From now on, I’d rather go to Pet Lovers Café for French fries instead of Potato Corner when I’m in the area.
The carbonara, however, wasn’t really much to my liking although the presentation was nice. The thing is, I prefer my carbonara sauce rich and creamy. Unfortunately, I didn’t find their sauce creamy at all, plus I’m not used to having ground meat in my carbonara. It’s like having meat spaghetti, except the sauce was white. Since the girls were more interested in playing with their new furry friends, I’m afraid I got to eat more than my share. We spent nearly PHP400.00 in total, by the way, which wasn’t bad at all.
The items on the menu all seemed reasonably priced and the amount of food and drinks are usually good for sharing, too. Although there’s nothing fancy about the food they serve, I look forward to trying their different fraps, which are priced at only PHP108.00, and PHP138.00 only for the overload version. I particularly liked the fact that what we ordered had just the right amount of sweetness and we were able to drain our cup empty.
You see, we’ve tried other coffee shops in the area, in which we only got to consume half of the contents in our glasses because they’re too sweet, the shaved ice had formed into a huge chunk of ice, or there’s too much heavy cream that won’t really mix with the drink itself and could even make you gag if you try to eat it off. Not to mention they’re pricing were close to Starbucks’s fraps! At Pet Lovers Café, however, we really enjoyed our drink down to the last drop.
So, going back to my previous concern of whether it’s really possible to have pets running around in a café while keeping the area clean and still create a nice dining experience for its guests, my answer is yes. Pet Lovers Café’s Angel, Yupie, and Snappy were sociable and behaved, they wore disposable diapers, they have their own dog food, and once their pet mom Lorie placed them on the stools in front of the café, they would stay there and let the guests just admire them as they eat in peace or take photos of them. Thankfully, I didn’t find any pet hair on our food and drinks or any surface, and the whole place was remarkably clean, too.
Do I have any suggestion for Pet Lovers Café? Of course. First of all, I’ve heard about them months ago, but didn’t realize how near they were to our village because their signage wasn’t that visible at all. They should install one by the nearest landmark, where both commuters and passersby would easily see, especially that they’re located at the back of a building, facing an unpaved road by an empty lot.
When it comes to the shop’s interior, I would suggest making the area beneath the platform well-lit as young lovers tend to sit there and smooch without a care as to anyone who might see them. Yes, I was scandalized that they would do such a thing at a wholesome, family-friendly place. I also feared that my very young daughters had seen them, especially they were seated across from us. They probably thought that the dim light had made them invisible, and I had to restrain myself from telling them so.
Next, playing soft rock music or instrumental jazz or reggae in the background would probably help make the ambiance cozier and keep the dogs from getting very excited, too. Although this wasn’t really a problem, it won’t hurt to help them and the patrons adjust more easily to each other. Moreover, it could help make the latter feel more relaxed in such a small place, where you could easily bump elbows and knees with the person at the next table, even overhear the conversations going around you, and tension could easily arise if the other person is not easily persuaded by the cuteness of the café’s furry residents.
Lastly, they might want to check out my recipe for a really creamy and tasty carbonara. They could drop all the optional ingredients in it and still come up with a creamy and tasty one that’s affordable. And, if they decide to use it, all I would ask is to have it named after one of our pets, Quinn. 😉
Now, would I recommend Pet Lovers Café as a go-to place for animal lovers and even for those who seemed afraid of dogs? Yes. In fact, if you already have pets, you would appreciate this place, especially with the well-trained Angel, Yupie, and Snappy surrounding you. We already have six dogs, mind you, yet coming to this place makes me want to have at least one more! On the other hand, if you happen to be afraid of dogs or had a traumatic experience with one, this place could help you overcome that fear too, with the gentleness and intelligence that Angel, Yupie, and Snappy exhibit. If you have a sociable and healthy small-breed dog, you may also bring it along when you visit.
What I really find interesting about Angel, Yupie, and Snappy, however, was even if they seemed to be very sociable and would allow you to pick them up and pet them, they still know who their owner is and would look after her. I noticed how they, especially Angel, started barking at a shady-looking guy who attempted to go inside the café, but seemed to have changed his mind and left immediately. I guess just like most dogs who were raised by loving owners, they are able to discern easily if someone’s a friend or a threat.
By the way, Pet Lovers Café is celebrating their 1st anniversary on June 23rd and they’re throwing in a raffle promo. You get an entry coupon for every PHP500 worth of food purchase, which would give you a chance to win any of the following prizes: a Shih Tzu puppy for the first prize; PHP1,000.00 worth of gift certificate for the second prize; and PHP500.00 worth of gift certificate for the third prize. Promo runs until June 22, 2017 only, so hurry!
Pet Lovers Café is located at #1480 Old National Highway, Brgy. Nueva, San Pedro, Laguna. It’s open from Mondays to Saturdays 1 PM to 8 PM. You may call 0932 403 3487 for directions, more information, or if you’re looking to buy a Shih Tzu, Yorkshire terrier, pomeranian, toy poodle, or chow chow for pets. ❤
Addendum: I just remembered that they did not provide their customers receipts when we were there. I have noted that there are many cafés and other small establishments in the area that do not do so either, but I hope Pet Lovers Café would help change that practice. Giving out receipts is not only mandated by law, but it also makes business entities seem more professional in their dealings. For me, it further assures the customers that they guarantee that their products and services are good, not to mention they’re good citizens who pay their taxes, too. 😉
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