Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strangely New York: At Least One Celebrity Chef is a Bit of a Wag

David Burke Townhouse.
By Mitch Broder

David Burke’s dogs don’t have faces, which is kind of creepy, though there’s something to be said for a dog without a mouth.

There’s also something to be said for a chef who puts faceless dogs in your face in front of three upmarket restaurants on the Upper East Side.

It’s a little thing. But it’s a droll thing. And that’s more than you typically get at the type of place that serves dishes like Hudson Valley Rabbit Degustation. The dogs disarm you. You crack a smile. You crack the jokes that everyone cracks. You have a moment of mirth on the sidewalk. You can’t argue with that.

Fishtail by David Burke.
A white plastic dog is tied by a red leash to a long wooden bench in front of David Burke Townhouse, on 61st Street. Another white dog is tied by another red leash to a railing in front of Fishtail by David Burke, on 62nd Street. An orange dog looks out the window, or would if it could, at David Burke at Bloomingdale’s, on 59th Street. It has no leash; it’s indoors.

Kids sit on the dogs and get their pictures taken. Other dogs sniff the dogs because, plastic or not, they’re dogs. A few people have dognapped the dogs. But Burke has always replaced them. They’ve become a trademark. And they were conceived in a matter of principle.

Burke moved into a building that had just altered its pet policy. “If I’d moved in four months earlier I would have been able to have a dog,” he says. He fleetingly toyed with the idea of filling the foyer with toy dogs. He chose instead to be mature. He bought the toy dogs for himself.

“We’re serious restaurant people, but we want you to come and have fun,” he says. This is, after all, the man who also sells Cheesecake Lollipops.

And the dogs ask for so little, he adds: “They’re very loyal, don’t bark, there’s very little cleanup, and they’ve all had their shots.”

David Burke at Bloomingdale's.

Pet the trademarks at David Burke’s restaurants on the Upper East Side, in Manhattan.


  1. It's happened...the dog days of summer are upon us! (Obvious? Oh well!) Woof! I love that other "dogs sniff them because, plastic or not, they're dogs." Next, will people be carrying them in their bags because, next hip trend or not, they're people?

  2. These little guys are so doggone cute I'm going to make a point to go by at least one of the restaurants and sniff them out for myself! Thanks for being such a great pet detective...

  3. I'm wondering if real dogs don't view their plastic cousins as, you know, perhaps 'special'?

  4. Do they have names, the dogs? They should. The orange one is very pretty with her pearl necklace, but I think she wants to go out and play with her albino friends. Although she does match the seating sign nicely.