HOG HEAVEN

The Bearded Pig isn’t jokingabout theirbarbecue. With plentiful platters of meat, fresh sides and a great outdoor beer garden, it’s going to be the spot to be this summer.

The process is easy: Order first, then grab a table. The dishes arrive lightning-quick; we spent only a few minutes smelling the mouthwatering aromas before our meals came floating out to us on great big cafeteria trays.

We chose The Bearded Poutine ($8) starter, which includes a humongous pile of French fries covered in cheese and crispy meat. I drizzled housemade barbecue sauce on top, and it was some kind of heaven. The San Marco Platter ($22) is the perfect choice for two; it’s a quarter-pound of chicken and ribs, along with your choice of two meats and two sides. We went with the highly recommended brisket and pork. Then we decided to go whole hog (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and get the quarter-pound of sausage ($5) as well. While ribs are usually my favorite, I have to say brisket and sausage were the winners at The Bearded Pig. The brisket was perfectly cooked, delicious and flavorful. The sausage had the ideal crispy skin — and when you cut into it, you reveal a rich and scrumptious filling.

The Bearded Pig makes a special effort to accommodate vegetarians with The Dace ($8) sandwich and even goes so far as to make sure all the sides are vegetarian — even the baked beans. The Dace is a unique concoction: macaroni and cheese, slaw, and beans all on a big bun. The slaw was crispy, with a vinegar base rather than mayo, and the baked beans have four kinds of beans. The mac and cheese was traditional, but we were all surprised by the potato salad — it was a mix of fresh green beans (no cans here) and potatoes that weren’t overcooked or mushy and held up well to being seasoned.

I love pickles, so when I saw that the platters come with sliced pickles, I zeroed in on them immediately. They were so delectable, I had to ask if they were made in-house. The answer was no, but then I learned that they were from Olive My Pickle, our local pickle guru, which explained their pickley perfection. The Bearded Pig personnel said they try to rely on local sources as much as possible; for example, the sausage is from Azar & Company, a meat shop here in town. Azar makes a special blend of beef and pork just for The Bearded Pig, and you simply must try it.

The Nutella brownie sundae ($4) is the most recommended, and decadent, dessert on the menu. The sundae is served in a Mason jar, with a giant square of a warm chocolaty brownie and vanilla ice cream, smothered in hot fudge. It’s the perfect sweet treat to share after a big meal.

In addition to the excellent fare, I love the vibe of The Bearded Pig. The outdoor area makes you feel like you’re hanging out barbecuing with friends and, with lots of outdoor seating and a set of cornhole boards, it’s friendly to families and large groups.

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