Smokin’ Pug Is Moving – Everybody Panic!
We interview Dana Garber (proprietor with her husband, Daniel Garber) of the hugely successful Smokin’ Pug in Surawong Road, about their new location, which has been a covert affair until now.
This news comes as an enormous relief for those who wait days to get a group booking at their favourite All-American Smokehouse which by the account of many Foodies, is the most unbeatable in the city. Although some would argue otherwise, and you know how we Foodies love to argue.
Bangkok Foodies gets the scoop…
BKF: Can you tell the Bangkok Foodies a bit about your background?
DG: We have owned a restaurant for 7 years (4 years in China and almost 3 here), we love to cook and experiment. I have a lot of experience in the restaurant industry and we trained in smoking meat in Lockhart, Texas for a few months. At the restaurant we also have a ‘pit master’ (person trained at smoking meats)
BKF : What inspired you to open a new restaurant?
DG : We love our Surawong location, but it is a bit too narrow and did not allow us to seat larger parties. And BBQ is fun to eat and share in groups! But our main reason for opening one bigger opposed to two smaller ones is to work together as husband and wife! Lang Suan is strategically located in the center of the Silom and Sukhumvit areas. Many customers always said they wish we were in Sukhumvit, but we really like the Silom area. We were in no rush to expand and always said we would when it felt right and we found a unit we loved.
BKF : Why the name Smokin’ Pug?
DG : We have two Pug dogs who are quirky and fun. And the name ‘ pug’- ‘ ub’, ‘ pug’- ‘ pig’ is a cute play on words. We are a smokehouse so “smokin’” made sense. Many assume we made a mistake and it should say “PIG”.
BKF : What is the new location?
DG : On Lang Suan Road near Lumphini Park.
BKF : When do you expect to open?
DG : November 1st.
BKF : What should we expect when we go there?
DG : Authentic American smoky flavors, efficient, interactive, but unobtrusive service and owners who care about each guest’s experience and our present nightly to make sure we give what we say.
BKF : Did you design it yourself?
DG: We designed it with the help of a great construction team (Kenneth and Mike at Scandinavian Builders) who added a lot of funky touches and were always giving us ideas. We had a look we wanted to achieve and they listened to all our ideas…not matter how silly and unrealistic! On a side note…it was the first team we worked with that finished a project way ahead of schedule!
BKF : What was behind the design inspiration?
DG : We wanted a restaurant where you can show up in flip flops and elephant pants after souvenir shopping at Patpong Market or in perfectly pressed designer clothing after coffee sipping and selfie taking time at Central Embassy. Also, we have never had a restaurant with TV’s and pool tables…although we often debate having a ping pong table in the back. We also care about style and pay attention to all details. Lighting is key. Casual and quirky.
BKF : Will the menu be the same as the original?
DG : Yes, it will be with some improvements and a few new signature dishes.
BKF : Do you think the bangkok foodies will be able to walk in without an appointment (reservation)?
DG : Yes. The space itself is three times the size of our current one, but we will, a little over, double the amount of tables to keep the atmosphere. We don’t want to cram as many tables into our new place, it will seat about 75. Currently we seat 35. We never wanted a big restaurant, but with our smokers (the grills we use to cook) we naturally need more space. Currently with the layout of the place we were running up 4 flights of stairs to bring down the food to guests! It has gotten very difficult!
BKF : Can we know the secret to your amazing ribs?
DG : Love and lots of patience. No short cuts, we smoke daily and sell out. And start fresh each day.
BKF : What’s the inspiration behind the menu?
DG : Real American smokiness and rich flavors. And of course big portions to share. We toured the BBQ hot spots in the US for ideas. Our favorite being Lockhart, Texas!
BKF : How do you manage to stay ahead of the every-opening new BBQ and rib joints?
DG : To be completely honest, we don’t pay attention to it. We absolutely respect what others are doing, but if we focus too much on what others are doing we will lose focus on what are doing. If we have a full restaurant every night we are excited and inspired. Also, with being very active owners and having a one year baby boy our days are so full there are not enough hours in the day to worry about what others are doing…or not doing.
BKF : Do you find others may emulate or copy you?
DG : We are flattered if they do, but we did not invent BBQ and expect and welcome competition. We would be worried if nobody else was offering American style BBQ which would mean there is no demand for it.
BKF : Do you ever plan to experiment with Thai flavours?
DG : We might, but for now there is enough great Thai food and that is not where we are trying to compete. We feel it would open us up to a lot more criticism. We want to stay true to American BBQ and let others be more innovative with flavors. Before opening in 2015 we had all these wild ideas of using lemongrass, galangal, etc…but it never materialized. Also, our smokers are very expensive and once you start adding ‘exotic’ flavors to the smoker it has to be just used for that flavor.
BKF : What advice to give to other restaurateurs in Bangkok?
DG : Be there, have a thick skin, get to know who your customers are, stay true to your concept…a small menu you can do well, trying to please everyone will never work and end up pleasing very little. Two items done well on is better than 200 done average on a menu. Also do something that you have a passion and know how for and not something you just think the market wants. People see through bullshit. We wouldn’t open a fine dining restaurant….plus we would have to invest more in our rather simple T-shirt dominated wardrobe. It is just not us. We are casual people who love unpretentious food and cocktails. And we have found there is a huge market for what we offer here. But as first mentioned, BE AT YOUR RESTAURANT….at least for the first year or so!
BKF : Will the name be exactly the same as the original restaurant? Smokin’ Pug 2?
DG : Yes, it will be the same….Smokin’ Pug. We are simply moving. Same menu, same prices, same owners with a bit more elbow room. With a bigger kitchen and being refreshed with a new place will help us focus on strengthening menu items we think need some work. We promise to keep the Pug intimate and down-to-earth.
BKF: And the last question we’re all dying to know, do you know what will happen to the (to-be) old Smokin’ Pug?
DG: Yes, it will be a funky cocktail bar owned by a well-known liquor supplier and friend of ours, hehehehehe…we are happy it will be kept alive and we will go there for drinks!
88 Thanon Surawong, Khwaeng Si Phraya, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500