A reader recently called my attention to the fact that Pig Out BBQ Pit, with locations in downtown West Chester and Glen Mills, serves vegetarian barbecue alongside the normal meat barbecue. I said, "sign me up," and then did little poking around the internet to find their menu and see what others had to say about the place.
Main Line Today voted Pig Out "Best NC BBQ" in 2009, but, interestingly, over on WC Dish, a great food blog focusing mainly on West Chester eats that also has listings of restaurants where readers can comment, had widely conflicting opinions of Pig Out, and even a comment from the owner speculating that the negative comments were from jealous competitors.
So what's the real deal? Were there comments from those out to sabotage, and possibly even comments from those close to the owner hyping the place (oh, both happen all the time), or was it all just simply people with differing opinions? (Update: Do check out the comments on this post!) There's only one way to find out, and that's to go and form your own opinion.
First, we had to choose which location. The Glenn Mills location in a renovated 18th century blacksmith shop won out simply because they offer two free beers (Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, or Yuengling Lager) to diners who choose to eat on the premises. Free beer does not apply at the West Chester location.
Even with free beer, no one seemed to opt for the dining in option at the Glen Mills location when we were there, but there was a brisk takeout action going on when we first arrived.
The haul: Two small vegetarian spicy chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, twice baked potato with cheddar cheese, mac and cheese, corn muffin, and Yeungling beer.
But wait...these are real chicken sandwiches!
When ordering, we originally asked for the vegetarian bbq sandwiches, to which one of the two college-aged boys had to ask the other if they even had any. They didn't. He said they had the chicken. (Just so I get you straight here, in the vegetarian bbq department, Pig Out offers what they call a vegetarian bbq sandwich and a vegetarian spicy chicken sandwich) So, to be clear, since the boy said chicken and not veggie chicken, I said, "So, you don't have the veggie bbq, but you've got the veggie chicken?" Then proceeded to order two veggie chicken sandwiches. This was obviously very complicated for the two boys.
It turns out, the Glen Mills location had neither the veggie bbq nor the veggie chicken. We were not charged for the sandwiches, although the boys did briefly argue (not in a heated way) that we did order the chicken. Not cool.
Stuck my finger in the honey mesquite sauce and spicy sauce topping the sandwich, though. The honey mesquite is the redder sauce to the left, and is an extremely sweet ketchup-based sauce with mustard tones. The spicy sauce is the darker sauce to the right, and is also a very sweet ketchup sauce, but less so than the mesquite sauce, and not really spicy. The spicy sauce tastes exactly like the barbecue sauce from Kraft.
Other barbecue sauces available are mild, hot, raspberry chipotle, and buffalo wing sauce. Absolutely no vinegar or light tomato sauce available on the menu, which begs the question, how did Main Line Today award Pig Out BBQ Pit "Best NC BBQ" when there are no North Carolina-style barbecue sauces at Pig Out?If getting served chicken wasn't bad enough, the corn muffins are the kind you buy from Costco -- very little corn meal and dessert-like sweet. Does any one eat these things, outside of business meetings and desperation?
Does that mac and cheese look gluey? It is. And bland and a little chewy. And unbelievably, it's not the worst mac and cheese I've ever had. It's barely passable, though.
I laughed when my partner ordered the twice baked potato with cheddar, but this small, limp potato was the best thing we ordered. It's kinda hard to mess up a potato (well, you can under cook it) with cheese on top.
The creamy and sweet coleslaw tasted like it came from one of those large food service containers, and I wouldn't be surprised if it did.
And this is what we left behind. We ate the twice baked potato because it was the best thing, and we ate the mac and cheese and a few bites of the coleslaw because we were starving.
Needless to say, I was very upset with driving out to Glen Mills and not getting to try the veggie bbq, but I was even more upset about the sides. The Costco muffin (or what ever brand it is) is just unforgivable. What we could eat of our meal was comparable to a meal in a school cafeteria.
I never got the veggie bbq sandwich I originally wanted, and thought the review would be incomplete without trying one, so called the West Chester location first to see if it was available before trekking out there. It was, so we headed out thattaway.
This time the owner was at the helm of the register in West Chester, and was much more engaging and, well, intelligent than the two hapless boys at the Glenn Mills location. The owner asked for our feedback on the vegetarian bbq sandwich and vegetarian spicy chicken sandwich, since he's never tasted them.
What? Shouldn't you taste what you serve?The vegetarian bbq sandwich is made of a shredded dark "beef" that my partner said had a brisket-like taste. We got the hot bbq sauce since the spicy was not to our liking. The hot bbq sauce is still a sweet ketchup-based sauce, but actually is spicy (hotheads will think it's not hot, wimps will think it's hot), and is the better of the three sauces we sampled.
Sandwiches are served on a soft hoagie roll, which suits the fillings fine. I know this is hoagie territory, but hoagie rolls are not the best bread for all sandwiches. A soft hamburger bun would do nicely here, providing less bread and a more authentic Southern barbecue experience if that's what Pig Out is aiming for.
Same sauce and same roll for the vegetarian spicy chicken sandwich, but the veggie meat is lighter and has breading on it, from, I assume, when it was a whole breaded chicken patty or nugget before it was shredded. The breading soaked up the sauce and became this weird, gunky, saucy substance.
If you have to go vegetarian, get the veggie bbq sandwich and skip the veggie chicken. (And I did tell the owner that the veggie bbq sandwich was better than the veggie chicken, and that the breading on the chicken was weird.)
We also tried the potato salad, since we missed it the first go round. Very creamy (almost soupy) and very sweet...just like from a large food service container! Now, I'd hate to call the potato salad and coleslaw food service items, if they're not, but I've never tasted coleslaw or potato salad that tasted like these except for when they did come from a food service container.
The vegetarian sandwiches are decent, although nothing you couldn't make at home with some soy meat, a hoagie roll, and a bottle of barbecue sauce. The gesture to the vegetarian community is nice, though.
Of course, the true testament to a barbecue joint is the real meat, but I can't speak to that. For me though, the true testament are the sides, and Pig Out failed miserably. Obviously they don't think it's worth the effort to make all of the sides from scratch, but it makes a world of difference. And it's easy, too. Well, maybe not as easy as buying from Costco.
Gordon Ramsay, are you out there? Pig Out needs you.
Pig Out BBQ Pit
138 Glen Mills Rd, Glen Mills, PA 19342
134 E. Gay St., West Chester, PA 19380