Friday, February 25, 2011

Dixie Pig BBQ – Not long for this world.

900 West 35th Street, North Little Rock (Levy)


As Circa Bellum and I arrived at the Dixie Pig for lunch, we were greeted by a sign on the door saying that they were now open only for lunch – 11 a.m to 2 p.m. – each day. Not a good thing for a restaurant to try to survive exclusively on weekday lunch trade.

This was my first visit to Dixie Pig, and probably my last. What’s the line from Lynard Skynard’s “That Smell”? Ah, yes: “Can’t you smell that smell? The smell of death surrounds you.” It’s all over the Dixie Pig. If the place survives for much longer, despite being a fixture in Levy for some time, I will be surprised. And, I take no pleasure in that at all. None.

I ordered a large pork BBQ sandwich, onion rings, BBQ beans and drink. I asked the woman at the register if I should order it a particular way, i.e., meal, platter, basket, in order to save money. She made the order a “basket,” and said that would save me $3 ($10 and something versus $13 and something). Still pricey in my mind, but I appreciated the gesture.

When the food arrived at our table, I was discouraged to see a smallish sandwich that consisted of a Wonder Bread bun right out of the bag, a modest amount of chopped meat with no smoked flavor, and a tiny dollop of Sam’s Club cole slaw on top. No sauce. But that was on the table. The onion rings were fresh and made there, and the beans were fairly generic BBQ baked beans with lots of brown sugar. Circa had told me that the BBQ beans at the Dixie Pig were different, in that they consisted of several different types of beans. When mine arrived, he raised his eyebrows and said, “Hmm, I don’t remember them looking like that.” Starting to get the idea??

Much of this could be excused if the BBQ sandwich had been wonderful. It wasn’t. This was a tasteless affair, reminiscent of the urban myth that is “North Carolina BBQ.” Those poor, benighted people! But, that’s another rant. Circa B handed me a squeeze bottle of vinegary fluid that he said was the reason people came to the Dixie Pig. OK. I put some on my sandwich and took a bit. Hmm. Squeezed more on my sandwich and took another bite. Still very underwhelming. And, now I had a small quantity of bland meat on Wonder Bread with a vinegary aftertaste. Jeez, where are the BBQ police when you need them? (Probably eating at The Smoke Shack in Morgan.)

In retrospect, I suppose I should have tried the other squeeze bottle with what looked like conventional BBQ sauce in it. But, Circa B had said that the muddy vinegar bottle was the raison d’etre for the Dixie Pig, so that seemed like the logical choice. On a more positive note – and I’m really digging here – the onion rings were made on the premises, and OK. Not particularly flavorful. No dipping sauces to accompany them. But made there, and that counts for something.

The three women who were earnestly working there all looked like they had spent time in a battered women’s shelter at some point in their lives. The table service was fine; it’s just that the food sucked. I found myself smiling at them and being overly polite – like you might do around someone that you know has a terminal illness. It was that kind of place.

Wish I could find a cure for their disease. It would start with much, much, much better food, of course, but at this point it seems like that isn’t likely to happen. There just isn’t a compelling reason to go there, when the food quality is so very mediocre.

Rest in peace vinegary sauce. Perhaps you’ll find some misguided North Carolinians in the afterlife who will treasure your blandness.


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