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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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