[UPDATE March 2017: The location is now called Pink Pig BBQ after the partners split up the business. For all intents and purposes it is a different business featuring many of the same food items with some of the same recipes, however, under different management and quality control. The owner of the Preppy Pig BBQ name is back to doing catering only. This review is NOT for Pink Pig BBQ, which has yet to be fully reviewed.]
Looking for the best barbecue joint in Rhode Island? Well, right now you’ll find it at Preppy Pig BBQ, which opened up its Warren, RI restaurant in July 2016 with another location opening up in Jamestown, RI. I heard about Pitmaster Patrick DeSocio’s barbecue from a friend who hired Preppy Pig to cater his wedding. In fact, Preppy Pig started as a catering company in 2010 with the goal of setting down roots to bring food to the public on a regular basis.
Preppy Pig BBQ
632 Metacom Ave.
Warren, RI 02885
Service and Atmosphere
From the street, Preppy Pig BBQ is a little hard to spot because it is on the far side of a building that houses McBlarney’s County Tap. If you see McBlarney’s then Preppy Pig is just on the other side. It’s the big pink and blue building with a giant argyle pig on it.
The main interior space is a large open area with the garage doors kept open in the summer. There is a more formal table style dining area deeper in the restaurant, but everyone orders at the counter first. The staff are really friendly and willing to tell you all about their barbecue, the process, and what gives Preppy Pig BBQ it’s quality.
All of the food at Preppy Pig BBQ is made in house. The meats are smoked in what the owner, Pitmaster Patrick DeSocio, calls “Rhode Island Style.” That pretty much just means that it’s not like barbecue anywhere else. Nonetheless, the techniques come from established barbecue tradition like the dry rubbed Texas-inspired brisket or the tropical-themed barbecue sauces. The excellent sides and pickles are also homemade. Much of the barbecue is also sliced to order right in front of you so that it doesn’t dry out.
In order to try out as much of the barbecue as possible without hurting ourselves, my wife and I ordered a sampling of some the main staples that included: brisket, pork ribs, sausage, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and pickled vegetables. We couldn’t finish all of it by any means so we had leftovers to take home. See the end of this post for recipe ideas for what to do with leftover bbq!
Brisket – When I asked the staff about the “must-have” item, I was immediately told to get the brisket. It was already on my radar because brisket is the touchstone by which all great barbecue is judged (assuming the restaurant serves beef in the first place). I ordered a half-pound of brisket, which apparently translates to about 4 freshly sliced pieces of brisket. The dark and toasty crust of the dry-rub on the brisket flavored the meat very nicely along with the mild smoke. I appreciated that the smoke was present, but not overpowering. That takes skill in and of itself. The meat was tender, but still needed a knife to cut through it. The texture was like a great thick-cut roast beef, while the flavor was all barbecue. Overall, Preppy Pig’s brisket is a solid and welcome take on this barbecue classic in the state of Rhode Island that goes a long way to proving itself in the barbecue arena.
Pork Ribs – The ribs were another wonderful surprise. The sugary dry rub added a sweetness that complemented the natural flavors of the pork. The tender meat balanced the flavor of the smoke and pulled clean from the bone without much effort. The plastic utensils offered by the restaurant don’t stand up to the ribs, so get your hands dirty and dig in. Preppy Pig also offers beef ribs on the weekend, but they were out of them when I went.
Sausage – The house sausage is not only made in the restaurant, but it’s made using the trimmings and leftover bits of the heartier cuts of meat. The goal, according to the owner, is to let nothing go to waste. I applaud this effort of conservation, but I applaud the flavor even more. I did, however, make one small mistake when I ordered the spicy sausage. The mistake had nothing to do with flavor and everything to do with the fact that the hot sausage is actually very spicy. Many restaurants call food spicy just because they waived a jalapeno pepper in the air over it. That is not the case at Preppy Pig. I love spicy food, but even I thought the hot sausage was bordering on too much for me. Even though I would opt for the mild sausage next time, I still thoroughly enjoyed the quality and flavor of the sausage. My biggest discovery and recommendation would be to make sure to eat some of the pickled vegetables in the same bite as the sausage. Between the fatty, meaty sausage, and the acidic tang of the vegetables, the combination of flavors blew my mind.
Baked Mac and Cheese – Great barbecue is one thing, but a truly great restaurant needs to deliver on killer side dishes as well. Many people and restaurants take the side dishes for granted because they aren’t the stars of the show, but side dishes break up the meal. They help to cut through the fat of the meat and change up the flavor of smoke on the palate. Luckily, Preppy Pig has some wonderful side dishes and the mac and cheese is absolutely fantastic. It may even be in the top three best mac and cheese dishes I’ve had out in a restaurant. The style is reminiscent of a rich, cheesy, bechamel sauce that coats the pasta without overcooking it. So often, mac and cheese side dishes are dry because the pasta absorbed all of the cheese sauce, but every bite of this side dish just kept on giving pure joy.
Ginger’s Honey Jalapeno Cornbread – Cornbread is a real sticking point for me at barbecue restaurants. Usually it’s too dry and brittle. On rare occasions it’s even cloyingly sweet. I must say that I never really had cornbread like the one at Preppy Pig Before. The recipe comes from the owner’s mother who still makes it for the restaurant. Even though it has jalapeno in it, I wouldn’t call it spicy. The pepper adds flavor, but not much heat, which is good. The honey adds sweetness, but again, it is not overpowering. The balance of flavors is quite nice. The one really distinguishing feature of the cornbread that will have people loving or hating it is the texture. It eats more like a savory cake than bread. It is moist and gooey rather than firm like most cornbread. While I love traditional cornbread, I enjoyed it and thought it added another flavor profile to the meal, but this one definitely comes down to personal preference.
Pickles – Once again, another homemade item from Preppy Pig delivers on some wonderful flavors. The side of pickled vegetables that comes with any order of meat is a welcome addition. The pickles aren’t too sweet or vinegary, but have just enough tangy goodness to cut through the fat of the meats. The pickles include coleslaw, jalapenos, red onion, and cucumbers. All of them add another dimension to the meal. As I mentioned before, eat the pickles with the sausage. The two complement one another so perfectly it amazes me.
Leftovers – When you go to Preppy Pig BBQ, go ahead and try a bunch of different items. Anything you can’t finish, you can take home and use to create new dishes. I used some of my leftover brisket to make a smoky omelette filled with cheese and brisket. The key is to reheat the brisket by either sauteing it in a pan with butter on the stove for some crispiness (add some onions and peppers for an even heartier spin) or to lay the strips in a basket steamer and heat it that way to add moisture.
Preppy Pig BBQ is probably the best barbecue joint in Rhode Island. Granted, there isn’t a lot of worthy competition, but by any standard, Preppy Pig holds its own as a solid restaurant with a quality product. I strongly urge barbecue lovers in and around Rhode Island to stop by Preppy Pig for some delicious American comfort food. Try the brisket, ribs, and sausage, but don’t forget about the wonderful sides like the mac and cheese!