When Pork & Pickles BBQ opens at 34 Park Street in Essex Junction this Wednesday, June 22, plenty of small plates will embody the restaurant's name. Vinegar veggies will come plain or fried. Their brine will give punch to a plate of smoked wings, says chef-owner Chris Simard.
Simard, of food truck the Lazy Farmer, has been building out the restaurant since last winter, with kitchen support from sous-chef Andrew Wyslotsky. Besides pickles, their menu offers fries and curds that melt together with gravy whisked from smoker drippings. Smoked-trout hush puppies arrive with citrus aioli for dipping, while tangy mustard-seed sauce enlivens the pork-belly lettuce wraps.
Mouth watering yet?
Those are just the starters. Entrées at the new 'cue joint are built around smoked meats — Boyden Farm brisket and Snug Valley Farm St. Louis-style pork ribs; beef ribs and pulled pork. These issue from an open kitchen in sandwiches or paired with mix-and-match sides such as potato salad dressed with mustard grains, corn bread with honey butter, maple baked beans, mac and cheese, smoky braised greens, or cider vinegar slaw.
Then there are the birds. "I am so excited to share the fried chicken," Simard says. He describes it as buttermilk-brined, then double-dipped and fried to a crusty, spice-tinged crunch. Simard toyed endlessly with the recipe while on the road with his truck, which still makes occasional stops around Chittenden County.
Inspired meat-free options include smoked polenta with braised greens, white-bean gravy and poached egg; and an open-faced sandwich stacked with smoked oyster mushrooms.
Drinks at the 10-table restaurant will include a handful of wines by the glass, two draft beers (currently Lagunitas Brewing IPA and Lost Nation Brewing pilsner, with additional draft lines coming in July), and cans such as Burlington Beer's Future Glow session sipper and Light in the Window rye IPA.
For dessert? It's mid-June in Vermont, so expect fresh local strawberries kissed with sugar and piled on shortcakes — Simard says his are "loaded with buttermilk and butter" — with a wallop of just-whipped cream.
Pork & Pickles BBQ is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (4:30 to 9 p.m.).
The original print version of this article was headlined "Lazy Restaurant"