Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Pig & Duke Review

Pig & Duke is a low-key bar/pub(?) nestled in the Beltline district. My first impressions of Pig & Duke was that it leaned towards being a UK pub—as indicated by the classic, dark wood furniture and diverse selection of British brand beers—but when seated in the dining section of the restaurant, I noticed a lot of local sports memorabilia plastered on the walls and peppered throughout the lounge area; this created more of a small-town sports bar vibe. I can see why Pig & Duke would want to cater to Calgary’s sport-fan crowd (i.e.: its proximity to the Red Mile, A.K.A.: 17th Avenue) but judging from the seating layout, other than the long table in the dining section and the pool table in the lounge, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room to mingle while still watching the game (limited TV vantage points). I’m not sure what kind of bar/pub Pig & Duke wants to be or what kind of neighborhood it thinks it should be in (Podunk sports bar vs. CHEERS-like neighbourhood pub) but I can say with certainty that I enjoyed their food.

The menu is heavy on the pork—an automatic +10 points from me here! Most entrees were between $12-16 and could be combined with some tasty sounding $4.50 daily drink promotion. Another plus here is that the alcohol is inexpensive—there are 24 UK brands on tap, in addition to a variety of local craft brews; my party settled on the Wild Rose drafts: the Velvet Fog and the (seasonal) Cherry Porter. While I’m strictly a pale ale girl, the waitress persuaded me to try the Cherry Porter on the grounds that it tasted like “a black forest cake.” LIES. It did not taste like cake. It did not taste like cherries. I did not feel like a unicorn running through a chocolate forest. All that I could taste were artificial chocolate notes, followed by a hit of smoky coffee flavor—this went down really bitter; the consensus at the table was that chocolate beer is off-putting.

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To start, I ordered the Pig Knuckles –  imagine biting into the meatiest ribs that you’ve ever had, that’s what eating these felt like. These knuckles were fall off the bone tender and had a strong smoky flavor. The knuckles were served with two sauces: a cool ranch and a BBQ sauce concoction. Both sauces were tasty and complemented the knuckles by adding a slight acidity to cut the richness of the pork. If I had to describe the bbq sauce, I’d say it was more like a messy, meaty, smoky glaze. Needless to say, I loved it. My eating companion ordered the Swinetine, which was advertised as “all the best part of the pig on top of steak cut fries and a fried egg.” The Swinetine included: bacon, pulled pork and green peppercorn pig sauce. I found the “Pig Sauce” to be unique but a little on the watery/thin side; I think that lusciously thick pork gravy would have complemented the dish better. Regardless, I could have had this as an entrée and then happily curled up on the booth for a full belly happy-nap. This dish is best for sharing with a friend as there was so much of it (not really appetizer sized) and it was really heavy.

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For our entrees: I got the Chicken Burger (“Bomb”) with a side of Caesar Salad. The Chicken burger was a massive sandwich; I had great difficulty trying to fit in my mouth even after it was cut in half. Other than its size however, this was rather unimpressive and a little on the bland side. This came with a standard Caesar salad that was presented like a cob salad (i.e.: the wedge of romaine and slice of bacon)—yawn. My eating companion ordered the Duke Burger with side of waffle yam fries. We felt that the Duke was overly similar to the Swintine; essentially it was the appetizer on a beef patty bun—and the bun wasn’t even toasted (sad face). Fortunately the patty was perfectly cooked: juicy, great char, and well-seasoned /captured a smoky aroma. The Duke included a beef patty, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, red onion, back bacon, pulled pork, double smoked bacon and cheddar. The yam fries were good: crispy, not too greasy, and not overly sweet.

Overall I was happy with Pig & Duke and would come again. I’m ambivalent about the atmosphere/ambiance and I can’t say that I got any sense of the “neighbourhood” feeling that they advertised. I really wanted this place to be like Cheers (where everybody knows your name) but it felt more like I walked into Moe’s Tavern, if Moe served real food. I felt that Pig & Duke offered reasonable prices for high quality pub food. I also appreciated the fact that they made an effort with their presentation (I liked the plating details of the waffle fries served in an individual basket and the artistic way they presented their sauces). I would recommend that they toast their buns though—my table’s gripe with our burgers was that the complementary pickle spears caused all our buns to get soggy—if you can’t put the effort into toasting your buns or draining your pickles, just leave the wet stuff on the side. On the occasions that I’ve been here and judging from the reports from my alcoholically-inclined friends (accountants know their alcohol!), most of the staff do not appear to be knowledgeable of their beer menu. If you rely on your server for a recommendation, you might end up with a pint of something you hate (like I did). Sure, the beer here is reasonably priced, but it ain’t free. If you and your mom decide to come here, I would recommend that y’all read up on the local drafts and the imports first. Also of note, the service here can be a hit or a miss– I find that the servers are generally friendly and chatty, but I’ve always had issues with the pacing (either stuff takes too long to come out or the wait time in between dishes is 30-45mins) and I’ve had issue with getting refills/flagging somebody down for the bill (even on the occasions I’ve come for lunch or was one of three other tables on a dead week night).

2013-08-09 14.20.45Verdict: 3 Hogs / 5 Hogs

Pig & Duke on Urbanspoon

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