Review: The Muddled Pig
It’s obvious this place loves pork. They manage to add a little pig to just about everything, mostly to good effect. There are numerous incarnations of pork shank, pulled pork, pork steak and pork chop— and plenty of uses for bacon.
The ambiance is simple, more tavern than restaurant, except in size. The place is spacious, with a long bar and communal tables and booths, all well-spaced. The walls are a bit bare, but that could be a work in progress. The 23 beers on tap and the showy cocktails keep things interesting, and the food—well-priced and ample— likely will keep diners coming back.
An order of the signature bar snack, Pig Wings ($10), was excellent. Six chunks of pork shank, bone in, are splayed to resemble chicken wings and fried up for a crisp, meaty (but crustless) treat. They come tossed in your choice of two sauces; we tried both and by far preferred the soy whiskey glaze, dotted with peanuts and cilantro. The other, called sweet and spicy, didn’t taste much like either of its ingredients. Plus, the blue cheese sprinkled over it was a bit soured.
Skillet Fried Chicken ($12) was a complete winner, consisting of a meaty airline breast so generously rubbed with spices that it’s orange—paprika, red pepper, salt and who knows what, but it tasted great. It comes with one corn bread biscuit, for which I had high hopes, but it fell short, tasting dry and not made that night. Either way, it didn’t come with butter, honey or any other traditional (and necessary) topper. Also on the plate: pickled veggies, which was more of a shredded veggie slaw.
Satisfying all around was Coffee Braised Pork Shank ($20), a tender piece of slow-cooked meat sitting on creamy grits and slivered Brussels sprouts. The dish was well-conceived with elements that cover all the bases. The meat had a slight coffee flavor that was interesting (in a very good way), and the grits were cheesy with a little bite. The veggie drew out the milder flavors on the plate with its cabbage-y bitterness. An old-fashioned brown gravy cemented the meal into the ‘comfort food’ category—what a great plate of food.
The Foie ’N’ Waffles ($14) left me scratching my head—seared foie gras with arugula, sweet port wine syrup, quail egg and a waffle made with rosemary. I get that it is meant to be ‘breakfast in a dish,’ but there was too much of that rich liver and not enough waffle. Plus, waffles should be served piping hot and this one wasn’t.
There are several items for non-pork lovers, and I’m happy to report that they are good dishes in their own right, not merely afterthoughts. The Fish ’N’ Chips ($15) had fresh, flaky haddock fillets with a thick beer batter that tasted pleasantly of the ale. These came with remoulade sauce and fries. And the Falafel Sub ($9) was a beautiful sandwich with a long flat falafel (rather than the balls that fall out of the bun) topped with delicious pickled red onion, slices of carrot, cilantro leaves and creamy tahini. The cilantro, especially, made it very satisfying.
The desserts we tasted were in keeping with the down-home ambiance. An Apple Buckle ($8) came in a mini cast-iron skillet and was simple yellow cake baked up with a cubed-apple center, topped with Serendipity cinnamon ice cream. Chocolate Stout Bread Pudding ($8) had good texture—doughy, soft and chewy—and a mild chocolate taste. It came with cappuccino chip ice cream.
The Scene | Friendly neighborhood gastropub
The Chefs | Austin Hamblin and Michelle Allender
The Prices | $6 to $14 starters, $9 to $12 sandwiches, $12 to $22 entrees
The Favorites | Pig Wings, Fish ’N’ Chips, Skillet-Fried Chicken, Coffee Braised Pork Shank
chef chat » co-chefs michelle allender and austin hamblin
Pedigree | Forest Park Community College
Favorite Ingredient | Allender: Vinegar; Hamblin: Exotic spices
Favorite Cookbook | Allender: Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page; Hamblin: The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller
Favorite St. Louis restaurant | Allender: Cleveland Heath; Hamblin: The Crossing
Most memorable dining experience | The Crossing’s chef’s tasting menu
Guilty pleasure food? | Allender: Pickles; Hamblin: French fries
2733 sutton blvd. | 314. 781.4607
Photos: Bill Barrett