At Norm's Eatery & Alehouse in Fremont, dogs are not only welcome, they're practically required. While the place is famous locally on a number of counts—for packed Thursday trivia nights, for mind-controlling house-made potato chips, and for 40-ounce PBRs (formerly served in paper bags, now in little insulated jackets with the Norm's insignia on them)—the raison d'être is clearly canine. A statue of a dog wearing a scarf greets you at the door. More 3-D dog renderings sit and stay above the bar. There are photos of dogs, posters of dogs, dog-related inspirational placards ("My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog thinks I am"), dogs painted on the walls above the red vinyl booths, and a sculpture of a metal dog playing golf. (One of the very few departures from dog decor is a photograph of the couple from Twilight locked in an amorous embrace. The personable barkeep was unable to explain this aberration.)
For those in need of the proverbial hair of the dog, Norm's has a noteworthy bonus weekend happy hour, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with $4 Bloody Marys, mimosas, and mango Bellinis. Last Sunday at brunch, the place was, if not wall-to-wall, at least partially carpeted with dogs, and no one seemed the slightest bit concerned about the literal hair of the dog getting everywhere. (I found one clinging to my cell phone, which had been stowed in a deep pocket, hours later.) A small brown dog with a green-and-white neckerchief sat next to its owner on the seat in a booth, behaving well but clearly wishing desperately for opposable thumbs.
At the bar, two black pugs roosted next to each other on their respective owners' laps. If you do not want your bowl of clam chowder 18 inches from a pug, you should not eat it at the bar at Norm's. (The chowder: quite good, with a light, slightly winey broth instead of any pasty thickness.) One of the pug owners gave a knowledgeable-sounding soliloquy about the Bengals game showing on one of the above-bar flat-screens; on another, the Sounders nullified themselves from the MLS play-offs in overtime. (The Sounders FC special scramble was the opposite of a letdown, with avocado and spinach for the green, then tomatoes and bacon for good measure. The pug owners expeditiously enjoyed a plateful of bacon-wrapped shrimp.)
Near the entrance, two Scotties looked poised to battle the pugs, while a fluffy white giant 27 times their size (possibly a bear-dog hybrid) refused to play dead. "BEAU! Sit, Beau!" his keeper commanded serially. Then, that accomplished, "BANG!" he said, shooting an imaginary gun at Beau as a cue. "BANG! Beau, BANG!" The majestic beast was having none of such barroom tricks.
Norm's Eatery & Alehouse, 460 N 36th St, 547-1417