Steve Dunning


Photo by Lynne Harty

What is your favorite part of being a restaurant owner in Asheville?

Being located in “The Valley”, we have the best of two worlds. We get to enjoy the perks of our family, friends, business, and community all intertwined in a small town setting. At the same time,  “the big city” gives us access to nearly every resource we need to sustain and grow our business.

What is the background of your restaurant’s name?

When we started our food truck and catering business in 1999 we had a very generic name.  When it came time to open the restaurant, we knew we had to find something that people would remember. “Okie dokie” was a phrase already in our daily vocabulary and as a bonus, we could even incorporate the pig logo we had from our catering business. 

What ingredient could you not live without?

Smoke-from a combination of red and white oak. Nice and mellow. Never bitter.

What is your favorite dish on your menu?

Three words: pulled pork sandwich. It’s the classic and what our reputation was built on. I think our ribs are pretty awesome, too, but even after almost 20 years I still have 2 or 3 sandwiches a week topped with our creamy white slaw and smoked habanero hot sauce.

What is your favorite dish from a fellow AIR member?

It starts with a great summer eve on the patio of the Copper Crown. I’m a fan of their blackened NC catfish jambalaya, my wife loves their crispy brussels sprouts and my teenage boys love the LoFi burgers. Then we head across the street to Ultimate Ice Cream for some salted caramel ice cream. 

Why did you choose Asheville to open your restaurant?

We actually didn’t have any intentions of opening a restaurant because we were pretty happy with the direction our catering business was going and the freedom it gave us. In 2006 we purchased a building where half of it was being rented out as a café and our intention was to move our catering business into the other half.  However, life got interesting when the cafe owners immediately called it quits and we faced carrying the entire mortgage. At that point, we looked at each other and said, “Now What?” The rest, of course, is Okie Dokies history.

What is your favorite chef’s tool and why?

The heart of our operation is “Big Buella”. She’s a 16-foot long wood-fired smoker. She was custom built for us by A.N. Bewley in Dallas. She’s the hardest worker around, smoking 24 hours a day and cooking sometimes as much as 1000 pounds of meat consistently each day.