I was close enough to Drexel Hill recently to make a slight barbecue detour and visit Pig Daddy’s, the winners of Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly” Barbecue in 2008.
When I first got there, I opened a menu and was immediately confused. Was this a BBQ joint or a Mexican foodery? Or was their specialty Cajun cuisine? The menu is one of the most extensive I’ve seen, especially considering the place is not much larger than my kitchen. It features a full barbecue menu (KC or Carolina pork, pork AND beef ribs, Texas-style brisket, chicken, turkey, sausage and more), a full Mexican AND a Tex-Mex menu, Cajun-style fried fish platters and po’ boys, 9 different burgers, and plenty of other seemingly random inclusions like the Cuban sandwich or the BBQ cheese steak. How could a tiny corner take-out store execute this many dishes, let alone execute them well?
I was there for ‘cue, so I ordered the pulled pork platter — which inexplicably came with a side of chips and salsa, btw. I chose the platter for two reasons — firstly, because the sandwich came on a Kaiser roll, a roll that is simply not meant for barbecue. A good barbecue roll should be soft and weak, to better soak up the sauce and juice and meld into the meat as you eat it. A Kaiser has a tough, sometimes even hard outer crust that is far too chewy to match with barbecue. The second reason I ordered the platter was to try a few sides, a less important but still essential part of any ‘cue joint’s pedigree.
The meat itself was quite disappointing. It was flavorful, but had no smoke flavor at all. It tasted more like crock-pot pork than smoked pork. The Carolina-style sauce had a nice mixture of spices, but the signature vinegar tang of the region’s best was also completely missing. The sides were also disappointing. Though cole slaw is rarely transcendent and should simply serve as a foil to the meat, this slaw was bland and offered little added value. The beans were also banal, as if they were served out of a supermarket can.
Pig Daddy’s has been around quite a while, and piled up more than their fair share of accolades — aside from the “Best of Philly” win, the Inquirer, Daily News, City Paper and MyFoxPhilly have all heaped praise on the food (mostly the ‘cue). So what is my problem? Did I catch them on an off day? Should I have ordered the Buffalo Chicken Burrito (a.k.a. the Buffarita) instead?
Would love to know what others think — feel free to comment below. But if you are, like me, always on the lookout for great ‘cue, unfortunately I can’t recommend going out of your way to try Pig Daddy’s.