On Monday, wood-fired hotshot Cliff Allen opened a brick-and-mortar version of his successful downtown food cart, The People’s Pig. Instead of his signature slow-roasted sandwiches, Allen is trying his hand at barbecue, thanks to a converted fireplace/smoker built into the North Williams shack. We caught up with Allen to get the inside scoop on his cart-to-brick transition.
Eat Beat: You’re known for your iconic mesquite-fired porchetta and wild boar sandwiches. But barbecue is a new frontier for you. Why barbecue, why now?
Cliff Allen: People read ‘The People’s Pig’ and think barbecue anyway. I think I’ve been fighting it for five years…and I’ve given in. I’m done fighting. I’m going for classic barbecue, plus (+).
My girlfriend and I took a trip to Austin a few months ago, to see what the old-timey places were doing in Lockhart—the ones that have been around for like 100 years. It’s totally awesome how bare bones they are. This [Allen points to a pile of potato salad] is just totally extravagant to them, totally over the top. If those guys can get away with what they do, I figure I can do whatever I want.
EB: Which barebecue school of thought do you belong to?
CA: I’m not married to any certain school. I don’t want to play whatever barbecue sauce game people play. It’s not Tennessee, it’s not Texas, and it’s not South Carolina. It’s a tomato-ey barbecue sauce that kind of falls in the middle. It’s not going to make anybody happy, but I think it’s pretty satisfying.
After visiting Austin, we were inspired to use oak smoke. We’ve been smoking chicken thighs, ribs, pork shoulders—it’s magic. It just keeps getting better and better the longer we leave it in. I don’t know if you’d call it over smoked yet, but we are going to try and hit that wall.
EB: Where’s the brisket?
CA: I was going to do brisket, but the smoked pork shoulder is so good that I don’t even care about brisket anymore. Besides, people are so weird about brisket.
EB: This space (formerly Tropicana BBQ) has a laid back, hole-in-the wall vibe. But it looks like you haven’t changed much. What’s the deal?
CA: The owner, Lula Parker, had this place for something like 55 years. She sold me the space on the condition that I wouldn’t change a thing. This smoker [points to a giant white fireplace with a door] is literally one of a kind. It’s big enough to crawl insi…err...you can put a whole 240 pound pig in there and it’s actually built into the restaurant. It’s incredible.
The People’s Pig
3217 N Williams Ave
Every day, 11am-11pm