Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Foodie Post: The Blistered Pig

My wife and I headed out for a delayed Valentine's Day dinner Sunday night and decided to check out a new barbecue place that recently opened in downtown Apex, North Carolina which is about 20-25 minutes south of both Raleigh and Durham.  The restaurant is about a five minute drive from our house and is located inside a cool old building near some of our favorite local hangouts.  Our favorite North Carolina barbecue place has been going downhill for the past two years, so we were eager to give this place a try.  

For my readers outside of North Carolina, like all southern states, barbecue is a pretty big deal here and definitely a unique experience.  When I first moved to North Carolina a decade ago I was not quite sure what to make of it at first.  There are two types of North Carolina barbecue: Eastern and Western.  The Western Carolina barbecue is tomato based and not too far from what I was accustomed to growing up in Missouri in terms of sauce.  Eastern is vinegar based.  All of it is made of of pork which is slowed cooked using some sort of wood.  The wood and spices within the tomato base or vinegar base vary from restaurant to restaurant.  

Let's start off with a couple of little things with the Blistered Pig.  The service was really good the night we went in.  Yes, it was a Sunday night, but the place was still pretty busy.  I really liked the hush puppies, a staple of North Carolina barbecue, that were brought out before dinner.  I know the famous restaurant rule of not filling up on bread, but these were awesome.  The mixture of cornbread that was used was light, they can be really doughy some places, and had actual pieces of corn in the mixture.  The butter sauce was homemade and had a little hint of jalapeño peppers which give it a little bit of heat.  Nothing obnoxious.  Great way to start dinner.  

After a decade I have become a bit of a traditionalist in terms of my North Carolina barbecue.  What makes the barbecue good here?  Pulled pork, vinegar sauce, great sides.  The Blistered Pig offers customers a variety of different meats, but I had to go with the pork on my first trip into the restaurant.  For my sides I went with baked beans and red mashed potatoes.  The platter also came with two of those really good hush puppies.  They also have grits, brussel sprouts, collards, and two different types of slaw.

Overall the barbecue was excellent.  Really well cooked and well seasoned.  The restaurant offers two different sauces for your meat.  At most North Carolina barbecue places you have Eastern Barbecue Sauce (vinegar based) and Western (tomato), but the Blistered Pig offered a combination sauce (tomato and vinegar) and another sauce with jalapeño flavoring.  I went with the combination sauce.  Really good.  

My sides were excellent too.  The beaked beans had a kind of stew like texture to them with big chunks of onion and meat mixed in with the beans.  The potatoes were really good too, but I should have tried the slaw.  Nothing against the potatoes, they were good.  I love cole slaw, not sure why I did not try one of them.  On the return trip it is going to be a must for me.  

My wife got the same barbecue, but opted for the brussel sprouts and the grits.  The sprouts were served with bacon and onions and were delicious if you are a brussel sprouts person. Let's talk about the grits.  As a midwesterner I have zero use for grits.  In my opinion, grits are a really bad version of oatmeal that every southerner I know loves.  I throw all of those opinions away for these grits.  They were cheesy and delicious.  Honestly, I would actually order these and eat them.  Really, really good.  

The restaurant also offered some tasty looking desserts.  All pies.  We went with a Key Lime Pie which came in a small round and was lined with graham crackers.  Really good flavor in the crust, which was moist, and in the pie filling.  Perfect portion for sharing and a great way to end a good dinner out with the wife.  

Overall, if you are in central North Carolina this is a must visit for barbecue restaurants, or if you are visiting the area and want to experience some unique dining to North Carolina this would be an excellent stop.