We are fortunate in Champaign-Urbana to have an abundance of award winning barbecue. There are several joints in town that serve up succulent smoked meats and seasonal sides worthy of our patronage. Little did I know, there’s a new contender just a few miles east on I-74 in Ogden. The Pink Pig is located on Market Street in downtown Ogden, sandwiched right between 74 and Route 150. It’ll take you less than a half hour to get there, and believe me, it’s worth the drive.
My friends and I arrived at the Pink Pig on rainy St. Patrick’s Day. The smell of barbeque wafting through the air in the parking lot indicated that we were definitely in the right place. Had the weather been nicer, we’d have sat on the outdoor patio beneath a newly-constructed pergola adorned with café lights, but alas, it’s March in Central Illinois. We headed inside and were offered seating at the bar, in a booth, or at a table in a dimly-lit room with wood/aluminum décor and a large, central bar. It was lunch on a Saturday and about three-quarters full, a good sign.
Upon opening the menu, I was happy to see a lot of information about the restaurant space and food served. The Pink Pig has committed to sourcing all of its protein from Willow Creek Farm in Urbana, as well as purchasing from other local establishments (think local produce, brews, soda) in the area. It is owned by the same group that also owns V. Picasso in Champaign and The WheelHouse in St. Joseph, and is a “sister” restaurant to the El Toro chain.
We started with beverages, as it was St. Patrick’s Day after all. My husband got a Riggs American Lager ($4) which was dyed green for the occasion, and my friend and I got lemon shake-ups, a tart-yet-sweet lemonade with our choice of Absolut or Kettle One to make it “adult” for $5, or without alcohol for $3. Our other friend ordered a Bloody Mary served with limes and olives ($5), which he reported as briney and delicious.
We ordered two appetizers: deep fried pickles and cheese curds, because eating deep fried food is the best way to soak up all of the alcohol, of course. The fried pickles ($5) were really unique as instead of traditional pickle chips, these were sliced into thin spears and then battered and deep fried. They were served with Alabama White barbeque sauce, which is a creamy, vinegar-based sauce that complimented the tart and crunchy pickles perfectly. The cheese curds ($6) were fresh and well-battered and served with a marinara sauce that was listed on the menu as spicy, but didn’t quite have the kick that we were expecting. Regardless, they hit the spot.
For lunch, we ordered assorted platters of meats and two sides served with Texas toast and several sauces. The platters were each $14, which was incredibly reasonable considering the large amount of meat that was provided with each portion. One of our friends ordered the special for St. Patrick’s Day — smoked corned beef, smoked cabbage, smoked sausage, and Guinness-soaked baked beans. The corned beef was fall-apart tender, the cabbage was smoky and soft yet retained a crunch, and the beans remained firm and stood up well to the Guinness-based sauce.
Between the rest of our foursome, we ordered pulled pork, half-chicken, potato salad, onion rings, corn on the cob, and macaroni and cheese. The meat portions were substantial. The pulled pork was well-shredded, but a bit on the dry side, which could be easily rectified when paired with one of their signature sauces. On the table were mild and hot vinegar-based barbecue sauces. Both were full of flavor and tangy, though the hot was not in the least bit spicy. Additionally, we requested more Alabama white and low country mustard, which was similar to honey mustard as a thin, sweet glaze.
Portions of half-chicken were gigantic, which we should have expected because as the name denotes, it is literally a half of a smoked free-range chicken. The meat was well smoked and was easy to pull off the bone, though sections of the white meat were dry. Again, when paired with a sauce, the chicken was delectable.
The sides were plentiful as we were allotted two per platter included in the $14 price. Just like the appetizers, the onion rings were battered and fried to a perfect crisp. They were delightful when dipped in the Alabama white sauce. The macaroni and cheese was delicious as it was made in a cream and white cheddar based sauce. The portion, served in a ramekin, was just right when eaten in conjunction with the abundance of meats. I don’t know what I was thinking ordering corn on the cob in the middle of March in Illinois. It was bland and blah, well cooked, but not flavorful whatsoever. I blame myself — I know better. The ramekin of mustard-based potato salad was light and refreshing, served cold on a plate of otherwise hot food.
Overall, we were pleased with our St. Patrick’s Day lunch at The Pink Pig. We all agreed that the location should not be a deterrent if you live in Champaign-Urbana. It’s a quick drive down the highway for locally sourced, well-smoked meats and sides that will fill you up for the day. In our opinion, the best part of our meal was the price: four people had two rounds of drinks, two appetizers, four entrées with sides, and enough leftovers for another whole lunch for $80 before tip.
The Pink Pig
2698 County Road 1600 N
Su, T-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m
F + Sa 11 a.m. to midnight
Photos by Jessica Wolff