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Where there's smoke, there's BBQ

That blessed food that we call pork barbecue is in reality a mystical combination of just the right amount of hardwood smoke, low and slow heat, and time. It is food that stirs the critic in us all, summons our inner ‘cue snob and relegates disbelievers to the canned vegetable aisle.

One practitioner of the smoked meat art I have appreciated is Smokin’ Pig BBQ in Richmond Hill. When last week I stumbled on a sister Smokin’ Pig in Pooler, I was elated.

The joy was smothered by too much smoke and too much salt.

I sampled the baby back ribs — a half rack of about 6 meaty bones that had oversmoked (kinda oily) and overcooked.
While most people think “falling of the bone” is something to be achieved — it’s actually overcooked. I could not bite through a single rib — each meaty portion pulled off the bone as a chin–slapping hunk of pork.

Likewise, the chicken was pretty moist but way too smoky and the skin was not crisp but fatty and came off with the first bite.

The pulled pork had better flavor, but was dry. That’s not a problem if you want to douse the meat with one of four housemade sauces (ranging from sweet to spicy hot). Just eating nicely smoked pork is more enjoyable.

But what really got my attention was the salt — in the cole slaw and the potato salad. The cole slaw was also oily — without much hint of tart vinegar. To test whether it was over salted, I fell back on an old kitchen trick: To correct too much salt, add sugar. I added a pack of sugar, stirred up the slaw and let it sit. Better, but still no tanginess.

The potato had good texture and a dose of pepper overshadowed the salt. However, the chunks of potato varied wildly, from nearly mashed to a hunk too large to fit in my companion’s mouth.

The baked beans and mac and cheese were standard fare, filling but not awe–inspiring.

The restaurant is clean, neat and has friendly staff — I’d like to see more attention to the details in the kitchen. Smokin’ Pig has been in this location for some time and has a good following from its Pooler neighbors. I would like to consider this an off day and find a better experience on my next visit.

125 Foxfield Way, Pooler (912) 330–0192

Keep an eye out...

It’s August and that means two things at local package shops and bars: Oktoberfest beers and ciders will be flowing.

If you’re an Oktoberfest fan (German–style Marzen beers that are particularly easy to drink and enjoy) the irony is that these beers come to market in August — and are pretty much gone way before October ever slides onto your iPhone screen. Certainly look for classics from Sam Adams but don’t be afraid to fall back on Old World German labels to taste the beers like they were meant to be experienced.

Hard ciders begin to flow more heavily in August and early fall. Among my favorites: Strongbow, Ace Apple and Woodchuck Harvest.