The Pig looks great. Its got that fifties diner-style thing going on, with the counter, the chrome, the bar stools, the pie stand (big ol pie included) and the plush red booths. It has to be one of the most comfortable barbecue places in the city it even has valet parking!
You can watch a lot of the food being cooked on the range right behind the counter, except for the cue, of course, which is smoked out the back, they told me. Place your order at the hatch and settle into one of those shiny red seats; revel in the airconditioning, check out the Suhthun wall decorations and ponder dessert while awaiting the food.
The Pig says its a Memphis style joint, but unlike many other Memphis-style places in the city, the sauce comes on the side, and it includes Mississippi catfish and St Louis-style ribs on the menu. The menu says the St Louis ribs are a bit sweeter than the baby-backs, which are hickory smoked, according to a world championship recipe. Owner Daly Thompson spent time in Memphis as a child and both he and his wife Liz are long-time chefs, were told, and they make a range of sauces to go with their fare.
We had both kinds of ribs, the apple-wood smoked brisket, the pulled pork and a burger. The baby backs were a little fatty, but they tasted sweet and light. Unfortunately, they lived up to their name they really were baby size, and we felt as though we didnt get much for the $9 we paid.
If the St Louis ribs were sweeter, I couldnt tell, but then, there wasnt much meat on them to taste. They were as tough as leather and greasy to boot, with very little flavor. Thank heaven for the sauces, which I ate a lot of, using those ribs as a ladle. Again, very pricey at $9 for five.
The brisket was good, although we agreed it could have been smoked longer. We enjoyed the rich apple-smoke taste, but there wasnt much meat on the plate for the $8 price tag. The pulled pork sandwich was the biggest disappointment of all. It came on a white burger bun, which Dale assured me is the way they do it in Memphis, but the bun fell apart immediately, making the sandwich almost impossible to eat. Moreover, the pork was stringy and wet, and didnt taste of much.
Once again, we were rescued by the sauces. Dale has done a good job here, producing a delicious range, called Hot Vinegar, Creole Mustard, Sweet & Sassy and Smokin Spicy. The names speak for themselves, but diners should be warned that Dale doesnt spare the chilis or the garlic in the hot stuff, so beware. All of them were pronounced very good by the taste team, and all were gainfully employed during the meal.
For sides, we selected the excellent jalapeno cornbread, which crumbled perfectly and buzzed the tastebuds just right; beans, which werent particularly distinguished; and big chunky home fries.
Dessert was the apple rumble crumble, a real tour de force, with a hefty sweet crumbly top and hefty chunks of apple in a slick sauce with a cinnamon punch. Really good with a big o scoop of ice cream, and well worth the $7.50.
Its a pity about the Pig. At La Brea and Melrose, its in a great location, so that may explain why the food is so much more expensive. The shame, however, is that the barbecue doesnt live up to the price or the hype. So much has been written about The Pig being a bastion of barbecue in the heathen west that our visits (yes, weve been more than once) were exceptionally disappointing. Theres nothing worse than leaving a barbecue place with both the tastebuds and the stomach hinting at a desire for more, particularly when all the moneys gone out of your wallet.
612 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Fri. & Sat. 11am-12mid.