True to its name, the Improper Pig has thrown out the rulebook on regional barbecue in favor of a menu that is equal parts southern comfort and Asian fusion. Alongside cook-out staples like mac and cheese and chicken wings, you'll find ahi tuna salad and edamame. General manager Gavin Toth explains that the unique flare is an homage to Mama Fu's, the Asian eatery replaced by Improper Pig was established in Cotswold.
In addition to putting an "improper" spin on Asian and barbecue classics, Toth says that it was important to bring a quick but high-quality dining experience to the neighborhood when they set up shop in 2014. "You could say we're a slightly upscale barbecue, but we cater to an everyday person. At lunch, we get construction workers, business people, doctors and nurses. At dinner, it's a lot of families."
"We wanted to provide the right space for people to come in and stay an hour and a half with their families, or be here for fifteen minutes just to grab lunch." Improper Pig delivers prompt lunch service and a happy hour that encourages you to linger ($1 stuffed jalapeños, half-off nachos, and bourbon pairings).
For Toth, it comes down to attention to detail: "We don't really focus on being that traditional barbecue joint. We wanted to see what direction we could take it."
Creative Loafing: You've said that Improper Pig is about blurring lines on regional cuisine and doesn't take a stance on the great barbecue sauce debate, but tell us... what's your signature flavor?
Gavin Toth: The important thing is the preparation of the meat. We smoke everything in-house, and we came up with our own rub — we call it Will's Rub [after owner Will Bigham]. It has a mix of different spices. We rub down the pork every morning, let it sit on there for about ten hours or so, and then we load it into the smoker to smoke for ten to twelve hours. A nice bark is created and we use hickory wood whole-logs. When you cut into our brisket, you can see the smoke ring. For the most part, our pork doesn't need a sauce, so I don't sauce it. It's up to you to chose one of the six sauces at the table.
There's a big Asian influence on the menu, but there's a lot of southern comfort food as well. What brings all these dishes together?
For ten years this building was Mama Fu's. When we went in a different direction, we wanted to still appease some of those old customers that wanted to come in. Our big themes are pretty traditional barbecue; you still want to see the right things, you don't want to be completely different. You can't be a barbecue joint without things like mac and cheese. We don't have a southern green bean casserole, but we have spicy green beans, so we've taken something southern and made it Asian. Inside, we don't have the layout of your traditional barbecue joint. There's an Asian feel, with the reds and blacks and the use of wood inside.
You launched your food truck just in time for summer — how did you decide to bring Improper Pig on the road, and where are you headed?
Opportunity knocked and we got together and said 'This sounds like a great idea, lets do it.' We bought the food truck, retrofitted it a little bit, cleaned it up, wrapped it with our logos, and designed the menu. It's the same quality food and the same fast service. We put speakers underneath so you can hear us coming. We're like an ice cream truck, except with good music. There is no traditional path with a food truck. We want to be as available as possible to continue to grow our business.