Dog-friendly luxury hotels in Southern California go gourmet

Dog fare: 5 paws

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa

Surf City loves dogs. It has a great dog beach (100 Goldenwest St.) and a bevy of dog-friendly hotels, including the sprawling Hyatt Regency.

The 517-room hotel, set on the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway, has Spanish-inspired architecture, overlooks the beach and offers downtown action and the pier. It has courtyards, fountains and fire pits, with nice green areas and rooms with small private balconies or patios. Furnishings are contemporary and comfortable.

I loved the view, the surf vibe and the room here, but the property wasn't great for Darby and Lillie. High-rises present problems for dog owners, because it usually takes an elevator ride and a long walk to get to places where dogs are permitted.

The standard amenities — dog bed, bowls, bags — were in the room, along with the best freebie we encountered: a cute and practical canvas doggie bag dispenser. (Pet fee, $50 per night.)

And we couldn't complain about the food or prices on the doggie room-service menu. Everything was $5, including wonderful treats with cutesy names: Barking Biscotti, Snicker-Poodles and Cold Nose Bark Bar. Entrees included a Buddy Burger, Bowsers Bacon Pancakes and, for vegetarian pups, K-9 Green Bean Casserole.

As usual, Darby loved everything he ate, but Lillie wasn't sure about the green bean casserole. I think she's a carnivore. Perhaps there could have been a bit more variety, with another meat, poultry or fish dish on the menu.

Hotel: 3.5 paws

Food: 4.5 paws

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

Loews loves pets. In fact, that's one of the mottoes of the Loews Hotels chain, which launched a pet-friendly program in 2000, long before most of its competitors.

But the Santa Monica hotel, a sea-view high-rise, has some of the same problems we encountered in Huntington Beach. It takes an elevator ride and a walk across the street to get to a patch of grass. On the other hand, the hotel is great for its human guests, with beautiful ocean views and access to the Santa Monica Pier and beach.

From our sixth-floor room, which featured a contemporary beach-casual look, we could see the pier and the hotel pool, far below. Darby and Lillie had grown accustomed to the routine by now and waited expectantly as we got settled. They knew food would soon be served. But first we checked out the doggie amenities: nice place mats, which we could keep, stainless steel bowls, dog treats, a special Do Not Disturb sign for the room and a pooper-scooper canister and bags to attach to the leash and bags. (Pet fee, $100 per stay.)

The room-service menu included a nice variety of dishes: Bow Wow Tenderloin of Beef ($20), which included eggs and brown rice; Chow Hound Chicken ($19) with carrots and green beans; GRRReat Vegetable Feast for dogs or cats ($18), mixed vegetables with eggs and brown rice; Whisker Licking Liver ($17) with eggs and brown rice and Salmon Supreme ($18), a fresh salmon filet. The downside: All the food was chopped and looked the same. It was also pricey, considering the size of the portions.

Of course, my ever-hungry wheaten charged the food and would have devoured it all, if I hadn't intervened. Lillie, ever the dainty guest, was more demure. But she didn't seem to mind the visual sameness, either. And I had to grab the dishes away from her too.

Hotel: 3.5 paws

Food: 4 paws

We'd been to five hotels, and Darby had been eager to act as a food critic at each.

Granted, at times it seemed like he was inhaling the food instead of savoring it, but that's because it tasted so doggone good.

Unfortunately, now he wants only strip steak, filet mignon or grilled chicken breast. I've created a monster.