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Palo Alto's most feared food critic is … an Aussiedoodle?

Uploaded: May 19, 2022
By Anthony Shu

Peli seems to have a taste for French cuisine when dining out. Here she is at Menlo Park’s Left Bank. (Photo courtesy Jenny Shen)

When Peli walks up to the Peninsula's hottest brunch spots, waiters make way to serve her. Even though there's no photo of Peli taped to the host stand, they know to start bringing out special treats, hoping to earn a rave review through a bribe of imported cheese. However, Peli, one of the Peninsula's most recognizable diners, is neither smartphone-wielding influencer nor suited-up critic: She's a 7-year-old Aussiedoodle.

Peli, half Australian shepherd, half miniature poodle, was born in a Palo Alto hotel bathtub in 2014 and soon placed in the care of Jenny Shen, an attorney at Google, and Adam Bonica, a Stanford political science professor. Described as a "chair pirate" by Shen, Peli has made a habit of finding a seat at the table whenever the family goes out to eat, enjoying nibbles of croissants and cheese plates at the Peninsula's buzziest brunch spots.

Peli's palate and penchant for sneaking up to the table has earned her a reputation as a sophisticated diner. While toddlers thrash around and toss their silverware and sippy cups, Peli waits patiently and evokes the jealousy of exasperated parents. Servers now recognize Peli and dig up snacks, including her favorite: Vina Enoteca's focaccia topped with freshly shaved Parmesan. One waiter even called Peli "the foodie-est dog in Palo Alto."

Important Peli facts:

Likes: People, dogs, cats, fetch, brunch, opera, a comfortable bed.

Dislikes: Leaf blowers, vacuum cleaners, rude dogs, rude people, being apart from loved ones.

Favorite restaurants: Calafia Cafe (now closed), Barcelona, Oak and Violet, Mademoiselle Colette, Vina Enoteca.

Favorite treats at home: Japanese sweet potatoes and pumpkin-peanut butter-oatmeal dog bone treats made by Shen's mother (who had a lifelong fear of dogs until taking care of Peli).

See our gallery of Peli eating out on the town.

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Posted by Jacob Weis, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 20, 2022 at 7:45 am

Jacob Weis is a registered user.

Unless they are there to assist a handicapped person, dogs should not be allowed in any restaurant (indoor or outdoor), let alone permitted to sit at the dining table.

This is not cute but rather a public health

Posted by Adrianne Balfour, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 20, 2022 at 8:12 am

Adrianne Balfour is a registered user.

Companion pets should also be disallowed in restaurants and signs posted to inform customers.

Years ago, an elderly woman brought her companion pet monkey into a Marie Callender restaurant and it began raiding the salad bar.

The entire salad bar had to be refurbished which created numerous dining delays and inconveniences.

Posted by Aaron Levine, a resident of Stanford,
on May 20, 2022 at 9:51 am

Aaron Levine is a registered user.

If companion dogs are permitted in certain restaurants as noteworthy food critics, then cats should also be allowed in...especially at seafood restaurants.

Posted by Pasquel Montoya, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 20, 2022 at 11:50 am

Pasquel Montoya is a registered user.

Unless a dog, cat, or monkey is capable of sitting a table and practicing proper dining etiquette, they should not be allowed to do so.

This involves the ability to use a knife & fork (or chopsticks), applying a napkin, and excusing oneself properly.

Posted by Pasquel Montoya, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 20, 2022 at 11:52 am

Pasquel Montoya is a registered user.

> sitting [at] a table...

Posted by Allison Cooper, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 21, 2022 at 11:55 am

Allison Cooper is a registered user.

Who in their right mind brings a monkey to a restaurant?

Posted by Cassandra Peterson, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 22, 2022 at 9:28 am

Cassandra Peterson is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by rita vrhel, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 22, 2022 at 10:10 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

I hope the dog's owners also donate to Second Harvest Food Bank an amount at least equal to what they spend on the dog's dining habits.

The dog is quite cute. I have a dog but feel donating to a worthy charity is more important than indulging my dog, who I dearly love.

Sorry but with today's gross income inequalities and working families struggling with inflation, I find this article disturbing. Thank you.

Posted by Erica Decker, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on May 23, 2022 at 8:48 am

Erica Decker is a registered user.

Some people treat their dogs better than they do people.

Concurring with rita vrhel...with so many families of limited means struggling to put food on the table, a gourmand pooch is a slap in the face to the less fortunate and this practice of seating a dog at nice restaurants reaks of arrogance and self-entitled privilege.

Posted by Bryan Bailey, a resident of Menlo Park,
on May 24, 2022 at 7:45 am

Bryan Bailey is a registered user.

> This is not cute but rather a public health issue/concern.

>> Favorite restaurants: Calafia Cafe (now closed), Barcelona, Oak and Violet, Mademoiselle Colette, Vina Enoteca.

^ I will be avoiding these restaurants from now on.

Thank you for the heads up.

Posted by Jamie , a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 24, 2022 at 7:58 am

Jamie is a registered user.

Oh, lighten up everyone.

Posted by Marie Erickson, a resident of Professorville,
on May 24, 2022 at 9:08 am

Marie Erickson is a registered user.

If Peli has a birthday party and other dogs are invited as guests, will these restaurants accommodate them?

Posted by David Lange DVM, a resident of another community,
on May 24, 2022 at 10:40 am

David Lange DVM is a registered user.

Feeding dogs people food (let alone at a restaurant) is a bad idea from a nutritional and dental care standpoint.

Though it may seem novel and cute (depending upon one's viewpoint), this practice will shorten your dog's life.

Posted by Rachel Long, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 24, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Rachel Long is a registered user.

Though we are not allowed to bring our dog into a sushi bar, our pooch absolutely loves the omakase leftovers we bring home for him.

Since we can easily afford to, it is not for others to judge regardless of the expense.

Posted by Local Gal, a resident of Midtown,
on Jun 1, 2022 at 9:01 pm

Local Gal is a registered user.

I remember Calafia Cafe had a bunch of health violations! I agree with the sentiments of the other commenters- I found this article elitist in a time when equity is needed.

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