At Bodacious Pig, a new Texas-themed barbecue spot in Eagle, the entrees emerge from the kitchen on a piece of butcher paper in a wide, silver, quarter-sheet pan, the ubiquitous, industrial restaurant term for any flat rectangle of metal that goes in an oven.
Of all the alternate vessels on which I've been delivered a meal lately, I most like the Pig's take: It is much more utilitarian than daring or fancy, and its Texan size is evocative of the food it supports.
The dining room's mix-and-match decor - iguana-green booths, baseball Americana on the walls, chandeliers overhead and pink pig artwork - did little to prepare us for this kind of food: dry-rubbed, slow-smoked barbecue. Every day, pitmaster Joel Anderson cooks tri-tip sirloin, chicken, ribs, and pork shoulder. His wife, Tricia, prepares coordinating side dishes like baked beans, potato salad, and mac and cheese, and neo-classics like a fine wedge salad ($7.50). Each of the meats is available as an entree, served with two sides and garlic bread, ranging from $9.95 for chicken to $24.95 for a full rack of ribs. But the deal to get is one of the two- or three-meat combination dinners, from which you can also choose the snappy housemade sausage ($16.95 for two meats; $18.75 for three).
The pulled pork has intense flavor and shards of the deeply sought exterior known as bark, served with a zippy vinegar mop sauce. The chicken was technically the least successful, a somewhat dry breast and wing that didn't grip the smoke flavor, but was also elevated by barbecue sauce - the tomatoey, haunting signature sauce that on its own sets Bodacious Pig above its ilk. A little of the signature sauce on the smoke-ringed slices of RR Ranch tri-tip is barbecue nirvana. The ribs are St. Louis cut, more plump than baby back but not as fatty as spare ribs, and perfect for this kind of cooking. They are some of the best I've had.
Any vegetarians still reading, stop now: Meat is the reason you should go to Bodacious Pig. And go early. As this is also the restaurant's biggest challenge.
It's tricky to make a menu almost entirely of entrees you must prepare hours in advance, projecting into the always-moveable future of your dinner business how much you might sell. But add in the vowed promise for never reheating leftovers - admirable, yes - and you set supply and demand on a collision course. On one of the first nights the restaurant was open, my wife and I were happily face down in sheet pans of smoked meats, but the next table over, the server had regretfully come back to tell them that the kitchen had run out of chicken, sausage, brisket and pork - everything they had ordered. The next few tables were told they could order ribs but nothing else, and a few minutes after that, the restaurant closed early. Granted, that night it was packed, which must have been a surprise for a new establishment with no splashy opening announcement. I felt then that the bigger issue was that there was a communication gap between the kitchen and the waitstaff, as the one table had already placed their order and had been waiting for at least 20 minutes before getting the bad news. But another night a few weeks later, when there were only a few people eating, the kitchen ran out of essential items, too, and service still had not hit its stride.
Preproduction drafts of the Bodacious Pig menu listed items like grilled salmon and a T-bone steak (which caught my eye alone for its $30 price tag.) Our server indicated to us that the menu was still a work in progress, and I am hopeful they add items like this, which can be prepared a la minute, as this will help stabilize that volatile supply.
And I won't hold it against them if they yield and use some of the previous day's meats in other forms. The BBQ pork nachos ($8.50), for example, would be a good outlet - instead of a pile of chips, they are spread out smartly on a sheet pan. While there wasn't quite something on every chip, as had been promised, where else can you eat nachos right out of the pan under a chandelier?
Email Alex Kiesig: firstname.lastname@example.org