Rhode Island has never been a hotbed for barbecue. Finding a place to get really authentic Southern smoked meats has always been a challenge, and that’s a real shame because I love it. What’s not to love? Smoky, tender meats cooked all day that are so juicy, you need a wet wipe at the end of the meal to clean yourself up. Stick-to-your-ribs side dishes like macaroni and cheese and baked beans. And don’t forget the cornbread slathered in butter. Is your mouth watering yet? Luckily, Rhode Islanders now have the chance to get their barbecue fix. Those in the know tell me that Durk’s BBQ (on Thayer Street in Providence) and the Pink Pig (locations in Jamestown and Warren) are doing barbecue right. On a rare sunny day in May, I decided to take the drive to Jamestown and try the Pink Pig.
The Pink Pig is located on Narragansett Avenue, within walking distance of the harbor, so you can park your boat and follow the smell of smoking meat inland. The restaurant, located in a former car wash, is small and rustic, with a large quick-service-style counter at the entrance where you order your food. The dining room is small with pink (of course) picnic tables and a couple of big screen televisions showing local sports. The decor is dominated by a pig theme with large pig prints on the walls. There is also a larger outdoor seating area, perfect forthe warmer months.
The first night I drove to the Pink Pig, I ended up leaving disappointed because they had already sold out of their barbecue for the day. I took this to be a good sign; they wouldn’t sell out if the food wasn’t good! I didn’t make that mistake the following week and showed up bright and early. Heed the warning on their website: “Due to the long smoke times… once we run out, we are out.”
Nothing goes better with barbecue than beer, so unsurprisingly, the Pink Pig offers a variety of them. I was impressed with their mostly local beer list. They offer a dozen or so choices by the can and also three draft beer selections (two from Whaler’s Brewing and one from Narragansett). I sampled a New England–style IPA from Revival Brewing called You Thirsty ($5.40) and an Extra Pale Ale called Flying Jenny ($5.40) from Grey Sail Brewing.
Wanting to make sure we tried as many things as possible, my friend and I ordered the Pitmaster Jr. ($60) platter. Sure, the menu said it would feed four to six people and there were only two of us, but we are not known as light eaters and figured leftovers are never a bad thing. I’m a bit embarrassed to list everything the platter included, but here goes: a full rack of pork ribs, half a pound of beef brisket, half a pound of pulled pork, a hot sausage link, a mild sausage link, mac n’ cheese, baked beans with burnt ends, cole slaw, pickled vegetables and cornbread. We didn’t finish it all, but we had a good time trying.
The meats were all smoked low and slow in the smoker in front of the restaurant. Ribs rank among my favorite foods, and I am pleased to report that these ribs were amazing. The bark (dark brown crust) was flavored with a savory, salty dry rub which gave the ribs so much flavor that it rendered sauce unnecessary. Like all well-prepared ribs, the meat was tender but still had a good chew to it. On a return visit to the Pink Pig, I would be fine with just a rack of ribs. My friend’s favorite meat was the pulled pork, and it was fabulous. It was so tender and melted in your mouth. The flavor was great too – who needs sauce when you have this much flavor without it? I loved the brisket too. It was fatty, in a good way, and very moist and succulent. Some brisket is on the dry side, but there was nothing dry about this brisket.
If you need sauce for your meats, the restaurant provides an eclectic mix of choices. My favorite sauces were the Sweet and Tangy and the Jalapeño, Tomatillo and Garlic. They also had Hot Pepper Vinegar, Mustard Vinegar and a Habanero, Carrot and Rum that was very spicy (even for me, and I love spicy things).
The side dishes included with our Pitmaster Jr. Platter were uniformly delicious. The standouts were the mac n’ cheese, the baked beans and the pickled red cabbage. The mac n’ cheese was heavy on the cheese and that was quite okay with us. The baked beans were nice and smoky with big hunks of burnt end pieces of pork. The acid of the pickled red cabbage was the perfect foil to all of the rich foods we were consuming – a palate cleanser of sorts. We also enjoyed the cornbread, especially with the softened butter served with it.
As the night went on and our stomachs stretched to their limits, we took a much-needed break from eating and watched the end of a Red Sox game. The Pink Pig thoughtfully provides wet wipes and toothpicks to end your meal without a huge mess. We packed up what was left of our food and decided we were too full to try the restaurant’s seasonal pie ($5). The Pink Pig provides an authentic barbecue experience in one of the most scenic towns in Southern Rhode Island. It’s certainly worth a trip – just leave the vegetarians at home.