You can't miss Prohibition Pig driving down South Main Street: just look for the old time standalone building with the giant black pig and butcher's knife hanging high over the door. The sign is a throwback and so are the digs. The well spaced tables have a butcher's block feel and the long bar has shelf upon shelf of pickled vegetables right with high caliber brews and spirits (and no TV). It's a serious place for serious beer drinkers, captured best by their tagline "Smoked meats and Libations." Though the meats are smoked (in Ole Hickory pits, according to a trusted mole), it's not a barbecue joint per se. But it's hardly a dive—there's a level of sophistication here that makes it a worthy date spot, beers or no.
The Prohibition Pig menu is a constantly changing affair with a sausage and a burger of the day among the specials. Regular smoked items include wings, pulled pork, pulled chicken and brisket. (Sorry, no ribs, although on one of the visits babybacks were a special.) All of the boneless selections are available as sandwiches or plates. Combo platters aren't offered explicitly but can be easily accommodated. Back to the burgers, there's an always-available grass fed beef burger, a veggie burger and a tempeh burger. Beer friendly apps include pork rinds, pretzel knots with Heady Topper mustard, hush puppies, regular and sweet potato fries, pickled vegetables, fried pimento cheese, mussels, mac and cheese and Brunswick stew.
I visited twice with my young bride over 30-hour span, hitting Prohibition Pig for Sunday lunch and Monday dinner during a holiday weekend.
Pickled vegetables: Crunchy tart finger food ($6.00) with a faintly sweet backdrop provided a refreshing counterpoint to the meats.
Wings: Served in a mini cast iron skillet, the half dozen or so petite smoked wings pieces ($8.00) arrived very lightly sauced, showcasing the crisp, golden brown skin. Taste followed suit, with the faintly sweet sauce singing backup while the light smoky chickeniness stood out front. The inner meat was surprisingly moist for such a small and crispy wing. A few crunchy bacon bits stowed away under the pile, perhaps intentionally. In the end these were some very good wings that had nice flavor, but lacking ever so slightly in smoke, rub, and sauce infusion to only make the bubble of my Favorite Wings List. I'd definitely get them again though.
Salad: Mixed greens with lettuce, apples and candied walnuts ($8.00) proved a worthy starter. The lettuce was fresh, the maple vinaigrette was perky and the candied walnuts were crunchy crystalized nuggets (suggestion to Prohibition Pig: offer a spicy version on your Snacks menu).
Brunswick stew: Made with smoked chicken and studded with corn and other vegetables, this hearty dish ($6.50) gets a Carolina twist with the addition of two half submerged hush puppies. These soak up the flavors of the stew and submit a half-soggy, half-crunchy contrast in texture and a sweet contrast to the savory stew. The chicken here was a smokier, more tender version of what's available in the sandwich version. But the star of the show was the broth: deep red, a little oily (in a good way) and filled with complex spice and heat. If my diet parole officer wasn't with me, I might have ordered a second bowl for dessert.
Smoked chicken sandwich: Tried on the preliminary lunch visit (meat platters are only available at dinner), the chicken sandwich ($8.00) stuffed tiny cubes of chicken into a fresh sweet potato bun, with a corn relish along for the ride. Smoke and bark were both low; tenderness carried the day with no crispy counterpart. And the insides were a little dry. The condiment and bun (similar in density to brioche) were both very nice, but ultimately the meat fell a little short.
Smoked brisket sandwich: This one had me at "bacon BBQ sauce," but the first visit's brisket sandwich ($9.00) similarly fell short in the meat department. The brisket had more of a teriaki beef shape and texture (chewy), and smoke was rather light. Biting through not only pulled the meat within the bite but also took the rest of the slice with it. I liked the sauce, which added some character without taking over the show. Fried onions (sauteed, not battered) were minimal.
Pulled pork: The night visit's Chopped Carolina pork sandwich ($8.00) looked much like the chicken, with a small chop, cole slaw as the added vegetable and a very soft, flaky bun to hold it all in. The meat brought more flavor to the party in both its porkiness and somewhat higher smoke level. Bark was again light; tenderness was again high but more bouncy than soggy, with the vinegary slaw adding a nice crunch. But what made this sandwich sing was the tandem of that super fresh bun and the Carolina vinegar sauce that packed a whallop with its profuse inclusion of pepper bits and spices. It's rare when I like a sandwich where the meat doesn't take top billing, but this was a tasty exception.
Overall, a good mix. Both the Carolina vinegar (thin, beer colored, tart, sweet, peppery) and the pepper vinegar (thin, tart, jalapenoey) were very good and a perfect complement to pork. The house sauce brought traditional dark color and thick texture and broke tradition with some surprising but welcome heat. The dark, thick, semi-sweet bacon BBQ sauce delivered a little bacon flavor without bacon pieces.
Sides overall were very good.
Fries: Though not 100% crisp (maybe 75%), they were very good (skins, seasoning, natural potatoey flavor), and a good vehicle for the darker, thicker homemade ketchup that tasted like chipotle.
Maple beans: The only side with meat, this soft but unsoggy beans rendition carried a flavorful condiment that was more subtle and less maply than I expected, but still excellent.
Cole slaw: A simple, Mayo-free concoction of extra crisp floral purple cabbage, shredded carrots and vinegar.
Collard greens: Paired with sauteed onions, the perfectly cooked just-past-wilting collards were as decadent as a protein-free side can be, thanks to liberal use of a high grade olive oil.
The Bottom Line
Prohibition Pig isn't calling itself a barbecue joint, so I hold them to a different standard. Generally speaking, the meats were decent but succeeded less as barbecue and more so (sometimes spectacularly so) as complete dishes (sandwiches, stew) that just happened to have smoked meat in them. Add some great sides, fresh rolls, innovative finger foods, full command of flavors and a world class beer list and you have a joint that I like a lot, even if I'm more excited about the non-barbecue items.
Seven Days review of Prohibition Pig
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