Hitting the Road: The Blue Ridge Pig
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve entered this “real world” everybody has always warned me about, and like most people my age, I’ve been hitting the road. Backpacking through Europe looking to find myself? Hardly – I never lost myself to begin with, and I’m not quite ready to blow all my money on artisan cheese and bread (which, I’ll be honest, would happen very quickly over there). No, my travels have led me in search of gainful employment, and most recently, down a country road in the Shenandoah Mountains.
En route to a job interview, I spotted this:
If you said, “well hey Adam, don’t you know it looks like a big ‘ol pig there by that beat-up gas station,” then I’d tell you you were 100% correct-o-mundo. Like any self respected and starving young man who happens to find themselves miles from the nearest Happy Meal, I pulled over to see what this pig was all about.
Turns out I had arrived at the Blue Ridge Pig. A run-down looking shack attached to a similarly run-down looking grocery store, the Blue Ridge Pig has quite a reputation. At least that’s what I learned after stepping inside. I was greeted with a scene out of a movie – an interior of wood tables and various newspaper clippings on the walls, with a hand-drawn menu board in the corner displaying all the offerings. This wasn’t just any country kitchen – this was real barbecue, and a flyer on one the table boasting acclaim from Bon Appetite, Food Network, Anthony Bourdain, and many others told me this place had earned some high praise.
There was a lot to consider on the menu, so I spent some time quizzing the shanghai girls dishing out the food. All said the big sellers were the Barbeque Pork (yes, I spell BBQ in about a zillion different ways) and the Turkey Croissant. They also really talked up the sides, including a mustard-based coleslaw and a new, herb and oil marinated macaroni salad. The sandwiches seemed well priced at $4.45-5.35 depending on the meat, but with such high talk for a plate (meat and two sides) I figured I’d break the bank on this one. I ended up ordering the hickory smoked pulled pork as well as the slaw and macaroni salad.
I usually can’t get enough of smoked meat, but I won’t hide my disappointment – I was less than thrilled with the Pig’s rendition of the barbecue standby. First off, I expected a large portion of meat and two sides. What I got was a grilled Kaiser Roll (I liked this – malty, crunchy, sweet) with a moderate amount of meat. The meat was, in my opinion, average. It had a fine smoke ring and clearly had been hickory smoked, but the actual meat seemed weak next to a soupy sauce that lacked in either tang or sweetness. The meat was good in that there were some crunchy pieces of Mr. Brown, but Mrs. White came off as fatty and chewy, and elements had the stringiness of something you’d find in a Tony Roma’s container. Overall, I found a lack of defining sweet or salty taste from a rub. Not bad pulled pork, but not great, either. And take my word for it, when it comes to barbecue, this ain’t my first rodeo.
The sides were good, but I thought the portions were small. I can understand the importance of charging premium price for smoked meat – but even the more artisan sides shouldn’t warrant an extra five bucks. The mac salad had a great lightness to it, with the slippery and herbed infused noodles complimented by a nice crunch of tiny pieces of zucchini and peppers. The coleslaw was very good – the mustard was balanced by a great sweetness and crunch, with a subtle tang that went well with the meat. One thing the sides do well is complementing the setting, which is both rustic but also bright, bridging a gap between the small town feel of the area with the nearby, vacation oriented wineries.
I wasn’t thrilled with the barbecue at Blue Ridge Pig, but it just goes to show you that barbecue is in the eye of the beholder, and that one man’s “meh” might be another’s “mmmm.” Overpriced? Maybe, but then again, that’s what hittin’ the road is all about; taking a chance on the shacks on the side of the road, and making the time to discover the hidden gems of local communities.
And if you don’t take my word on the Blue Ridge Pig, you may want to check them out should you ever find yourself speeding through the Blue Ridge Mountains. But what about you? Summer has unofficially arrived with Memorial Day… have you hit the road to try out any place new?