Bringing Bold Flavor to Richmond: The Dog & Pig Show

Richmond, Virginia is enjoying a Golden Era of dining. It seems that every week a new article is published on the city’s latest culinary triumph, with one journalist after the next raving about the area’s restaurants and food producers.

The much-deserved credit for this newfound recognition goes to the restaurant owners and chefs who saw potential in the city, and who recognized that Virginia has an amazing arsenal of farms, fisheries, and food makers that can provide them with the fresh bounty that’s at the heart of their creations.

Among the people at the center of this culinary movement are James and Isabel Eckrosh, who moved to Richmond and opened their fast-casual eatery, The Dog & Pig Show, in January 2015. At the time, their historic neighborhood, Church Hill, was already enjoying a resurgence, and the city’s culinary scene was making leaps and bounds toward its current status as an up-and-coming food destination.

Arriving from New Orleans, where James was head chef in highly regarded—and highly popular—restaurants, the husband-and-wife duo brought the distinct flavors of The Big Easy to their new endeavor. A menu of comforting dishes like po’ boys, shrimp and grits, and grilled cheese that you can dip into a hot habanero tomato soup lured in hungry diners and made The Dog & Pig Show an instant hit.

While they started with Cajun mainstays, over time James slowly and organically began working Eastern flavors into the menu. Now open for a year and a half, the restaurant serves up a mix of Cajun and Asian dishes with bold flavors.

“We wanted to start off doing things that we brought from New Orleans,” says Isabel. “Once we got the ball rolling, we were able to expand and do what James likes to do, which has that Asian influence. We’ve had a great reception so far.”

“James gets joy from fusing what he has been taught … mixing and creating something unique, but at the same time still being respectful and representative of these two things. And, we enjoy that.”

Though their journey to culinary success in Richmond might seem fast, Isabel and James took time to lay some serious groundwork prior to The Dog & Pig Show’s launch. Leading up to the opening of the restaurant, the couple experimented with dishes and menu concepts through a series of Sunday suppers that they held at their home, also located in the Church Hill neighborhood. At first the five-hour-long dinners were attended by people they knew, and then as word spread, hungry strangers started showing up at their door.

“The amazing thing about the suppers was that such wonderful people came,” says Isabel. “They just wanted to experience it. They were open. You want your diner to just trust the chef and know that all he really wants to do is make something amazing. That’s the chef’s backbone. He wants to create something delicious for you to eat. And, people got that.”

The Sunday suppers let Isabel flex her creative muscles, too, by hand-writing the menus and designing tablescapes with flatware, dishes, and floral arrangements. Working with the local wine shop Barrel Thief, Isabel also came up with wine pairings for each meal.

After nine months, the Sunday suppers ended as The Dog & Pig Show became Isabel and James’s number one priority. In their new space, Isabel used her interior design skills to create a beautiful, light-filled environment. The seating area is small, with just a few tables, but dramatic with a living wall of lush greenery and beautiful rustic decor.

Speaking about their inspirations and James’s Cajun-meets-Asian approach, Isabel says, “James gets joy from fusing what he has been taught … mixing and creating something unique, but at the same time still being respectful and representative of these two things. And, we enjoy that.”

While on a recent trip to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, the couple immersed themselves in the culture, and in between cooking and exploring, they learned the intention behind various Asian cooking techniques. “It was so influential to see the reasoning behind it,” says Isabel. “Getting that tangible experience lit our fire.”

Today, their popular shrimp and grits dish gets its piquancy from James’ homemade kimchi, and element he as always incorporated into his cuisine. A recent addition to the menu is the Bangkok Bun, a sandwich nestled in a soft potato roll that’s layered with house-made Thai sausage, vibrant curry-ginger mayonnaise, plenty of pickled vegetables (another of his homemade staples), hand-cut bacon, avocado, and a fried egg. Also part of the lineup is the Lao Hot Salad with chicken, warm greens, peanuts, garlic, chorizo, and a boiled egg. Their bibimbap has kimchi-paste short ribs, sticky rice, fried egg, and is chock full of vegetables and pickles.

The eatery now serves lunch and dinner, along with brunch on Saturday and Sunday in addition to the full menu from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Once an ABC license has been secured, they’ll add beer to their beverage offerings. Also on the horizon: selling products like their house-made pimento cheese and chimichurri. In the meantime, get to Richmond for a dine-in or take-out experience that you won’t soon forget, and taste for yourself why The Dog & Pig Show—and the city’s creative restaurant scene—is worthy of all the hype.

Lead image by John Wadsworth and Helmuth Humphrey. All other images by Betty Clicker Photography