Man Food: Pork Belly Donuts and BBQ at The Red-Eyed Pig
With seating limited to about five chairs at a street-facing counter, the real view at the West Roxbury-based BBQ joint The Red-Eyed Pig is of the open, tiny kitchen. This means you can watch the chicken fried to order, the smoked ribs getting a final turn on the grill for an extra hit of char, and the mashed potatoes receiving a final whip before being served.
The menu is vast for such a cramped place, and it’s very true to the good old bbq we’re all used to—though not without a few twists along the way, like green chile and pork belly donuts ($6.50), cleverly drizzled with garlic aioli “icing,” farmer’s cheese “powdered sugar,” and smoked paprika salt.
The round little nuggets arrived hot, landing somewhere on the pancake-meets-fritter texture spectrum. Unfortunately, they sounded better than they tasted. I was hoping for a mix of fatty pork belly, creamy cheese, and hot chiles, but all I got was a light smoke and very little else.
Next I decided on a combo of smoked fennel and hot pepper pork sausage and smoky fried chicken with red eye gravy ($12.95 for two meats and two sides, see top photo). There’s something about eating a meal from a disposable plastic container that I love—everything is tucked into its own compartment, just waiting to be mingled. In this case, it was a beautiful blend of smoked meat, collards, baked beans, and big hunk of cornbread. The sausage had a nice balance of fennel and hot peppers, and it had a wonderful snap that only the finest encased meats can claim.
The fried chicken was less successful, however. While the meat was moist and seasoned modestly, there was too much separation between the papery coating and the chicken. The accompanying red eye gravy was fine but a little uninspired, though it had an inherent sweetness that I liked. Collard greens stood out as a favorite, thanks to the addition of finely chopped meat and tangy vinegar. The banana pudding ($6), cleverly served in a mason jar, rounded out the meal on a high note; ironically, it’s the one thing I tried that wasn’t overly sweet. Chunks of banana spiked with vanilla made the dessert a hit.
Overall, The Red-Eyed Pig is a clever spot with a menu that sounds better than it is actually executed. But they are oh-so-close to bringing something new and delicious to the local bbq scene, and hopefully soon they will join the ranks of other worthy bbq joints in the area.
(The Red-Eyed Pig, 1753 Centre St, West Roxbury 617-325-1700, http://www.red-eyedpig.com/)