BUFFALO, N.Y. — If there’s a smoker and some pig, there’s a good bet you’ll find me there. But This Little Pig is definitely not a BBQ joint, and owner Jeff Cooke is upfront about that.
“We consider ourselves new American or Americana,” Cooke said. “We definitely do a lot of smoke stuff and we have a smoker, a lot of stuff comes out of it. We very few actually what people would consider barbecue items. We mostly use smoke as a season.”
After biting into a few of their signature dishes, you definitely experience flavor combinations you might not find in a lot of restaurants.
“A signature for us and it's actually St. Louis ribs that are cured like bacon,” Cooke said. “Brown sugar and curing salt, then smoke so it actually tastes like bacon but it's like a like a barbecue rib.”
Cooke doesn’t slather his style of St. Louis ribs in a tomato-based sauce either, you can get those a lot (spoiler, we’ll be at a great BBQ joint next week on Out 2 Eat).
“We actually make a jalapeno and blueberry jam from scratch that we actually glaze it with. It's just really delicious.”
Yes, it really is. The sweetness of the blueberry, the smack of heat from the jalapeno, and the smoky pork flavor leave you wanting a second rack. So yeah, I had another.
You can find a lot of great restaurants across Western New York that offer really good pierogi, I’ll certainly be checking more out as winter turns to spring, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pierogi as unique as some of the offerings This Little Pig has on their menu.
“It's a much lighter shell on it then maybe a traditional Buffalo pierogi,” Cooke said while putting the dish together in the kitchen. “One of the variations that is kind of cool is a braised veal, lobster, and mushroom pierogi.”
It’s really a dish that a growing boy needs, even though my doctor tells me I need to stop growing on an annual basis.
This Little Pig opened its doors next to Brennan’s Bowery Bar in the plaza located at the corner of Main Street and Transit Road in Clarence. Jeff, his wife Mandy and his sister Jane can be found every day putting their unique twists on classic family recipes that use ingredients grown and raised in Western New York.
“We're working with seven different farms a week,” Cooke said. “We source some of our pork from Always Something Farm in Dairen. We’ve become great friends with him and we're huge supporters of what he's doing out there.”
Always Something Farm raises Mangalitsa pigs. Which, if you’ve never had before, tastes like a completely different kind of pork then you’ll generally find in a supermarket or even higher-end butcher shop.
“It takes a very long time as opposed to regular commercial pork to raise twice as long maybe even three times as long,” Cooke said. “It's definitely a different flavor, it's richer meat, it's got a lot of a different type of fat that is challenging for a chef to make palatable.”
But the Mangalista that Jeff is able to get at This Little Pig is absolutely incredible - I’ve even purchased pork directly from the farm and smoked my own bacon and now I’m spoiled.
Some of the other menu items that you’ll need to have an internal struggle to choose from because they’re so worthwhile are the pierogi with burnt (pork) ends. If you want to live a little dangerous go with the piggy pipe bombs which are two banana peppers stuffed with pulled pork, bacon, ricotta cheddar. Oh, and they’re fire-roasted with queso blanco, and chowchow relish.
You’ll also find some hearty salads with fresh ingredients from local farms. Full bowls too, none of this couple pieces of lettuce nonsense.
This Little Pig offers a classic burger the size of The Amherst Bear’s right paw, several different pizza’s, smoked wings, Nashville hot chicken and a four-cheese house mac & cheese with some pulled pork thrown in there just to ensure that your food coma is solidified.
Their house fries are seasoned with dill, malt vinegar, sea salt, garlic aioli. So even their fries are something special and not your run of the mill frozen spuds.
If you go Out 2 Eat at This Little Pig, you can definitely leave full and satisfied for under $25, or for $50-$60 it’s date night.
“The money you're spending here goes to help my family of course, and all the families that work here, but also all the farms that provide us with a product,” Cooke said “That's really special and we feel really good about being part of that. And we want our customers to feel that way too.”
Spending time at This Little Pig you really get a sense of the importance of the work they’re doing. They don’t have to work with local farms. They don’t have to get their pork locally. They don’t have to have an exclusively local bar. They don’t have to cut their bacon thick. They chose to.
Everything is deliberate at This Little Pig and because of that, you’re rewarded as a patron.
You can visit This Little Pig at the corner of Transit Rd and Main St. in Williamsville.
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