A Northern Interpretation: Union Pig & Chicken

February 2012

A Tale of Anticipation & Fulfillment

(Anticipation)

First there was the longing.  Oh the painful longing for more restaurants conjuring the experiences we’d had in other places.  Then there were the rumors.  Did someone say “bbq?”  Then there were confirmations and names attached to the big promises- did someone say “Kevin Sousa and bbq in the same sentence?”  Then it was the waiting, the tweeted sneak peeks and the salivating!

Then a sign popped up, and the city had a new, handsome corner.

Finally, the tweets confirmed bbq was in our near future!  Quietly, the restaurant announced its open doors.  Finally, we stepped inside those doors, inhaled deeply, fully took in the smoky, bbq aromas, oohed and ahhed over the reclaimed wood, and most importantly, FINALLY, we ate the northern interpretation of the southern comforts we love so much!

presenting….

Union Pig & Chicken 
(Fulfillment)

I didn’t include “wood grains” in the tag line of this blog for nothing!  I have a real appreciation for craftsmanship and rustic atmospheres.  Union Pig & Chicken nearly found a new resident in me when I beheld its wooden walls and red accents.  One of those red accents, emanating from the kitchen, hints at the kitchen scurrying without disclosing the full story.

I imagine the large, front windows may one day feature the logo (another enviable design by Jay Fanelli) to immerse the diner fully in the interior experience and help filter the nighttime glow of the bank across the street.  Perhaps the same reclaimed wood of the walls will one day become benches by those large front windows.  Maybe there’ll be some corrugated metal accents too?!?  After my first Union dinner, I’m convinced there will be more of a wait in the future, and benches will be necessary!

As if walls of wood and trays of bbq weren’t exciting enough for those of us navigating the Pittsburgh dining scene, Union Pig & Chicken displays a proper appreciation for whiskey, including the new hometown hero- Wigle Whiskey.  I momentarily had to put my Wigle excitement on the back burner in pursuit of the “Rocks & Rye” section of the menu.

My drink (neat):

Old Overholt Rye, Tangerine, Thyme, Sage Honey

An all around solid whiskey drink, but I lost interest after sipping Jono’s choice.

Jono’s game changing order (also neat):

Old Overholt Rye, Smoked Onion, Black Pepper, Local Maple 

I admit, I doubted this concoction.  I was convinced Union was going for the shock factor with the onion, but shoot, color me wrong because that concoction worked, and it worked soooo very well!  Smokey with a maple finish!  That single glass made me debate the merits of owning a smoker!

We all seemed dressed for the occasion.  Lots of reds, touches of plaid and a real zeal for the food!

Three of us, clad in our Union attire and ready for bbq, meant ample sharing opportunity, so we took advantage of the options.

MEATS

St. Louis Ribs
Our top choice from our selection of meats, especially with extra squirts of the house bbq sauce.  The surface was smoky and crisp, but the pink meat was tender.  Definitely will repeat that order on the next visit.

Fried Chicken
The crust!  The crust will convince you!  

Brisket
Eating this brisket made me realize I must have a lot to learn about brisket!  My past brisket endeavors were always in the braised, tender, shredding-as-you-cut-into-each-piece realm.  These slices surprised me.  I won’t say they disappointed me, but we collectively ranked them as our third choice of our meat options for the night.  As a jury, we’re still out.

SIDES

Greens
With a touch of sweetness and a meaty touch of bbq, greens are a must in the line up!  

Cornbread
I like my cornbread on the sweeter side, so this was a slice of golden heaven in my [cook]book.  Here’s my question to the foodies out there, when/where/how did honey and cornbread start to go hand-in-hand?  Is it an abomination to ask for a drizzle of nature’s amber colored candy?  I’m definitely in favor of the combination!

Mac ‘n Cheese
Damn if I’m not spoiled by Meat & Potatoes’ pork belly mac ‘n cheese!  This Union side dish was an all around worthwhile version, but I’d say it’s time to push for a more robust cheese.  With a smoker and that kind of meat repertoire, it’s also time to push for a smoky meat in that cheesy macaroni mix.

Conclusion
I will be back!  We will be back!  I really appreciate the dedication to strong design in both the web presence, the printed material and the interior.  I obviously appreciate the commitment to slow foods, local foods and whiskey accompaniments.  What I appreciate most is the acknowledgement that this establishment is not meant to be or imitate a southern comfort.  This is not Kevin Sousa pretending to be the master of a cuisine steeped in a region and culture that is not his own.  This is his interpretation, and it’s a damn good one!

ps:  I made promises to a certain diningsaur to represent him in my first Union experience. Admittedly, in my anticipation and excitement, I just plain dropped the ball, but stay tuned Rodzilla!  Your post will come!

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