Work has interfered with my productivity lately, so I’m just getting round to posting a trip last January.
Nancy and I detoured to Nashville on our way to warmer climes so that I could try Peg Leg Porker, which has been much ballyhooed, including in Garden and Gun. I had planned the trip down, as I explained to Liza — spend the night in Nashville to eat at Peg Leg Porker, spend the night in Birmingham to see Dear and have some barbecue, spend the night in Panama City to have oysters at Hunt’s…. Liza shook her head and said, “Mom really is nice.” Yes, very.
Peg Leg Porker is tucked away in a warren of industrial buildings near The Gulch. It’s a good-sized, simple space, with bare concrete floors. It’s roomy with lots of tables, a fully stocked bar at one end, and the counter with some good microbrews for those who want a beer with their barbecue, and a bunch of whiskeys for those who want to drink whiskey. You order food at the other end of the room.
Note: It’s best to order your beer first, and then order your food. The food comes out quickly — before you can settle down and order a beer. They need to work on that.
So far, it had been very promising. We ordered. I got the pork plate with green beans and macaroni and cheese.
Nancy got the ribs with cole slaw and potato salad.
The ribs turned out to be spare ribs with, as you can see, a heavy crust of dry rub. Now, spare ribs are hard to get right. The meat is, well, spare, and they have to be watched closely. Done properly, they are great. They were not done properly here. They were dry and overcooked. In fairness, they did have some smoke flavor, but the dominant taste was from the armor-like crust of dry rub. For Nancy, they were a total fail.
The pork was better. It was tender and had a good smoke flavor. They seemed, however, to have been cooked earlier and to have been sitting around for a while. They’re probably better at lunch or at a weekend dinner, when the place is busy. I was generous enough to share mine with Nancy in return for her ribs. When I made the trade, I wasn’t aware how bad the ribs were.
The sides, which did not require constant attention, were much better. The green beans were delicious, cooked with generous amounts of bacon and some onions. Wonderful. The macaroni and cheese — shells in a cheese sauce — was tasty. The cole slaw was okay. The potato salad was pretty good, as the potatoes had not been overcooked, but, as Nancy noted, it really needed much more celery, which is important for both taste and texture.
Peg Leg Porker has a variety of sauces. The mild sauce is mild, and the hot sauce is mild as well. It really helps to add some Louisiana Hot Sauce to it.
After eating I looked around the dining area. The decor is plain, with cinder block walls and a cement floor — all good signs for a barbecue place. The walls are covered with neon signs and, uh-oh, there are shelves with barbecue trophies.
Barbecue places often receive high marks because they win trophies at barbecue competitions. Bob Gibson’s is a good example of a place that has good barbecue, but not good enough to justify its regular placement on Best Barbecue lists. They get on the lists in large part because they enter and win competitions, which involve an entirely different set of skills than running a restaurant. Closely monitoring barbecue for a day isn’t the same as closely monitoring it every single day. And that seems to be where Peg Leg Porker can fall down. They aren’t on top of the meat 100 percent of the time. So be careful when you go … but go.
The Peg Leg Porker logo features a pig with a wooden hind leg. You might think that’s a complete fiction, but I actually saw a pig with a wooden leg once in Pickens County, Alabama, about four miles from the courthouse in Carrollton, home of the famous Face in the Window. I asked the farmer about it. Seems there had been a fire in their home and the pig actually ran inside the house, right through the flames, and pulled four young children to safety, one by one. Some pig, as they say. I asked just how the pig had injured its ham in the course of the rescue. “Wasn’t in the fire. Singed some, but that’s all.” “Then what happened?” “Pig like that, you don’t eat it all at once.”
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