They’re a ballsy move, those Thanksgiving orbs at the Blind Pig. For most of us, the pleasures of Turkey Day gluttony are quickly forgotten in a next-day fog of tryptophan and heartburn, and you tend to need a year to recover.
T-Day balls here, however, provide a unique opportunity to practice for the big day a few months early. Unfortunately, they just miss their target: Anchored by glutinous potatoes snuggling up alongside bits of turkey, all of it wrapped in stuffing and fried panko, the lightest part of these two spheres was ironically that golden crust, a perfectly turned-out cocoon that shattered at tooth’s edge.
Much of the food at Blind Pig falls within this bracket of the continuum—decent to good, but not quite reaching its potential.
Burgers will leave you wanting. We’re just now coming out of the fog of an era of pimped-out patties that, at their heart, were nothing, really, without their fancy toppings and accompaniments: Think Bishop Don Magic Juan without the chalice and bling. The best ones in the city now—or anywhere, really—are built on the meat itself. Treat that flesh right, and no matter how much or how little you surround it with, it’ll taste just fine.
These, however, were just bland, the regular one on the menu screaming out for more flavor, the special “farmer’s burger” a bit more interesting for its applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar and egg on top, but not by much.
An oyster sandwich succumbed to a similar fate. Like the Thanksgiving balls, the crust was perfect, and each oyster a self-contained, briny jewel of sea love. But the context left me cold: Toast, lettuce and tomato are all these ever really need to be accompanied by, but without enough of that creole mustard, or more acid of any sort, it was bound to bore after a few bites.
Poutine came a lot closer to hitting its notes. The best versions of this totemic late-night drunk food tend to be defined by their reckless sense of lustiness. Well-assembled poutine is the early career Britney Spears of the junk-food world: You feel kind of dirty for thinking about it as much as you do, but you’re powerless to stop yourself once you give in to its easy, saucy allure. And if this one wasn’t a revelation, it was nonetheless a more-than-enjoyable dish, not to mention a deeply personal one: The curds, appropriately squeaky against the teeth, are produced by the chef’s daughter’s godfather in Amityville. Heart-stopping food is rarely this heart-warming.
Less-pubby dishes were a hit-or-miss proposition. A generous mound of arugula salad with apples and bacon brought the brightness with pickled onions and a smart, lager-stiffened lemon vinaigrette. A smoked beer tomato broth could have used more acid, but was provided a nice tub within which well-steamed mussels could luxuriate. But a painfully salty soy-ginger sauce rendered otherwise well-turned-out salmon nearly inedible.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of good beer to hydrate with—the draught- and can-only lists provide plenty of options no matter what you’re in the mood for. The wine list, however—which we’re told will be expanded—seems like an after thought next to the selection of suds. It’s time we all accept that solid selections of beer and wine are not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the snobs and militants on both sides of this false divide would have you believe. Good drinking is good drinking, whether it’s grape- or grain-based.
After the critically praised Sovalo moved out of this space, Kong set up shop and was gone in a blink. And while the raw-scrubbed concrete walls and comfy-industrial ambiance of that restaurant remain in its newest incarnation, too much of the food right now just doesn’t seem to have enough heart behind it.
Really, it comes down to a matter of incentive: With Standard Tap and North 3rd so close by, Blind Pig will have to find a groove of its own to break the curse of this space. It may well do so, but it’s got a ways to go.
702 N. Second St.
Cuisine: Pubby and approachable.
Hours: Tues.-Sun., 5pm-2am.
Price range: Under $20.
Food: Decent ideas held back by lackluster execution.
Service: Friendly and knowledgeable.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014