Saturday, July 28, 2012
The Pig (Chapel Hill, NC)
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Do you think there's an issue with my restaurant choices when I've now written posts about Honey Pig, the Green Pig Bistro, The Pig, and The Pig again (this time in Chapel Hill, NC)? There's no problem there right? It was rhetorical. I can't help it if I love all things pig. I bet you do too and besides, I was in North Carolina and you can't be in North Carolina without at least trying some barbecue down there. A placed named The Pig is always a good place to start when it comes to barbecue.
Lantern. He sure doesn't share or comment about his food but he sure can give a good restaurant recommendation. After doing some more research (namely on Lantern's website), I saw that the proprietor at the Pig was a Lantern alumnus who's opened his own whole pig, locally-sourced, and everything made from scratch BBQ place in Chapel Hill, or at least very close to it. So, I packed the 'rents and the niece into the car for a late BBQ lunch.
The joint is a bit north of Chapel Hill in a pretty quiet strip mall-ish organization of buildings. I read another blog review about the place and it said the inside looked like "20-year-old diner with crappy tables and chairs" and they were "a bit confused at first about whether we were supposed to sit, wait for a hostess, or order first". Now, I normally don't comment about what other bloggers write but after reading this I expected the worst. So, when I walked in, I checked to see if it was the right place since there wasn't a shitty, old diner in front of me and it was abundantly clear that they take your order at the cash register when the cashier said, "What can I get you guys?". The place has a simple and clean decor that screams roadside BBQ taken indoors to me which was exactly what I was looking for.
I don't know if it was the heat (another hellish 100 degree weekend) or if we were hungry but we sure did order like our life depended on it. It's not that we ordered too much food for four (okay, maybe just a tad), it's just we ordered in light speed. Yeah, I have no idea. Anyway, we got a large brisket platter with the regular sides of hush puppies, coleslaw, and homemade pickles. In addition we got a small BBQ platter substituting out the hush puppies and coleslaw for mac & cheese and fried okra. We also ordered a side of fried green tomatoes, one of their homemade hot dogs, the pimento cheese fries, a slice of red velvet cake, and a deep-fried moon pie.
They brought out the pimento cheese fries first (yeah, so the process is that you order at the register then they bring out the food to you. It's not rocket science.). When I tasted the homemade fries by themselves, they were crisp, nicely salted and nicely cooked. When I tasted them with the melted pimento cheese and I think sliced red peppers, I wasn't sure what to think. It was like fries in a nacho cheese dip and while melted cheese on anything is almost always good, I think I was expecting it to excite me just a bit more.
When we arrived in NC, my aunt got some pulled pork from Allen & Son and it wasn't bad but tasted like day old vinegary pulled pork. The pulled pork here was miles from that (literally and figuratively. See what I did there? Um...yeah.) in both freshness and flavor. You could really taste the smokiness come through and if you want heat, you could add some of the vinegar sauce (yeah, I know) or for a bit of sweetness, use their tangy/tart BBQ sauce. I'm not a BBQ expert but if this is what they mean about NC barbecue consider me a fan.
I only got a small bite of the homemade hot dog but after my DC-3 experience, I consider myself at least a little in the know when it comes to hot dogs. Now, I don't know what they put in the hot dog (and I took my bite without any condiments) but it felt a little more hefty and flavorful than a regular hot dog. It wasn't necessarily bordering on italian sausage territory more like the difference between crispy bacon and crispy pork belly. One would normally say that the fat is the difference but I'd rather say that the flavor just has more depth.
The sides were all pretty tasty but some shone more than others. The mac & cheese didn't have much wow factor but it's still mac & cheese. The hush puppies were about the same as was the coleslaw. But, as soon as I bit into the fried okra and the fried green tomatoes, I knew I hit the jackpot. Yes, deep fried things are tasty but these deep fried things weren't all about the batter and the deep friedness (my blog, my words). The flavor of the okra and tomatoes really came through especially in the slight tartness to sweetness of the tomatoes. The homemade pickles were cool, refreshing and provided a great palate cleanser as you went from dish to dish.
When we came to North Carolina for the weekend, we were determined to have at least some barbecue since that's what they're renowned for. I admit I've never known or have always confused which region does what kind of barbecue so I didn't know what to expect. We were a bit disappointed in our first try at pulled pork (to be fair, it may have been sitting in my aunt's car for quite a bit of time) so we went and tried the Pig. The barbecue and all the accompanying plates didn't disappoint this time around and while I still don't know exactly what North Carolina barbecue is, I'd like to think I tried the one of the best possible examples at the Pig.