Lately, there has been an influx of new restaurants offering their take on barbecue and what has been termed Southern-style ‘comfort food.’ The latest eatery in the Michael Del Pietro Restaurant Group stable, The Salted Pig, serves up a bit of both.
Those who remember the Salted Pig space when it was home to Frontenac Grill might have a hard time recognizing it now. Gone are the booths, twin bars and the decorative homages to Frank Sinatra, replaced by rustic wood and plenty of down-home accoutrements like the rows of pickled veggies lining the shelves in the back of the dining room. The dining room is wide open now, and the kitchen is open, as well, allowing for a view into the goings on in the back of the house. The overall vibe is an upscale take on the classic barbecue joint, noisy and vibrant.
The menu features a selection of dishes that criss-cross the comfort food/BBQ continuum, divided into Small Bites, Hots (soups), Colds (salads), Sammies and Plates.
Unlike most BBQ places in town, the Salted Pig menu doesn't feature an option for plates of different meats. So to get a taste of the pulled pork, it's necessary to either order a Pulled Pork Sammie, or do what we did and get the Chips & Cheddar ($8) from the Small Bites lists, which features plenty of that classic pork variation piled on house-made chips, along with some cheese and a bit of barbecue sauce. The barbecue sauce is on the sweet side, but applied judiciously so as not to be cloying. The chips were a bit stale, though, and not up to the level of the pork. For a place that professes to specialize in barbecue, we'd like to see more solo meats available, and maybe some combo plates as well.
The Beef Brisket Chili ($6) from the Hots section actually was the standout for us during our visit. Thick and rich with plentiful pieces of meat, it has a nice smokiness with just a hint of sweetness to set it off.
Of course, the measure of a barbecue place is the ribs, and the Salted Pig's didn't disappoint. We got a half order ($14; $26 for a full), that consists of six meaty ribs, dry-rubbed with a fairly sweet sauce, with a crock of baked beans and some coleslaw on the side. We were told by our server that the ribs are now charred, a change from the original way they were prepared. They were appropriately tender and the char definitely came through, providing a good counter to the sweet rub. Sides-wise, the coleslaw was a pretty standard offering, though the beans were nicely rounded out with plenty of pork fat.
Fried chicken has become something of a culinary touchstone around town, with many area chefs putting out their versions of this comfort-food staple. Unfortunately, the fried chicken we had at Salted Pig fell a bit short of the mark. The meat itself was nicely cooked, juicy and tender; but the cornmeal batter that encased it was burned almost black in several spots, which really brought the dish down. Our disappointment in the chicken was somewhat mitigated by the mashed potatoes and green beans that were served with it, both of which were quite flavorful.
With a little tweaking, Salted Pig definitely has the potential to be a player in the St. Louis comfort-food arena.
-- 731 South Lindbergh Road, 738-9373, thesaltedpigstl.com.