The PIG, at Kirkwood and Indiana

I have only really developed an appreciation for pork based foods (not including bacon and sausage) in the last 6 years, as it was not something I ate a lot of growing up.  But then I spent 4 years as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (roll tide!) where the pulled pork and pork ribs are phenomenal (this will be the subject of a future post), and a summer in Germany where sausage and schnitzel are a dietary staple.

I was thus incredibly excited when I discovered THE HAPPY PIG in Bloomington.  I first made the discovery in February of 2011 while walking to a different restaurant.  It was lunch time and it was snowing, and right by the Sample Gates (corner of Kirkwood and Indiana) I saw two guys operating a food cart called the Happy Pig.  I knew this had to be good.  I was not able to go that day due to other plans, and then it took about a week of hunting to find the cart again (it is now much easier to find, location details are at the bottom).

But it was absolutely worth the wait!!! For my first meal I had the signature item, the Notorious P.I.G.  It consists of two slices of crispy pork belly, a sunny side up egg, local maple syrup, served between two slices of homemade sourdough bread.  The pork comes from a near-by farm and it was cooked perfectly, tender inside, crispy outside, some fat for flavor but not overly much.  The combination of the egg yolk, syrup and pork as  quite unique and and absolute pleasure to eat.  One of my top sandwich experiences, period.

THE Notorious P.I.G.

This cart was opened in late 2010 by two local chefs who at the time also worked at Restaurant Talent (an upscale restaurant in Bloomington specializing in local products.  A little out of a student budget but at some point I will get there for a review).  They now do this full time.  What makes the Happy Pig unique is that it is high end restaurant quality food (better then most restaurants) with fresh local ingredients served at affordable prices on the street.  The chefs are very creative and constantly change the menu.  The mostly only do pork but sometimes chicken, and vegetarian options.  Other favorites of mine include bolognese sauce with pasta, pulled pork sliders, pork patty melt, pork-mac-and-cheese sandwich, and their biscuits and gravy (the best I have ever had, great homemade biscuit, gravy loaded with local sausage and well seasoned with a surprisingly spicy kick).

But the true treat at the Happy Pig is the rare occasion they do RIBS!!!  They do them beer-brined, wet rubbed and smoked, braised till tender and then finished on the grill to give them a nice crisp.  The sauce is made from the braising liquid.  Then served with buttermilk potato salad and slaw.  The ribs fall off the bone and are perfectly tender.  The sauce could use a little more kick but the rib meat has no comparison, I still dream of these ribs, and cannot wait for their return.

Braising the Pork Belly. YUM!!! This and the above images were pulled from the Happy Pig Facebook.

Finding the Pig can be a challenge.  It is easiest to locate them on Facebook or Twitter as times and location change.  They also post the menu.  Below are their typical locations. NOTE: Cash is recommended but they do also take cards for a small extra charge.

They serve lunch usually Tue-Thurs from 12-3 at Kirkwood and Indiana (by the sample gates).

Friday and Saturday nights they are outside Atlas bar (4th and college) from midnight till 3am.  If you have not been there late night on a weekend you are missing out.  There is no better way to finish a night than at the Pig, try it and thank me later.

In the summer the Pig is at the local Farmers market downtown (will highlight this again during the season).

SPECIAL NOTE: The Pig now serves BRUNCH on Sundays from 12-4 inside Atlas (4th and college).  This is a true treat.  Chedder Chive Waffles! Crispy Duck omlette with goat cheese! and PORK BELLY EGGS BENEDICT!! And many others.  Breakfast is my favorite food, and eggs benedict the absolute favorite, so this brunch menu will be reviewed in more detail in a separate post.  THIS IS A MUST TRY.

Conclusion: EAT AT THE HAPPY PIG!!!  Support a local business and local suppliers, and experience some of the best pork you will find anywhere, on a budget!