One Eyed Pig is half bar, half dining room, tucked into a mini strip mall on a scenic stretch of Route 25, just off I-84 in Western Connecticut. The bar room is boisterous and eerily dark, even on a weekend afternoon. The spacious and not-as-dark dining room has comfortable booths equipped with a condiment bar that includes a few different barbecue sauces. It's a reassuring sign for those curious about barbecue's position in the pecking order. There's no open kitchen or obvious aroma of smoke upon entry, but the menu claims that the meats are smoked. A post-meal peek behind the joint revealed what looked like a commercial smoker.
The One Eyed Pig menu is very compact and mostly barbecue focused. Appetizers include wings, a chili with smoked meats, a slider trio and Pork Tornado (pulled pork rolled in cole slaw and hot sauce, then stuffed into a tortilla and sliced). Barbecue meats feature pork ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and Whackadoo (a barbecue hash made with pulled pork, pulled chicken and potatoes). The boneless meats can be had on a plate or in a sandwich, and there's also a signature Happy Trough sandwich with Whackadoo, fries, slaw, hot sauce and a fried egg. The OEP burger is fresh ground. A 2-meat combo is available; if you choose ribs as one of the meats, you get a half rack.
I stopped in solo for a late Saturday afternoon snack that concluded a 3-stop Connecticut crawl.
I didn't partake of any appetizers, though I regret not trying the chili made with smoked meats.
Whackadoo: Even before the plate hit the table, I knew that the Whackadoo from my 2-meat combo ($22.00) would be the first thing I'd dig into. And just as the plate was hitting the table, I knew that the Whackadoo was dry. This barbecue hash had smoked pork, which ought to have added some moisture from the fat, but the finishing process (I'm guessing frying without much if any additives) kept it crisp, lightly brown and dry throughout. Small bits of potatoes added some interesting texture, appearing every third bite or so. The meat felt smoked but had no smoky flavor or much pink color; spicing was similarly minimal. The Whackadoo was basically meat and potatoes and not much more. With some sauce added, it was nice though, and I believe there's some potential if given the right tweaks. Maybe I'd enjoy it more in a sandwich.
Ribs: I was expecting overcooked, fall-off-the-bone ribs with little flavor, so I was mostly pleased when presented with six large ribs that had a nice dark color, a thick crust and good retraction from the edges of the bone. Okay, so they retracted a little too easily off the bone, but the overdoneness wasn't too overdone. The meat was also thick, allowing a hearty bite that had some recognizable smokiness and some mellow but good overall flavor from rub or marinade. Texture was tender, ever so slightly rubbery and helped out by the light crispness of the bark. But it was the flavor that kept me coming back. With a lively bar scene and not too many plates next to the bottles I saw, it would be very easy to just mail it in, but One Eyed Pig put some effort and flavor into those ribs. Sauce helped, but there was enough moisture and flavor to eat 'em as is.
Sauces were pretty good. The BBQ had tomatoey flavor, noticeable salt and a texture thinner than ketchup. Mop was a standard Carolina vinegar. Cluckin' was the most interesting, staying with a classic sweet barbecue base, but with oniony zip and a little chile heat too.
Again, we're back to expectation. I fully expected the One Eyed Pig to half-ass the sides, which probably isn't fair, but I had them pegged as a joint that focused on the bar first, food second (if that). I may still be right about the focus, but I was wrong about the half-assing it. The fries were among the best I've had, bringing skins, substantial (but not overdone) salting, a golden brown crispness and fresh potato flavor. Homemade tasting cole slaw maintained a nice duality of super creamy and super tangy without compromising either flavor. A little of that on a Whackadoo sandwich would go a long way.
The Bottom Line
While I'd stop way short of calling One Eyed Pig destination 'cue, I probably wouldn't hesitate to stop in if it were on the way to my destination. The Whackadoo was dry, but the ribs were doable, the sides were solid and the service was friendly. Just make sure to leave your sunglasses in the car.
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