Words by Alyssa Stevenson / Images by Will Milne
Growing up I loved getting barbecue with my family. There was this great place in town and I was totally in love with the whole experience; the way the air smelled of hickory and mesquite smoldering in the smokers, the cheap tablecloths, communal picnic tables and bottles full of perfectly sweet and spicy sauce that would get poured on everything. Last Sunday as we sat down to try out the newest BBQ joint, all of those memories came rushing back. Luckily for us, the Juicy Pig did not disappoint, and lived up to the great expectations of a table full of barbecue lovers. Read on to find out what we'll be going back for below.
Think there's a dish we missed? Totally possible! Leave us your thoughts, tips and tricks in the comments below.
As we were a table of five we ordered about half the menu, maybe more. We'll call it doing our due diligence for you. After carefully selecting the perfect picnic table outside, we sauntered up to the walk-up window and placed our order. The menu was easy to navigate, not too many options, with just enough to keep you interested. Plenty of classic options like the chopped brisket sandwich, and pulled pork are available, but we're plenty interested in the Juicy Pig signature items, like their house made spicy habenero sausage and smoked chicken and sausage gumbo too.
After placing what felt like a colossal order for a Sunday lunch, we popped open our Topochicos, Lone Stars and Root Beers and peered into the smoker shed while we waited. Right behind the restaurant is the pit - the place where ordinary cuts of meat go in and come back out finger lickin' good. The smokers were glowing red, and the damp air was heavy with the smoky aromas required in a great barbecue joint. A nearby table of friendly faces filled us in on what they thought, and we actually overheard someone talk to their slaw, telling it to get in their mouth.
Our orders arrived quickly and with a friendly smile and helpful explanation of the different items we orders. We started in on the basics first, the chopped brisket sandwich and the half smoked bird. The brisket was juicy and tender, dripping in it's own delectable grease, perfectly chopped and piled high on warm buns. We chose to test out the classic Juicy Pig barbecue sauce on part of the sandwich - we made the right decision. Perfectly sweet, smokey and tangy the sauce held up to the meat without overwhelming it for even a second. Next, the half bird - a half chicken served gleaming in it's perfectly crisped smoked skin, totally tender and smokey all the way through. We hear that the chicken is marinated overnight in a house made sauce, which is what lends the depth of flavor to the bird. Whatever they're doing, we're all for it.
On the topic of meat, let's just dive in to the "whole pig" - a 3 meat menu item that comes with 2 sides and deviled eggs. We went with the pig theme and tried out the pork ribs, pulled pork and sausage. The pickled deviled eggs were hiding under the ribs, like little gleaming gems of southern goodness ready to be plucked from the tray and delightfully devoured. The pork ribs were so tender they fell off the bone as we were picking them up. The pulled pork was the best vehicle for trying the other two sauces, the green sauce which was tangy and bright and the sweeter peach sauce. We loved the peach sauce on the pulled pork, but the sausage was perfect on its own.
Beside the pile of meat we gobbled up were some pretty spectacular sides. Slaw comes three ways, "traditional" with a green apple twist, warm with plenty of vinegar and spicy. This ain't your mama's mayo loaded slaw now. This is light, bright, super fresh slaw with plenty of flavor coming at you in every crunchy little bite. We loved it. We were especially taken with the warm slaw, a vinegar based almost sweet slaw with purple cabbage that turns almost the shade of rubies and is amazing alongside just about anything.
A table favorite all around was the smoked chicken and sausage gumbo. One of us hails from the parts of Texas near Louisiana, so we get a little picky about our gumbo over here, but we're proud to announce that this gumbo does not disappoint. The smoky chicken and sausage are cut into large generous chunks, and a dark roux creates a rich stew that is loaded with flavor.
Also worth noting are a few other dishes, not on the permanent menu. The riblaches are kolaches made with leftover ribs from the day before, and we hear amazing things about them. Unfortunately, we've yet to get our hands on one as they aren't on the menu everyday and tend to go quick. But we're not one to complain about a dish that gains a cult following or happens to be so good they simply fly off the shelves. One of our contributors also tried out the green chili frito pie and said they basically lost their mind it was so good. As we are lovers of green chili and frito pie, we're pumped to go back for this soon, and hope it stays on the special list for awhile longer. We're noticing a ton of specials with plenty of that Pam flair that we know and love, so keep your eyes peeled and tastebuds ready for something out of the ordinary when you walk up to the counter.
Lucky for us, the Juicy Pig is just down the street, next to a few other Denton staples we love. We're excited about what we've had so far and are hopeful for what they come up with next.