I am not so crazy about my animals that I have a burning desire to open a restaurant to honor them, but it's sure fun to patronize places run by people who are so inspired.
Gracie's and L'Uraku are more than 5,000 miles apart, and have extremely different concepts. But the theme of each is based on a beloved departed animal. I suppose if you are not an animal lover you wouldn't be intrigued by the stories behind the restaurants, or even bother to ask why the curtains at Gracie's are in a dog-print pattern, or why there is a dish of cat food in the ladies powder room at L'Uraku.
But for me and for other cat and dog owners, such originality is commendable.
Gracie's is a casual blue-collar restaurant in Stowe, Vt., with an attached Gourmutt Shop, a pet shop. The restaurant and shop are named for the late Gracie, a 2-year old Airedale and yellow lab mix.
L'Uraku is in Honolulu. It is Japanese with European influences, and it's elegant, pricey, and honors a cat.
I did not take the time to count the number of dog figurines that adorn every shelf and nook at Gracie's because I was too interested in the plays on words in the menu with the paw-print cover. Had Digby made the trip to Vermont with me, we surely would have taken a table on the dog-friendly patio, where water is served.
Gracie was 1 year old when Sue and Paul Archdeacon opened the restaurant 15 years ago. Now they have Stan and Norm, Blue Tick hounds.
Sandwiches, billed as doggone good burgers, include the Chihuahua with a half-pound of meat, to larger burgers with appropriate big-dog breed titles, including the Boxer, and the Rothweiler, promoted as having a good bite to it.
Drinks also keep the canine theme flowing to include "gourmuttinis." The Jack Russell is vodka, brandy, lime juice, and grenadine. The Greyhound adds grapefruit juice to vodka.
Gracie's is located on Highway 108, also called the Mountain Road, in Stowe.
L'Uraku, located in the Uraku Tower in Honolulu, is a joyful whimsical setting, thanks to the artistic talents of Kiyoshi Matsumotom, but with serious food, thanks to professional chefs. A canopy of black umbrellas hanging from the ceiling may sound grim, but to know that each has a colorful design inside brightens the setting.
Diners who study the umbrella designs closely will find Kiyoshi's many interpretations of his beloved cat, Koko. The cat prints are not prominent. Nor is there a sign over the dish of cat food in the powder room stating that it is for Koko when and if she returns.
Koko was a golden Somali cat that was lost. Kiyoshi's sadness over the loss is expressed in his artwork that he dedicates to Koko and to all people who have known love. At the restaurant his work adorns walls, ceramics, and chair backs as well as the umbrellas.
By profession Kiyoshi is a sushi chef, trained in Tokyo. The last I knew he was working at the Hyatt Hotel in Honolulu. He began to paint as a hobby after moving to Honolulu and being inspired by its beauty. He also writes with the same flair seen in his painting.
His description of Koko, framed on the restaurant wall is: "Her hair is gold. She knows she is a princess. I think she never thinks she is a cat. She meows like a baby. She walks like Marilyn Monroe. Valentine's Day is Koko's birthday. I do many paintings for Koko. She shows many shapes of love. "