Name: The Improper Pig
Address: 110 S Sharon Amity Rd Charlotte, NC 28211
Order: Monk: Cotswold platter with pulled pork, sliced brisket, asian slaw, and sweet potato hash; Speedy: Half rack of St. Louis ribs with collards (link to menu)
Price: Monk: $12; Speedy: $14
Monk: If memory serves, The Improper Pig might be the first new barbecue restaurant to open in Charlotte since City Smoke over 2.5 years ago (whose disappointment by Speedy in part led to the creation of this blog). It is brought to you by the same folks who run The Pizza Peel and local franchises of The Flying Biscuit and Moe’s and is located in a former Mama Fu’s in the Cotswold shopping center (interestingly, they kept the wok to use in several of their barbecue dishes). So you know that Speedy and I had to check it out at first opportunity.
Speedy: The restaurant certainly has a “new school” feel. Without knowing anything about it, you wouldn’t guess barbecue restaurant walking in. It is not well lit and you’re greeted by a hostess. You can see into the kitchen, including the smoker. While the restaurant isn’t overly pricey, it has more of an upscale feel than your typical ‘cue joint. In order to sample as wide a variety as possible, Monk ordered a Cotswold platter (two-meat combo) with pork and brisket and I ordered the half rack of ribs. We also talked Mrs. Monk into upgrading to the Cotswold platter in order to allow us to try to sausage as well.
Monk: The Improper Pig (great name, btw) and its pitmaster Will Bigham utilize a Southern Pride gasser, which as Speedy alluded to is visible in the kitchen. While it is a shame that they are going this route, it’s not completely unexpected. That’s not to say that you can’t get good meat out of one of these, but you unfortunately you can pretty much tell that they are using a gasser in the pork and brisket. They both have some bark but neither is as smokey as I would have liked. Seeing as this was maybe the second week of the restaurant being open, Speedy and I discussed that they still might be figuring things out with the smoker, so we tried to be somewhat understanding. And to be fair, what they did serve that night wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great yet.
Speedy: The ribs were somewhat disappointing as well. While they were tender and had decent flavor, they were cooked and served with the membrane still attached, and it was noticeable. I know people have different opinions on this, but I just don’t enjoy eating the membrane, as I think it’s harder to chew. The andouille sausage was decent, but could have used more snap. Overall, I just think that all the meats were overcooked, which was particularly noticeable with the brisket and ribs. It could just be that the pit masters were still figuring out the intricacies of the smoker, so I’ll go back and try again in a month or two. Like Monk, I didn’t dislike any of the meats, but I also wasn’t overly impressed.
Monk: On this night, the sides may have been the best part of the meal, though they aren’t your regular barbecue sides. They don’t have hush puppies or traditional cornbread on the menu, instead going with a small corn biscuit which I could have taken or left. The house slaw was mayo-based, so I went with the asian slaw which was quite good (and a nod to the asian spin on some of their barbecue dishes). The sweet potato hash was essentially mashed sweet potatoes and was different but I enjoyed it. Most of the rest of their sides looked worthy of an order in the future, with nearly all being vegetarian friendly.
Speedy: I thought the collards were really good as well. I’m on record as saying I don’t like taking sides into account when judging a ‘cue joint, but here, they were good enough to really add to the meal. There are also several non-traditional menu items that I’d like to try, including the asian inspired tacos and southern egg rolls. So while The Improper Pig doesn’t top the list of Charlotte barbecue joints, I’ll definitely be back.