Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gingham Style

On the corner of Harvard and North Highland in 'SLiberty sits a two story building that houses unique but jointly enjoyable establishments: Harvard & Highland resides on the second floor and Union Pig and Chicken is on the first. With Kevin Sousa (of Salt of the Earth fame) steering this ship, it's hard not to enter with high expectations, and even harder to leave without fulfillment. Suffice to say, I don't think that this particular street corner will be vacant anytime soon. Whether going for craft cocktails at Harvard & Highland, Southern bbq at Union Pig and Chicken, or a combination of both, this is just one of the many establishments to pepper the burgeoning neighborhood's renaissance with quality and fun. 

With a 32nd birthday as an "excuse" for the evening's festivities, we enjoyed some snacks and craft cocktails in the gently bustling second story Harvard & Highland before settling into our seats downstairs at Union Pig and Chicken for the main event. With that in mind, this review will focus on Union Pig and Chicken, as I need many more visits to Harvard & Highland in order to try everything and still walk ahhhht gracefully. 
Upon entering Union Pig and Chicken, this gingham wall assures diners of  what they are about to enjoy: bbq.
I appreciate the reclaimed wood and single bulb fixtures. 
The drink menu alone is extensive (with just a small portion pictured above), and creates a definitive Southern vibe with its offerings. Cheerwine  ($3) caught my eye, as it is one of my all-time favorite treats when visiting North Carolina; also, I was happy to see the full-sugared Mexican Coke ($3) and the Barbeque Flight ($10, smokey mezcal, cranberry & spice moonshine, bourbon, and sweet tea) available. On future visits, I plan to try some of the house syrups with Pgh seltzers ($4). In addition, diners can bring dahn their drinks from Harvard & Highland, which only adds to the wide array of quenching options.

Because I was part of a large group of ten, I was able to see and sample several food items on the simple, yet interesting a la carte dining menu. Note: ff you are a bargain diner, be wary of how quickly the price of the meal can escalate. Regardless of the cost though, mostly everything was very tasty and satisfying for an initial visit.
Smoked butternut squash, pecans, lime, and sweet soy soup ($5)
This soup had excellent flavor and texture, and served as a nice precursor to the main courses. 
Smoked pork belly, pear, curry, and peanuts in a lettuce wrap ($8)
Although lettuce wraps have become a staple on too many restaurant menus, this version revived the concept and provided a refreshing experience, both literally and figuratively. Also, I'm no expert on smoked proteins, but I thought the technique was done quite well.
Brisket ($13) doused  by choice in house bbq sauce, Cornbread ($3),  and Mac & Cheese ($4)
As far as this Brisket goes, it was tender and savory and didn't need a douse of house bbq sauce even though the condiment made my experience that much better. The Mac & Cheese was comfortable and the corn bread served its purpose. 
more Mac & Cheese ($4), Greens ($4), and Fried Chicken (Half/Full $11/$17)
I try greens wherever they are served, and I found these to be a delicious side dish. The fried chicken was slightly more traditional for my expectations, and admittedly, I still favor my mother's (PSB). However, for those less spoiled diners, this version will surely please if only for providing the perfect amount of grease, protein, skin, and breading.

As for my necessary and always desired "change of taste" for after the meal, I had to settle on a disappointingly stale bite of a Whoopie Pie ($5, from local favorite Vanilla Pastry Studio). Perhaps Union Pig and Chicken will add an "adult version" of a Cheerwine Float for the spring dessert options.

Lastly, I must add that the service wasn't exactly as efficient and accommodating as we like it to be. My friends are great tippers and very respectful to waitstaff and it was hard for us to be as generous as we would have been because of the minimal attention from our waitress. Hopefully it was an "off" night for her, and not standard practice.

In closing, I will still return to Union Pig and Chicken to try more Southern fare! And, I even might trade in my "yinz's" for "y'all's" while I am there.

Union Pig and Chicken  on Urbanspoon

(2.5 stars, 2.5/4)