A plump pig levitates above the lawn outside Pig Iron BBQ. Passersby who stop to inspect the seemingly enchanted pig may be disappointed by the inanimate sign's trickery, but they'll be consoled by the barbecue-heavy Southern fare served inside.
The Clintonville restaurant and bar's red-barn walls spotted with country knickknacks set a leisurely pace for diners. Neighborhood-types occupy booths along a brick wall in the small establishment, while others opt for a tin-lined bar area sporting a few TVs and tall chairs.
I join my dining partner at a table with Christmas lights strung nearby. I was pleased to discover Pig Iron's festive decor is matched by a trio of choice seasonal drafts: Sam Adams' Winter Lager, Great Lakes' Christmas Ale ($5.50) and Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown ($5).
Before we could finish discussing why a bass drum and tire hung from the rafters above, a T-shirt-clad server returned with drinks. Pig Iron's menu revealed several tempting appetizers, like cornmeal-crusted Flash Fried Oysters ($10) or Potato Pancakes ($7), but the wings came recommended.
The shapely wings ($8) were packed with white meat, slow cooked and covered with a motor-oil-thick BBQ sauce - naturally, the plate was quickly reduced to a pile of bones.
Pig Iron's entrees consist of barbecue staples, Creole concoctions and pub-style seafood courtesy of sister restaurant Old Bag of Nails. Following the restaurant's slogan, "Eat like a pig, drink like a fish," I skipped over sandwiches such as the Beef Brisket ($8) and catfish po'boy ($9), and ordered Bernie's Baby Back Ribs ($18).
The slow-roasted ribs arrived lightly glazed and flanked by greens, sweet potato fries and a flaky brick of cornbread. The slightly dry meat crumbled in my hands, and its taste was bolstered by the honey-sweet or spicy vinegar barbecue sauces provided.
Sampling my fellow diner's BBQ Salad ($9), I found the romaine lettuce mound topped with tomatoes, cheeses and pulled pork to be fresh and tangy.
The caramel-heavy Nut Brown beer at my side proved to be a tasty pairing with the starchy sides. Pig Iron's weekday happy hour means cheap beer, and on weekends select domestic drafts, like Bud and Miller Lite, run $2 all day.
Any trip to Pig Iron means confronting the guilty-pleasure possibility of a deep-fried Snickers bar with ice cream ($4). With my belly brimming, I knew there was no way I could manage on my trip - unless pigs really could fly.
Pig Iron BBQ
5295 N. High St., Clintonville
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
12-9 p.m. Sunday
2-7 p.m. Monday-Friday: half-priced drafts, domestic bottles, well liquor and appetizers