For more than two years Dogtown Pizza has been on the road, serving homemade wood-fired pizzas off the back of Jon Roberts’ truck. This summer Roberts and Dogtown co-owner Scott Smith parked the truck long enough to open the Dogtown Roadhouse, a new downtown Floyd restaurant, bar, and music venue located in the refurbished factory building where Café del Sol used to be.
At their June opening that coincided with the town’s annual Jubilee festival, Roadhouse owners unveiled an eating area with high seating in the sunny front of the restaurant and an intimate sit-down dining area in the back. There’s a bar, a small performance stage for regional musicians, and a moveable panel wall that opens onto the dance floor and stage of the Sun Music Hall, which is now being managed by the Dogtown crew.
Outdoor porch seating overlooks the Warren Lineberry Park where Roadhouse events sometimes spill out onto. Free Sunday matinees for children and movies in the evening are being shown on a large screen in the Sun Hall, where monthly Contra dances and yoga classes also take place. Plans for a Film Society are underway, which will feature a “movies in the park” series, dinner and movie events, and eventually a film festival that could involve documentaries and short films made by high school and college students.
The fall music schedule is booked from now till December with regional bands set to play on the Roadhouse stage on weekends (no-cover charge) and big name acts from around the country about twice a month on the larger Sun Hall stage. On Thursday nights, a young bar scene is emerging with an open mic, ping pong playing, and sports games shown in the hall.
“We saw a need for fun and creative events and a local place to hang-out so people wouldn’t have to travel,” said Roberts, a former house painter and past owner of an eco-building supply business. “People love the atmosphere and are excited about having something like this in Floyd.”
The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays and features the house’s signature pizzas, which can be bought by the slice and coupled with Roadhouse salads and homemade soups. Twelve inch pies are served for dinner Thursdays through Sundays. The pizza oven, built by Roberts and Ezra Bret is prominently showcased in front of the restaurant and pizzas topped with items such as shitake mushrooms, basil, feta, and Brights’ Farm sausage are prepared front and center.
The time and care it takes to bake Old World style pizza – chopping the wood, preparing the fire, heating the oven – is a commitment that’s worth making because the pizza tastes better, Roberts said. “We use local meat and produce, organic whenever possible. Our flour is milled in North Carolina.”
“We have 8 beers on tap and 28 kinds of craft beer from micro-breweries all over. We also have an extensive wine list,” Roberts continued. Some beers are chosen seasonally, such as a Brooklyn pumpkin ale for fall, and some, like those from Floyd’s Shooting Creek Brewery, are as local as you can get. The Roadhouse, which employs 10 or more people, does informal and formal tastings.
The chain sawed edged tables in the back dining area were built by local woodworker Benjie Osborne (co-owner of Floyd’s Red Rooster Coffee Roaster). Matching chairs are refurbished school chairs. Smith’s wife Naomi and Roberts’ wife Katie have both been involved in decorating the space. Katie Roberts, a web designer, is the Roadhouse and Sun Music Hall marketing director and keeps a blog called “Wives of Dogtown.”
“A big part of the design came from how we set up the pizza truck at festivals. We wanted to take an element of the pizza bar on the truck and bring it into the restaurant,” Roberts said, pointing out that the metal bar kick under the bar resembles a truck bumper.
There’s no TV on purpose. “We’re not a sports bar,” said Smith, who first met the Roberts’ at the Domefest musical festival that the Roberts hosted on their Copperhill farm in 2007. “When a TV is on, everyone’s eyes go to it. Floyd is about community, people talking and getting together, and not watching TV,” Smith said. Along with encouraging an atmosphere for conversation, both men are fathers of young children and are committed to creating a family friendly environment, as evidenced by a small table and chairs, and children’s’ books and crayons tucked in a corner of the restaurant.
Smith, who was introduced to pizza-making at a young age by his Italian grandfather, has been inspired by Alice Waters, owner of one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the country, and Barbara Kingsolver, best selling author from Abington, Virginia who recently wrote a book about her family’s year of supplementing their homegrown food with food grown from within a100 mile radius of their farm. Both Smith and Roberts consider world famous baker and pizza authority Peter Reinhart their “pizza guru.”
Reinhart, an author and restaurant owner who travels the country in search of the best pizza is working on a PBS show called Pizza Quest. After hearing about Dogtown Pizza, he traveled to Floyd from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina to taste for himself. It was a Wednesday afternoon before the Roadhouse was open. Roberts and Smith made him pizza in the portable oven on the back of Roberts’ truck.
“Their pizza has everything I look for–great snap in the crust, proper char on the cornicione and the underskirt, and perfectly balanced flavors on top,” Reinhart later wrote. He rated them as one of the top three pizzas he’d “travel long distances for.”
Roberts and Smith still take the pizza truck to festivals and private parties. They have a permanent oven at the Floydfest festival site and a line of frozen pizza that they sell to stores. But they’re on the road less and are excited about being an established part of the downtown Floyd scene.
“We’re proud of Floyd and happy to be a part of the community,” Smith said. “We love our work. The people that work with us love what they do. Our food is grown and prepared with love. I want that to transfer to the customers. I want them to taste the love of Floyd.” ~ Colleen Redman
Post note: For more information visit the Dogtown Roadhouse HERE.