Update (2014/10/21): The Black Pig will be moving to a new location at 2801 Bridge Ave), where they plan on reopening mid-November, 2014.
As we finished up lunch, I mentioned to the bartender that if people eat and drink this well in Cleveland, then I want to move there.
The Black Pig was our first stop during a recent trip to Cleveland, and, as it turned out, the best. The Black Pig was such a standout that we couldn't help but want to return to again. It's just as well that we couldn't make a return visit happen, because I wouldn't want to tarnish the memory of a near-perfect meal during that one lunch.
A more welcoming and comfortable restaurant you'd be hard-pressed to design. Great stools, lots of leg room at the bar, hooks under the bar for your bags, soaring ceilings, original artwork on the exposed brick walls, two great big mirrors framing the booze, an open kitchen overlooking the dining room, and outdoor deck seating as well.
I got the vibe of good management and training, which is so refreshing. A chef-driven restaurant with a good, strong, supporting cast is a combination that can lead to magical results. The Black Pig illustrates this.
It was "Happy Hour" on this Saturday afternoon (Saturday afternoon Happy Hour? Sign me up!), which meant some great values on food and drink. The Happy Hour menu included some small bites for like 3 or 5 bucks, which gave us a chance to try (and eat) way more than we would have normally. What a blessing this was.
A braised pork belly dish was offered on that menu, and we accepted. Meaty, fatty, belly, appropriately cut into a beautiful cube-ish slab (rather than the crime of slices, as too many restaurants do, obliterating the texture of the belly in the process), slightly sweet glaze, served over celery root puree with some little cubes of roasted vegetables. Bloody hell what a way to start a meal. This dish was exactly what I was hoping it would be, and then some. As with everything we ate here, I'm still thinking about it.
Still thinking about it.
In addition to dealing with local farms and producers, The Black Pig is making sausage and pâté in-house. This, of course, makes me want to eat their sausage and pâté. Which we did.
This clever thing called a "Pâté Melt" was on the Happy Hour menu. Basically half a sandwich of their house-made pork pâté and pickles, with whole grain mustard and Gruyere, on sourdough. Holy cow, what a great idea for a happy hour menu, and what a wonderful sandwich. Sour pickles, rich pâté, creamy cheese, spicy mustard, slightly warm, on griddled sourdough? You do the math, punk.
More meat and cheese was desired, so we went with the selection of allllll of their meats and cheeses, as we tend to do in such situations. This included that pork pâté again, chicken liver mousse, Thai Curry Sausage, Fromager D'Affinois with truffle honey, Cantalet with raisin orange compote, Fourme d'Ambert with red wine pears. The highlight for me was the Fourme d'Ambert, a blue cheese, in this case with an intoxicating barnyard nose. Horse manure never tasted so good. Fantastic fantastic.
And also the burger. That burger.
After I ate this burger, I tweeted a photo and noted that it was "the juiciest and bestiest burger I've had in a long time. Perfection." I stand behind this comment, but do not necessarily stand behind how I sounded like a slightly dim-witted 4-year-old.
I'm generally a ketchup/raw onion burger guy, unless I get the sense that I'm in the hands of a kitchen that understands flavors, textures, composition, and cooking. This burger, with morbier, aioli, pickle, and compressed tomato clearly demonstrated to what what extend this kitchen understands flavors, textures, composition and cooking. Seared on a flat top, the meat had discernible and pleasant tang and a course texture. The cheese, the mayo aioli, adding creamy fat. The tomato, apparently with intensified flavors from compression. The bun, an appropriate size, and not too buttery. All of this, harmonious.
As I sat there eating/drinking this burger, sipping on an Ommegang Game of Thrones Fire and Blood, sun flowing through the windows, with 'Straight to Hell' by the Clash on the sound system, my eyes just sorta drifted to the back of my head. You feel it? It was a beautiful moment.
It truly, for real, doesn't get much better--and it hasn't since.
If this burger isn't voted the best burger in the Cleveland area in whatever fakakta blogs or magazines they have out there have then people are seriously in need of having their heads removed from their behinds. This was one of the best burgers that I've eaten anywhere.
And I haven't even noted the twice-cooked fresh-cut fries. Expertly handled, like everything is at The Black Pig.
During the remainder of our trip, we wanted nothing more than to get back to The Black Pig for another meal. Braised lamb fettucini, pork & foie sausage, Bánh mì, duck confit, pork rinds, steak frites?!?!? Unfortunately commitments and restaurant hours conspired to keep us away. I rest well knowing we'll be back to Cleveland, and The Black Pig will without a doubt be the first stop.
The Black Pig : 1865 West 25th Street : Cleveland, OH : 216.862.7551 : Near the West Side Market
Moving to 2801 Bridge Ave in November, 2014.
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