SANTA FE, N.M. — After early people discovered fire, I imagine their next culinary breakthrough was grilled meat, smoked meat and, shortly thereafter, barbecue sauces. Chefs have been tinkering with the types of wood, cuts of meat and a variety of rubs, marinades and seasonings ever since.
Perhaps because I grew up in northern New Mexico, I didn’t develop strong opinions about what style of barbecue is best and, even now, I like all kinds, from sticky pork ribs cooked with sweet sauce, to the spicy/vinegary pulled- pork served in the South, to the smoked beef brisket of west Texas.
As long as the meat isn’t dry and the sauce or rub or other chef-ly treatment adds something tasty, I’m in.
|Whole Hog Café
WHERE: 320 S. Guadalupe St., Santa Fe, 505-474-3375
WHAT: Barbecue. Beer and wine available.
HOURS: Open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and until 9:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
SERVICE: Order at the counter.
Whole Hog Café, located in an unassuming mid-block storefront on Guadalupe Street, specializes in barbecue. You can get the meat in sandwiches, wraps, as “plates” or “platters” and, of course, to go. The food here is fresh and good, the service friendly and the prices reasonable. A couple of friends and I stopped by for a quick bite, and found the restaurant relatively empty. Sometimes the staff slips into lethargy under these circumstances, but not here. The young man who took our orders and brought the food to the table was polite, efficient and very professional.
Ordering at Whole Hog involves studying the blackboard and deciding among the types of meat and choices of side dishes. No one will ask “Red or Green?” or “Do you want fries with that?” Side dishes include coleslaw, potato salad, chips, green salad or chopped cucumber salad. We tried the traditional favorites with BBQ, slaw and baked beans. Both were good. The cucumber salad gets a thumbs up, even though it was a bit sweet for me, because of its unusualness. The potato salad won the most points: creamy and nicely seasoned but not too full of mayo. “Plates” include two sides. Sandwiches come with coleslaw. Wraps consist of your choice of meat garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, sour cream and jalapeños cradled inside a flour tortilla.
I can think of only two downsides for Whole Hog Cafe. The owners attempted to create ambiance, adding an entry display of beautiful barbecue trophies won by the mother restaurant (in Arkansas) and upbeat recorded music including country classics such as Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” They get points for effort, but the space feels generic, especially at night. Secondly, if you are a vegetarian, choices are limited to a large tossed salad, side dishes, the potato and dessert. No hot veggies or meat substitutes here.
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