Eating inside the Dog and Pig Show in Church Hill is like attending a master class in how to optimize a miniscule room to most inviting effect. By tiny, I mean three small tables and one rough-hewn community table.
A leafy living wall includes herbs and provides a lush note, a circa 1864 map adds historical context and vintage soul music emanates from a small Marshall amp that’s actually a Bluetooth speaker at a volume that guarantees its role in the overall ambiance.
Little things such as roll-ups with brown paper napkins tied with red and white string demonstrate the place’s charm and attention to detail. Desserts are shown off in and atop a case, teasing those still enjoying their savory course with what’s to come. Staff not only smile but also winningly engage customers beyond the basics.
None of which would have mattered one whit if the food didn’t dazzle all around.
The simplest of sandwiches, a grilled cheese ($7.50, $10.50 with hand-cut bacon), is creatively re-imagined with Muenster and pimento cheeses, tomato jam and mayo on thick, country-style bread for a handheld meal that a food fanatic dubs the best grilled cheese in town.
Presented with a moist towelette, a short rib po’boy ($11.95) proves itself worthy of the pairing. A Flour Garden roll can scarcely contain the kimchi-paste-slathered short rib meat that gets crunch from cabbage slaw, carrot and arugula and kick from pepper mayo.
Looking for more of an entree? That same spicy short rib meat turns up in the traditional Korean mixed rice dish bibimbap ($10) hearty with vegetables, pickles, sushi rice and a fried egg.
Or how about khao soi ($11 with chicken, $14 with beef) with tender braised chicken, a rousing northern Thai curry that’s rich, aromatic and creamy? Flat and fried egg noodles soak up the distinctive flavors of coconut milk, mustard greens, lime and green onions for a wildly satisfying dish.
It’s the rare salad that packs the personality of Lao hot salad ($7.95), boasting hunks of warm chicken, broccolini, red cabbage, garlic and assorted greens, pumped up with the boldness of chorizo and the subtlety of boiled egg in a hot and cold dressing under a layer of crushed peanuts. Our server shares that she combined her leftover Lao with leftover green papaya salad ($6) and was thrilled with how the hot and cold dressing tied everything together.
Come the weekend, brunch is served from open to close with a separate menu written on a skinny chalkboard on the wall.
Thick as a brick but far spicier and more attractively golden brown, a breakfast burrito ($7) marries black beans, scrambled egg and queso Chihuahua in a red pepper tortilla. Adding avocado ($2) and thick chunks of bacon ($3, and andouille sausage is also available) to this behemoth guarantees its place in the brunch Rolodex of my mind. That its heat causes beads of sweat to dot my upper lip only adds to its appeal as a huge and hugely satisfying meal.
On the opposite end of the brunch spectrum is banana bread french toast ($9), arriving with a fat slice of butter atop thick slices with egg-coated edges grilled deep brown. With or without the accompanying maple syrup, the hearty banana bread is as much dessert as brunch, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Drawing us in like moths to flame, wickedly rich s’more fudge bars ($4) replicate the campfire classic with a troika of graham-cracker crust, brownie filling and marshmallow topping. Propped open on the case is a magazine with the Dog and Pig’s recipe for the bars in it, a charming touch, but who would bother when they’re readily available for so little?
Only slightly less guilt-inducing is the peanut butter monster cookie ($3), a soft chocolate cookie slathered in peanut butter. Live large by having it with a butter coffee ($3) — that’s right, organic grass-fed butter melted into your joe — when you’re feeling especially indulgent.
A steady stream of customers finds its way into the Dog and Pig Show during the course of my three visits, many of them ordering takeout despite an empty table or two, hardly a surprise given that the Dog and Pig won the 2016 Elby Award for best grab-and-go.
I’d just as soon savor my food in this cozy, music-filled space. S
The Dog and Pig Show
Wednesday- Fridays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 5-9 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
314 N. 25th St.
Editor’s note: Style is re-reviewing restaurants that former food critic Elliott Shaffner reviewed during 2014-2015.