The Dog and Pig Show
March 08 2015
If you’re familiar with Chinese astrology, you’ll know that the Dog and the Pig make a fine match indeed. The complimentary temperaments of those born under the two signs make for harmonious match-ups, not only in matters of love, but business too. So it’s no surprise that The Dog and Pig Show works so well. The take-out only lunch shop in Richmond, VA is owned and operated by husband and wife team Isabel and James Ekrosh (presumably the dog and pig themselves).
Nestled in the historic neighborhood of Church Hill, the compact storefront space offers a small, but constantly rotating menu of drop-dead good food. At The Dog and Pig Show, South Asian fare and Cajun Creole influences fuse for an altogether unique palate that’s distinctly southern and refreshingly worldly. The space itself is breathtaking, with a full living wall of herbs and spices with a circulating water system that Isabel designed herself and a slick logo treatment by designer Andy Luce. While the take-out concept seems to be going along swimmingly, James and Isabel aren’t afraid to take their show on the road, catering events and, the last Sunday of every month, hosting a family-style Sunday Supper in their own home.
Laotian Salad (left) and Shrimp and Grits
The Dog and Pig Show seems like it’s built on contrasts. it’s slow food made for people on-the-go. How did the concept come about?
Isabel: The concept really grew through time. When we started with this idea, we knew that the first step was producing awesome food at a good price point. I think we both went to too many places where we felt bamboozled when the bill came. And really, our culture is moving in a direction where time is limited. Why not be given the option of great take away?
James: I really think all food should be good, all food should be high quality. I don’t believe in the idea that you have to go to a specific category of restaurant to get made from scratch amazing food. Before this space, I initially wanted to do a food truck because I like the idea of a limited and creative menu, where I wanted to eat everything offered.
As far as husband and wife teams go, you both have a very dynamic and creative energy. How did you meet?
I: He has was the executive chef at a restaurant I took a summer waitressing job. I thought he looked like a hot pirate–scowl, crazy goatee, off-beat clothes–I was like “gotta get that”. So, after me asking him to go out with me 3 or 4 times, he finally gave in.
J: Let’s get this straight- she asked me on corny dates! We’re talking feeding ducks, getting ice cream, stuff like that. So I wasn’t sure if she just wanted someone to hang out with, or interested in something romantic. But I give her this: woman’s persistent, which turned into the best thing to happen to me.
What brought you both to Richmond from New Orleans?
I: My family is in Roanoke, and my father was having some health issues, so proximity was important. Also, James has always lived in larger cities, LA, Chicago, New Orleans, so anything smaller wouldn’t work for him. We also wanted a place that has diversity and growth, which we believe are important factors for where you live. Richmond has that, and this is just a great time to be here!
Your menu very successfully bridges Cajun Creole cooking with Asian fusion. What sort of common elements do you use to tie these influences together?
J: South Central Asian and Southern foods shares commonalities in their use of pickling, vinegars, and smaller animal proteins including seafood. The seafood is really what ties in the cajun. That whole area being along the gulf creates such a seafood rich environment. New Orleans to me is in influence on two styles of food that I love; Asian and Southern. So it adds elements to how I interpret Asian and Southern food. I love certain ingredients that I was first introduced to in New Orleans; boudin, chaurice, crawfish, andouille and now it’s not so much conscious, but all three of those influence come into play when I’m working on a dish.
The Pulled Pork Po’ Boy
The menu’s great, but what’s the worst meal you’ve ever made?
J: I’ve probably made a lot of bad meals at various points in my life. One that comes to mind in recent years is trying to do chicken wings for my wife’s family using her dad’s turkey fryer. For whatever reason the oil wouldn’t get to temp. So we ended up with flabby, oily, soggy chicken wings. I mean, I should be able to cook chicken wings!
Your space has such a distinct ambience and the food is a totally unique experience. What’s your secret to creating such a great customer experience?
I: Customer service is huge to me. I think it’s really such an important element because it shapes your overall experience. Also, with us being take away and in a tight community, engaging with our customer is something that is essential. We don’t get you for a two hour dinning experience- we want to make an impact in a brief window of time. We want our customers be satisfied with the food and the experience. The design aesthetic is based around what we had to work with and what the space called for. Details are important, details are what takes an ordinary place to that memorable level. And really, I wanted the physical space to be as memorable as the food.
“Pig Candy”- Slab bacon glazed with Sriracha and Sugar
Tell us more about the community dinners you host on Sundays. We can’t wait to attend.
I: The Suppers came about because we really love food and we wanted to be making food and serving food. It gives James a chance to do something different and fun, and it’s just a unique experience that’s created over a good meal. Food is one of those great connecting points. You can have no idea who you’ll be sitting down next to- but give them a mouthful of something amazing, and things become friendly fast. I’m always so nervous before the Suppers start- just the unknown of if people are going to get what we’re trying to do. But when it’s all said and done, food just brings out joy in people, and every night has been beautiful in that aspect.
What’s next for the Dog and Pig show?
J: We’re going to start presenting pop up noodle nights just once or twice a month. The menu will be entirely different, and it’ll be announced through our social media. And I would still love to do a food truck, also a full service place. Oh, and a pet pig or goat. I’ll take either or both.
I: He really wants something with hooves as a pet. It’s a bit disturbing- I can’t even imagine trying to sleep in with something clomping around. And just so we have that in writing- there’s no way you’re getting a pig or a goat while we’re living in Church Hill!