Black and White Dog Cafe brings traditional and alternative meals to Rice Hill

October 20, 2018

Sandwiched between the Ranch and Denny’s in Rice Hill is the Black and White Dog Cafe, where customers can substitute eggs for tofu, hash browns for brown rice or several other substitutions for the various breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

Owner Mikel Pancoast poured almost 30 years of restaurant experience, from Northern California to Portland, to O’Toole’s into keeping things fresh both at the ingredient level and the menu level. He opened the Black and White Dog Cafe about three months ago.

“There’s not enough healthy, real food in the area,” Pancoast said. “Everything I do is from scratch. I make a lot of things every couple of days and keep it fresh and light. When you work in restaurants your whole life, you really value nutritional food more than you’d think. I wanted to make something I could feel comfortable feeding my family and feeding myself on a day-in and day-out basis.”

He started in the food industry at just 13 years old in California, moved to Douglas County in the 90’s, up to Portland for a few years and back again.

“That’s where I kind of got serious about it,” Pancoast said. “I became a chef and I actually ran a couple of restaurants and kitchens. About 10 years ago, I moved back down here and I’ve been looking ever since. I was looking at the space that O’Toole’s was in.”

He went and talked to Casey O’Toole, who hired him almost immediately. When the O’Tooles learned they were going to have to evacuate the building, Pancoast took his cue and found the vacant Peggy’s in Rice Hill.

“This building has been a hotspot for, like, 50 years,” Pancoast said. “It’s gone through a bunch of changes, but it always had food. Everybody knows this as Peggy’s. A lot of the local people were watching the building and when I opened, they had to come in and try it out. Fortunately, people like what I’m doing.”

Pancoast wanted to bring in some things that were “missing from the repertoire of the county” like Dutch babies and crepes. Carol Hopkins from Yoncalla said she was excited to see something different in Rice Hill and went with her husband to try the restaurant before her brother came to visit from San Francisco.

“I wanted to see if that was a place that we could take him because he likes things like that,” Hopkins said. “I’m thrilled to take my brother there from San Francisco, he’s a big-city boy. I’ll show him that we can do that in the little tiny communities we have here. We’re not rubes and hicks here. We like the good stuff here.”

He’s changed the hours a few times since opening while he figures out what the community needs — which they have shown him is not Monday. He applied for a limited on-premise license for beer and wine from the county, and hopes to add that to his menu soon.

The theme inside is almost strictly black and white from the floor to the photos on the wall, but the big windows keep the room feeling light. The theme was a must after Pancoast came up with the name, but he had to give the credit to his son who played pretend cafe while Pancoast was working evenings at O’Toole’s.

“He had a little easel and wrote black and white dog cafe after our dog that he loved,” Pancoast said. “He served things like tea and hot cocoa. When I picked this place up and was trying to come up with a name, he was very matter-of-fact: ‘What do you mean? You have to call it the Black and White Dog Cafe.’”