After many gluttonous months of carnivorous research……
…This Lil’ Piggy’s has come to the Ferry Landing in Coronado. November 28th, 2008 marked an exciting day for the Spatafore family of Coronado, with the opening of their fourth restaurant concept in the city. Lil’ Piggy’s was a special project that logged many miles through the Southern states including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and of course… Tennessee.
Over the summer of 2008, the Spatafore family not only logged many miles, but added more notches to their belts, through several weeks of traveling and eating. The best food and most memorable stories came out of their first stop on the bar-b-q tour; Memphis, TN. To name a few, the Spatafore family enjoyed “studying” at the Rendezvous, Interstate, and Gates Central Bar-b-q’s. Since the Spatafore’s were only in Memphis for the weekend, two days worth of eating was consumed in one day… they forgot the Bible belt was closed on Sundays. It added up to 8 hours, 8 restaurants, and one day = one big happy family.
Even if you are on a bar-b-q tour, one can’t visit Memphis without eating some famous southern fried chicken, at least says the concierge at the Peabody Hotel. She suggested a little chicken shack that was “So good, it would make you want to slap somebody!” When the laughter died down, the phrase stuck and is now a part of what makes up the identity of Lil’ Piggy’s.
After the tour rounded to an end, there had been numerous other highlights along the way. However, Memphis always seemed to shine brighter in the Spatafore’s memories. While taking bits and pieces from other bar-b-q havens, Lil’ Piggy’s adopted the Memphis style for its main focus.
Many lessons were learned along the tour, but perhaps the most important is that the really good bar-b-q would still be really good without the sauces. Bar-b-q is a method of cooking, not a style. Different pits, woods, spices, and people all put their own twist to each of these things to make their bar-b-q the best. There was one standard: no meat should ever be steamed.
But what exactly is Memphis style bar-b-q? The simplest rule is that Memphis, along with the Carolinas, is primarily a pork based meat, where as Texas is mostly beef, and Kansas City is a mixture of both with a lot of sauces. Along with the moist pulled pork and bar-b-q ribs, there are great compliments to the meat such as bar-b-q pork beans, slaw, and tangy sweet sauce.
“Low and slow” means the meats are smoked for hours on low temperatures for extended periods of time. Pure hickory wood is used to flavor and cook the meats. The redness in the meat is a sign of flavor penetration called the “smoke ring.”
Lil’ Piggy’s offers two styles of baby backs: wet and dry. The dry version is “dry” rubbed, then smoked low and slow, with sauce served on the side. Wet ribs are smoked the same as dry, but towards the end of the smoking process, sauce is applied, making the meat “wet”. Pulled pork is made from whole bone-in shoulders and smoked for 12 hours. Beans are made fresh daily and are smoked, along with a heaping amount of pulled pork inside them, giving them a great smokey sweet flavor you can’t find in Southern California.
Another favorite item the family brought back from Memphis is called “Bar-b-q Nachos.” Fresh tortilla chips are topped with Texas style Rotel queso dip, jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, pulled pork or chicken, and bar-b-q sauce. The heat and sweet really taste great! At Lil’ Piggy’s they call ‘em “Memphis Nachos” in honor of where the family first experienced the taste.
Be sure to stop by and also try out some other favorites including smoked chicken wings, an adaptation of a wing from outside Kansas City. These wings are never fried! Instead they are slow smoked with a dry rub and lightly sauced before serving. Or, corn fritters… a mix of the traditional southern hush puppy and corn bread. Served with fresh whipped honey butter.
And remember, “Bar-b-q is a technique not a sauce- the sauce has to complement the technique.”