The Salted Pig
A new barbecue joint carves out an upscale niche.
AT A RESTAURANT where slow-smoked barbecue is the meat of choice, it’s not surprising that the staff at The Salted Pig spent more than six months carefully developing its Southern comfort food menu. Testing all the ingredients, right down to the cheddar on the ground beef short-rib burger, ensured that owner Michael Del Pietro and his team would nail it. Their attention to detail paid off. The Frontenac restaurant—the only one of Del Pietro’s five eateries not featuring Italian dishes—has quickly become a new local barbecue favorite. Equal attention went to the decor, from the wooden planks sourced from historic barns to the trees felled right on the property and transformed into a statement wall inside the door. Pit-master Ken Dennison’s carpentry skills came in handy on the buildout—another way in which his influence appears across the board. Though the overall experience is upscale (there are wine glasses and cloth napkins, to name two amenities not found at many barbecue joints), the down-home-friendly staff keeps things deliciously fun.
The Barbecue Dennison’s background straddles both the restaurant world and the local barbecue circuit. DC’s Smokin’ BBQ, a company he founded with his wife and brother, grew from a hobby into a successful national team and local catering company. Its influence shows at The Salted Pig. Most everything you’d wish to see on a barbecue menu—St. Louis-style ribs, pork, chicken, turkey and brisket—shows up here too, sometimes in creative combinations like the smoked chicken flatbread.
Dennison is savvy enough not to tinker with the classics. The slab of ribs, for example, gets a dry rub up front and a dose of sweet barbecue sauce at the end. Brisket, too, comes in a simple fan of slices, drizzled but not drenched with sauce. The pulled pork on a brioche bun is tender and flavorful, the kind of dish that entices barbecue lovers to take an early lunch and beat the rush.
Southern Comforts But barbecue is only half the story. It shares the spotlight with comfort foods like shrimp and grits and pork chops with roasted apples. The highlight is a deliciously crispy buttermilk-brined fried chicken with green beans and creamed potatoes. Bonus: The generous portion is also one of the most budget-friendly entrées. On the other end of the spectrum, the menu tops out with a dry-aged, grilled strip steak that—not surprisingly, considering the kitchen’s talent for meat—comes perfectly cooked to order.
Vegetarians will be delighted that the mac and cheese, which gets a flavor boost from the tanginess of Prairie Breeze white cheddar, can be ordered with or without blue crab. Pescatarians are also in for surprises like Scottish salmon, roasted Prince Edward Island mussels and even a sushi roll. Other dishes wouldn’t be nearly the same without the meat, like the Brussels sprouts in a sweet sauce with rich hunks of house-cured bacon.
Most barbecue restaurants, if they offer alcohol, go with straightforward beers, so it’s fun to be able to test out creative pairings with the beers and wines here—and even cocktails, should you have one you’d like the bartenders to whip up. One standout is the Goose Island’s Sofie, which offers a light contrast to the rich meats. And, in true Southern spirit, there’s good iced tea, too.
To get The Salted Pig up and running, Del Pietro relied on key staff from his other restaurants, including Executive Chef Brian Steinman, currently at Babbo’s Spaghetteria in Chesterfield, and Ryan French, a partner at Tavolo V in The Loop. It’s a system that’s worked for him before and has certainly earned him marks at The Salted Pig. Up until now, the theme was always Italian, but there’s no doubt they’ve set the bar high for future Del Pietro Group ventures into other cuisines.
WHERE TO GO
The Salted Pig
731 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11am-9p; Fri. 11am-10pm; Sat. 12-10pm; Sun. 12-8pm.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg