The People’s Pig
3217 N Williams Avenue Portland, OR, 97227
Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
The People’s Pig is one of a trinity of restaurants typically mentioned when looking for BBQ in Portland, the other two being Podnah’s and Russell Street. From humble beginnings as a food cart, The People’s Pig has grown into a brick & mortar with two locations in Portland. I’ve heard they put out a decent plate of barbecue and people rave about the fried smoked chicken. All this talk has earned the Pig a spot on the Portland BBQ Tour. Let’s see if all this attention translates to a delicious plate of smoky goodness.
As usual, check out the “Quick & Dirty” section for a quick summary of my visit. Otherwise, see the “Long & Winded” section for a full account of my visit.
Quick and Dirty
Ironically, the best barbecue at The People’s Pig does not come from an animal with a snout and trotters, but rather, from the humble chicken. That’s right folks, The People’s Pig is frying up some of the best chicken I have ever had the pleasure of eating. But this isn’t any old fried chicken. It all starts with a tender and juicy smoked chicken thigh, which is then cornmeal breaded and deep fried to perfection. It’s all served up with a delectable pairing of spicy mayo and jalapeño jelly, resulting in a spicy, crispy, golden-fried piece of heaven. The Pig also dishes up a side of comfort with their creamy mashed potatoes and mac salad — both are delicious and worth stuffing in your face.
The rest of the barbecue and sides land on the mediocre side with dryness being the theme of the day. That being said, it is definitely worth a trip to The People’s Pig just for that smoked fried chicken. You can’t find anything like it in the Portland area.
Long and Winded
It’s rainy, cold, and miserable outside. We just got done trudging through to mud in an unsuccessful attempt to pick out a Christmas tree. Our spirits are down, but what better way to perk them up than to hit another stop on the Portland BBQ Tour: The People’s Pig. I have both the wife and son with me this time, so this calls for a lot of barbecue.
The baby blue building adorned with a black pig and glowing with warm interior lighting is an inviting sight. When we bustle in, the small space is nearly full. They do have an outdoor seating area in the back, but that doesn’t seem like a great idea on this dreary Saturday evening. The interior looks a few decades out of date but has that quirky Portland charm nonetheless. The protocol is to order at the bar counter and find a seat. A nice little family is just about to leave so we inconspicuously hover over their table in order to swoop in on a moments notice.
Now that we have claimed our little corner of the Pig, we check out the menu. The logical choice is the Combo, which says it’s a little bit of all the meats. I walk up to the counter to order and discover that the Combo comes with ALL the sides too. Even better! I also ask for an extra couple pieces of cornbread since neither the wife or son are willing to share. A whopping $74 later (with tip), I stroll back to the table, filling up a few mason jars with water on the way.
We are not prepared for the sheer amount of food that arrives at our table. Three cafeteria trays laden with barbecue are placed before us, gobbling up nearly all the space on the table — we are going to have to eat right from the trays for this one. Checking out the dizzying array of food, I can see that for sides we have: cornbread, pork rinds, coleslaw, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes w/ gravy, collard greens, mac salad, and potato salad. For the meats, we have: sliced pork shoulder, tri-tip, brisket, St. Louis pork ribs, and smoked fried chicken. This is an impressive amount of barbecue.
I start into tasting each of the sides. Most are okay and a few are exceptional. The mashed potatoes are a rustic, creamy, and delicious treat. The gravy is flavorful and I would wager they put buttermilk ranch in these potatoes. These are home-cookin’ comfort food potatoes your Southern grandma would make. The creamy mac salad is equally delicious with a bright dill pickle kick, red onion crunch, and a dusting of paprika. I’m also loving these black-eyed peas. Perfectly cooked peas snuggle up with roasted red peppers and shredded smoked meat. The peppers lend that familiar charred flavor and the meat imparts a rich smokiness to this savory dish with a spicy kick. With a crispy golden brown top and buttery crumb, I like the cast-iron baked cornbread, but mine is burned on the bottom, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. The rest of the sides are relatively average interpretations that I could take or leave. Time to dive into these meats.
I have never had fried smoked chicken before, so I decide to start with that and I’m glad I did. Perfectly crisp cornmeal breading caresses a juicy smoked chicken thigh in this rendition. The breading is seasoned perfectly and the chicken is incredible. This is perhaps the best fried chicken I have ever eaten. And as if that isn’t good enough, it comes with a side of spicy mayo and jalapeño jelly too. Slathering a bite in both the jelly and mayo, I take a bite and am in heaven. The jelly is amazing, not too sweet, with a fresh jalapeño flavor, and the mayo is both spicy and cool at the same time. When I die, bury me in a casket full of this chicken. Forcing myself to put down the chicken, I put my sights on the brisket.
When the waiter told me the brisket was the pile of shredded beef on the tray, I was surprised. Usually, brisket is served in slices unless it’s destined for a sandwich. That being said, the brisket is succulent, moist, and fairly flavorful, with a thick dark bark. It’s not the best brisket I have had in town, but it is pretty decent. Next, I move on to the tri-tip.
Unfortunately, the tri-tip is on the dry side and lacking flavor. It has some smokiness, but I personally think tri-tip is best served smoked to a juicy medium rare. Dryness seems to be the theme with the rest of the meats too. The sliced pork shoulder has good flavor, but is also on the dry side. The St. Louis ribs are extremely dry and yet somehow undercooked, as they are sticking to the bone. However, the ribs do have a smoky, sweet, and savory flavor going for them. I could see myself loving these ribs if they were executed better.
Even though some of the items missed the mark, I will definitely be back for more of that smoky fried chicken — I’ve heard it’s even better in sandwich form. If you find yourself at the People’s Pig, order up some of their fried chicken and get cozy with the mashed potatoes and mac salad.