The Pig doesn’t have the look and feel of a typical North Carolina BBQ joint. It sits in a small strip mall in north Chapel Hill, a town that has certainly influenced its menu. You gotta appeal to your customer base, right? The menu is as unique as the town it lives in. While The Pig serves traditional eastern North Carolina BBQ fare (chopped pork bbq, slaw, hushpuppies, and other southern sides), it also serves BBQ tempeh, brisket, fried bologna, Vietnamese pork cheek, po-boys, beer, and other sides. Going in, this place screams “yuppiecue”* , but it’s what’s on the inside that matters… time to grub!
Walking in, the restaurant is small, basically a narrow strip with tables on one side and the ordering counter on the other. Mostly everything is self serve: the drinks, silverware, to-go boxes, sauces, ect. which I like. Behind the counter is a chalkboard of daily specials, along with a selection of some of their meats for sale. There were also some bar stools available if you want to sit at the counter and there was also outdoor seating. We explored the menu, ordered, and then found a nice table (the place was empty around 11:30am on Wednesday, but quite busy when we left)
The menu, like I said earlier, contains some, well, unique items. You won’t find many BBQ joints offering BBQ Tempeh, Vietnamese Pork cheek, or shiitake mushrooms. But I will say this place could tempt even the most trendy of progressive Chapel Hillians. The broad menu contains the typical BBQ and sides, but strays from tradition with other meats, vegetarian options, tofu, and some downright innovative touches.
We were so intrigued, in fact, that we ordered a feast. I, of course, went with the small BBQ plate ($9) which includes chopped pork bbq, slaw, hushpuppies, and homemade pickles. My sister went with Carolina po-boy ($11) comprised of pulled pork, collard greens, pimento cheese, and hot sauce with pickles. We also downed a an appetizer of pimento cheese fries ($5). As you can tell, we like our pimento cheese, we are North Carolinians after all.
The food was delivered quickly by the very friendly lady at the counter and was presented very nicely. The large portion of cheese fries were served doused in warm cheese and pimentos which added a nice kick. The chopped pork looked good; deep brown, juicy, with bits of chewy bark mixed in which added texture to contrast the tender meat. It was well seasoned eastern-NC style vinegar based BBQ. It was flavorful and juicy, but not the greatest I’ve ever tasted, possibly due to the use of electric cooking methods. Each table harbored 2 house sauces: a thin, peppery vinegar sauce and a thick, deep-brown sauce. The vinegar added nice bite and spice to the pork, while I used the thick sauce as more of a dip. This sauce was very sticky and sweet with a strong molasses taste. Ketchup and a variety of hot sauces were also available.
The slaw also looked very unique. It was a very finely chopped cabbage in a bright yellow-toned base. To me, it tasted very much like typical slaw and I could not detect what ingredient may be adding the yellow color; maybe mustard? Tumeric? Some other spices? It seemed to be a light dairy based slaw with nice flavor to complement the pork well. The homemade pickles were a very welcomed addition to the BBQ plate. They were a sweet, bread and butter type pickle that was very fresh. They provided a lot of fresh cucumber taste, and a slightly tangy, mostly sweet flavor. My sister and I were very impressed with these as we love pickles and thought they complemented the entrees well. The hushpuppies, on the other hand, did not impress us so much. Not your typical hushpuppies, they were very thin like french fries and almost looked like a state fair funnel cake. They tasted pretty good but the the ratio was all off in my opinion. The outside was very crispy, but the inside didn’t offer enough soft, moist structure to contrast the crispy edge. I like my hushpuppies crispy on the outside and moist, fluffy, and full on the inside but these just didn’t deliver for me.
I tried my sister’s Carolina po-boy which was extremely rich from the combination of pulled pork, pimento cheese, and creamy slow-cooked collards. This created a luscious combination of NC flavors on crispy french bread to devise an innovative twist on the po-boy sandwich. Overall, we enjoyed the unique aspects of The Pig and had a great experience here. The traditional items were very solid and the new dishes we tried also impressed. While the prices were a bit higher here than most other joints, the small BBQ plate was plenty for me and it’s possible to eat here for a reasonable price. I hope to make it back here again to indulge in some good ‘que and try to new stuff!
Restaurant: The Pig
Location: 630 Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill, NC
Rest of Menu/Sides: 3.5/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
*Yuppiecue – a term coined the the legendary BBQ Jew to describe a less traditional joint. Check out the “BBQ U” to familiarize yourself with some BBQ lingo.