Address: 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
Order: Pulled pork plate with pimento mac & cheese, bacon braised collards (link to menu)
Monk: In the recent (and very welcome) trend of new whole hog barbecue joints opening in North Carolina in the past year, Picnic is one of the newest alongside Old Etowah Smokehouse (opened June 2016), Sam Jones BBQ (November 2015), and Buxton Hall Barbecue (August 2015), having opened earlier this year in February. Despite being at the end of a long weekend, I convinced the Mrs. Monk to stop at Picnic in Durham for lunch on our way back from Atlantic Beach over Labor Day weekend.
Picnic is located in a fairly picturesque setting amongst tall pine trees in a Durham neighborhood not far off of I-85. The building itself has an average sized dining room with a bar as well as 5-6 outdoor tables. An open kitchen overlooks the new south decor dining area, and the rattle of food preparation is audible but not distracting.
My pulled pork was overall moist and smokey and served unsauced, choosing to let the smoke shine in each silky pork strand. Each table does have a very tasty mixed eastern and western-style Pig Whistle sauce (named for barbecue man Wyatt Dickson’s original pig catering outfit) on the table. I’ve read that the whole hog pork at Picnic can sometimes be on the dry side but that was not my experience. In any case, I alternated between using sauce and not. While I didn’t buy sauce this time, I would consider it next time around .
I generally liked the sides less than the pork. We were fairly hungry from the 3+ hour drive, so we ordered fried green tomatoes as a starter that were more breading than tomato. Each plate comes with hush puppies and slaw in addition to 2 sides. The house-made hush puppies were a little disappointing and not as sweet as I prefer though clearly not frozen as they were of various sizes and shapes. The slaw was not too noteworthy. Of my other two sides, the pimento mac and cheese had good flavor but was very rich (to the point where I decided not to finish it) and the collards were a little bland and needed salt or ideally more vinegar.
Overall, the whole hog pork at Picnic was great but I found the sides to be more of a mixed bag. I also thought it was a bit pricey for what it was – a common complaint from other friends who had previously eaten there. For lunch with Mrs Monk and the Monkette, our tab ran $50 before tip with two plates, a kid’s meal, an appetizer, and a beer. If I do make it back (and I would definitely go again), next time I’ll probably go for their version of a tray with just pork, slaw, and hush puppies.