For over half a decade, a handful of chefs have propelled Richmond’s culinary reaches at an incredible pace. Our city, formerly known for its dives and old haunts has transformed into an unexpected culinary destination. It’s been a thrill to watch it all unfold. As a result, the community celebrating and following the latest developments in the local food scene couldn’t be stronger. So, when a new restaurant opens in Richmond, word has a way of spreading fast.
James and Isabel Eckrosh are Louisiana transplants and the husband and wife team behind The Dog and Pig Show, one of Richmond’s newest food stops. The pair’s Chinese zodiac signs inspired the restaurant’s name and, for now, The Dog and Pig Show operates as a lunchtime take-out eatery serving up sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets.
The menu is small, but tightly constructed. “I don’t like menus where there are too many choices,” James, who serves as the restaurant’s chef, says. “I just wanted to make a menu where it’s small, everything is good, and you should never feel burned by what you spend.” At the restaurant, guests find a rotating menu of five or six dishes with layers of Louisiana Creole, Southern, and Southeast Asian influences.
Too often when a restaurant attached to a particular culinary tradition opens, it runs the risk of being predictable and trite. Adding little to no value to the culinary conversation. Despite offering dishes commonly associated with New Orleans’ cuisine, James brings a fresh perspective to them. For example, the Pulled Pork Po’ Boy sandwich features soy glazed pork shoulder, pickled red onions and spicy cucumber. Additionally, the Shrimp + Grits is served with bacon butter and kimchi. The unexpected flavor combinations are exciting and pay off in a huge way.
For a business to be successful, it’s important for that business to be a part of the community. This wisdom is something that James and Isabel don’t take lightly. After moving to Richmond a little more than a year ago from New Orleans to be closer to family, but hardly knowing anyone, they had the idea of opening up their Church Hill neighborhood home and hosting monthly Sunday suppers. “I read about a similar concept in Brooklyn where the focus was on the food and the people.” Isabel says. “Europeans are good for that too. They invite guests into their homes and sit for hours enjoying each other and great food.”
James and Isabel treated the suppers as an opportunity to connect with those in the local food community. Enthusiasm for the suppers spread by word of mouth among guests, and James welcomed the occasion to get creative with their menus. The suppers will continue in 2015, and the first Sunday Supper of the New Year will be a four-course meal featuring jumbo lump crab cakes, scallops dynamite, smoked pork fat fried noodles, and Krispy Kreme bread pudding for dessert.
“I think when you get people to sit down and eat together, there’s going to be genuine conversation,” James says. “Even if there’s very little else in common, at least the meal is in common.” Isabel adds, “There are so many times when you don’t always connect with people on multiple levels, but for the most part, people know when a meal is really good. You connect on that at least, and the experience is a fun thing to share with people.”
No one would argue against James and Isabel’s love for food. It’s in their DNA and creating experiences around meals is what keeps them going. Many of their favorite memories involve food, whether it’s dousing a meal in Cowbell restaurant’s famous honey Sriracha mayonnaise in New Orleans, enjoying haggis throughout a trip to Scotland, or eating a daily taco plate from a restaurant in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Being happy with the food they serve and leaving a strong impression on guests is paramount for Isabel and James. To ensure the highest quality experience, the pair will focus on fine-tuning the many complicated aspects of managing a restaurant and training their staff before expanding to full hours. In addition to branching to full hours, stocking food provisions, monthly in-restaurant pop-ups and perhaps even a food cart may be further down the road. We’re looking forward to what the future has in store for James and Isabel and, in the mean time, we’ll be eating the delicious food that continues to roll out of their kitchen.