Sqirl Chef Jessica Koslow’s “Handsome” Rescue Dog Taught Her What Family Means
OK, this is too pure: His favorite words are “love” and “friend.”
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As founder of Sqirl, the mega-popular restaurant — nestled in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles — known for their housemade jams, chill vibes, and out-the-door customer lines, Jessica Koslow pretty much works 24/7. The award-winning chef opened Sqirl as a preserves company in 2011. Since then, her days have revolved around her restaurant, its many moving parts, the dogs whose visits are chronicled on the Dogs of Sqirl Instagram account, and of course, jam.
Koslow once shared her daily schedule with The New York Times — from her first pot of tea at 7:15 a.m. to her Duolingo lesson in bed at 11 p.m. A quick glance at that list of commitments would give anyone looking to learn about the high-stress, constantly evolving pace of the restaurant industry a pretty good snapshot.
From its humble beginnings 12 years ago, Sqirl has since evolved into one of the defining restaurants of LA, undoubtedly due to Koslow’s impressive stamina. “Going from that preserves shop to the business we have now, it’s insane,” she told the Times in 2019. “Running payroll, overseeing operations, I never imagined this for myself, but now I can’t imagine anything else.”
Still, when she first met her dog, Munk, in 2013, Koslow knew she had to make time to integrate the handsome “Franken-dog” (her nickname for him, inspired by his lopsided features) into her life and family. Lucky for us, Koslow also made time to speak to The Wildest about how she did just that — and how she continues to balance her schedule of family, food...and her Franken-dog.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you and Munk found each other?
In 2013, I had a longtime regular who would come in and order food every day. One day I saw him with Munk, and when that happened repeatedly, I just went up to him and I said, “That dog is the most handsome dog I’ve ever seen in my life.” And he said, “Do you want him?” And I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Well, I found him on the streets. And I’m fostering him.” And [the customer who was fostering Munk] lives a block parallel to my house in Silver Lake, a block away from me.
And [I’d] never had a dog before. I actually grew up pretty scared of dogs. I was bitten by a dog next door. But I had fallen in love over a couple of years of having Sqirl with having dogs come into the restaurant, and with Munk, it was love at first sight. I don’t think it was love at first sight for Munk because he’s scared of people. It took some time for Munk to warm up, but I just couldn’t help myself. So, I called my boyfriend, now husband, and said, “I think I’m getting a dog.” He said, “This is insane. You work crazy hours, how are you going to make it work?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I just have to have him.”
How does Munk fit in alongside your schedule?
I have a dog walker twice a week. She comes Monday and Tuesday. She comes and picks him up, and he loves her, and he loves the pack. He loves who he loves, and he doesn’t love anyone else. But he has so many friends. Most dogs may know the word “chicken” but Munk knows the word “love” and “friends,” which I think is so incredibly lovely.
Ironic, though, as a dog of a restauranter he doesn’t know “chicken.”
He knows “chicken.” He’s actually a very smart and intuitive dog. He knows a lot of words, including “mailman,” [whom] he hates, but words that you think dogs would know, like “car ride” and whatever, he knows.
What’s a typical day off for you and Munk and the rest of the family?
I don’t get a lot of days off, and that’s the hard part. I’m a real person of routine, and so is my husband. So, I think the routine is what we love. And if we do go away, my husband’s mom lives in Solvang, and we’ll take a drive up to Central California. And Munk’s just, like, a “head stuck out of a window, close my eyes, and take in the sun” kind of pup. So, he just likes a long car ride where he can have his face out the window and be on a lap.
But he has this beautiful routine most of the time. Like, when we go to sleep. At 9 o’clock, we tell him it’s time for two pees. And we take him out and he takes his little two pees. And he comes back in and goes under the bed. My husband typically goes to sleep first because he wakes up very early, and then I will get into bed an hour or so later. And only at that point, when we’re both in the bed, does Munk come up and “hot dog” between us. It’s just a beautiful picture of what loyalty and family can not only mean to humans — but to an animal.
Does Munk have a favorite Sqirl dish?
I think just scraps that end up on the floor, you know? But we have a studio upstairs that functions as our office, and it’s where we shoot all the dishes and do design work. And he’s a good studio dog. So, sometimes he comes to work with us there. And he loves all the people in the office. Those are the best days for everyone.
Sqirl is obviously very dog friendly, as evidenced by the dogs of Sqirl Instagram account. But do you have any other recommendations for dog-friendly LA locations?
I guess I haven’t heard of many places that you can go and bring your pet, and it’s super friendly. I think with so much more al fresco dining, it’s probably a win. I would say, for the most part, it brings a lot of people in the service industry joy to have pets around. Especially because the industry is just really hard right now, and those animals are bringing a lot of joy to us as well.
What has Munk taught you about unconditional love?
The last thing about Munk — if you look at him, he has one ear up, one ear down; his eyes look human. His paws are wonky. His body is long. He’s, like, a mix between a Terrier, a Poodle, and a Chihuahua. There’s just something about him where every component is just so handsome. [When] walks, his shadow looks like a Franken-dog. Like the way that he walks...But I think that he’s just in love with his family now, and I think that it has really taught me about what family means.
Especially coming from a place where I was an only child from a single mother and in some ways had a very traumatic upbringing, having Munk has taught me what family and love and unconditional love and connection can really be. So, you know, some people say it must be really hard to have a pet ’cause I’m so busy. I do think that, you know, it’s worth it. It’s truly worth it.
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Rebecca Caplan is a writer based in Brooklyn whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, Reductress, and Vulture. She lives in Brooklyn with her perfect, toothless dog Moose.