First Bite: Brisket to Die For
Emeryville’s Pig in a Pickle does barbecue right.
So tender is the brisket at the new Pig in a Pickle in Public Market Emeryville that the more challenging it is to get to the waterfront city, the better—and those who live nearby are doomed to become barbecue addicts.
All the sustainably sourced, lightly smoked meats we tried at this few-weeks-old sister restaurant of the 5-year-old Corte Madera spot were palate-busters, particularly the ultra-tender brisket; super-spicy, thin-skinned links; and chef-owner Damon Stainbrook’s pulled pork—lightly crusted and shredded to almost feathery strands, yet as juicy as slow-smoked pork butt can be. Merely excellent were the delicate, fall-off-the-bone chicken hindquarter and the well-seasoned, tender, but relatively dry ribs—relative to that brisket, I mean.
Indulge in the wonderfully fatty point side (aka the deckle) of the brisket, and complement it with Stainbrook’s delightfully light sides. Freshly julienned coleslaw is most refreshing; the collard greens are tart and grassy; the baked beans that swim in light juice are a flavorful bite. Even the two-toned potato salad has piquancy. Only the white mac’n’cheese—small batches of novel noodles tossed in roux-thick sauce—is deadly. That rich side calls for the Pig’s house-made, namesake pickles: palate-cleansing bread and butters, or, for the serious, whole dills fermented sour for weeks in crocks (think butcher barrel pickles).
If you haven’t been to the Public Market, you must go; it’s a bright, clean, modern food court with provocative and independent restaurants opening seemingly each and every month. The colorful Pig—and its imposing smoker—fit right in. There’s no alcohol, but there are great craft sodas, and the counter-service concept is offset by the market’s legions of long communal tables, a nearby bar, and as many napkins as you need.
5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville, piginapickle.com. Lunch and dinner daily (or until barbecue is gone).