PROTEIN EXPRESS The Three-Meat Combo at Smoking Pig features pork, brisket and hot link—not to mention macaroni and cheese. Photograph by Kristine Bautista
As George Gershwin once wrote, “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” Blues music was in full swing as we entered the dining room of the The Smoking Pig BBQ Company on North Fourth Street in San Jose. Bent notes and smooth, hypnotizing rhythms brought some sass to the scene as the waitress fixed a hair over her ear and jaunted over cheerily to greet us.
There aren’t many restaurants on this block in downtown San Jose, situated by the courthouse and a warehouse district. For a long time, the biggest thing that was happening food-wise was the Togo’s a couple of blocks away that had a decent lunch crowd. Enter the Smoking Pig, a barbecue-pit-style restaurant devised by Paul Reddick. He planted an eye-catching smoker on this block in 2011 and since then has been drawing people to this side of town in droves. Business has been booming so much that another location is already in the works in Fremont.
We started with the wolf turds (two for $5): stuffed jalapenos wrapped in thick curls of bacon and smoked for two hours. The ensembles were soft and collapsed easily, revealing bits of spicy sausage and cheese inside. They had considerable heat, so I recommend knocking them back with a cold beverage or beer in an icy glass for an optimum experience. We ordered the chicken lollipops (two for $5) for good measure. Also dressed in bacon, these little drumsticks truly actualized the fall-off-the-bone romance we were waiting for. The meat was moist and delicate but had a powerful flavor that chicken rarely provides.
Our entree came heaped on a tray and served with some corn bread. We ordered the the three-meat combo ($14.95) and a side of macaroni and cheese. Especially good was the pulled pork, which was dry-rubbed, crunchy and pink in the middle. If you order it, make sure to try it with the house-made Carolina mustard sauce—a traditional pairing. The brisket (served fatty or lean) had a nice pink smoke ring and was good but wasn’t as remarkable as their other meats.
I did enjoy the Louisiana hot link much more than I thought I would; it had a smooth burn to the lips without losing its peppery flavor. Also surprising was the macaroni and cheese, which, besides cheese, also came with chunks of smoked pork. It was rich, creamy and a favorite at the table. We ended with the peanut-butter pie ($4.75), with a smattering of Oreo crust, peanut butter chiffon, chocolate and whipped cream. It was a nice cool-down after our meal.
As I sat at the table tearing off paper towels and nibbling at leftovers, I overheard a fellow first-timer in the booth next to me: “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for,” he said in between happy sighs. I had that same feeling of vindication, as if my neighbor’s barbecue wafting through the screen door had finally materialized onto my plate.
The Smoking Pig
1144 N. Fourth St., San Jose; 408.380.4784
Find more dining options with the SanJose.com Restaurants Guide.