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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge, Food Critic: Ringing Southern Bells with BBQ

Photo of the Pig Sty, Bozeman's gourmet BBQ food truck.

In early September while racing south against the sun, I reviewed La Palma’s “taco bus” in the tourist milking parlor of West Yellowstone, Montana. La Palmas admirably represents the first local sortie of “gourmet food trucks,” something of a rebellion in commercial cuisine. The first, yes, but thankfully not the last: I was delighted to learn that Bozemanites musn’t torch their gas budgets to relish such a drivable delicatessen. Under this patch of Big Sky, I now have the pleasure of introducing the Pigsty.

Parked in front of Bozeman’s Imperial Inn—the latter now reminiscent of Atlanta in the wake of Sherman’s ‘March to the Sea'—the Pigsty is as big as a billboard. The smiling face in the middle of this rolling advertisement belongs to David Priest, chef and proprietor. Mild and well regarded by the oft-present regulars, David has been working in the food industry since before the law deemed him of employable age. Over the years, he’s taken “every position there is in a restaurant” from dish dog to top dog.

I asked the native Minnesotan about choosing to serve fare from the far side of the Mason-Dixon Line. After all, there’s not a lutefisk or fried walleye to be found at the Pigsty. The efficient menu offers beef brisket and pulled pork, among other main dishes, alongside grits or baked beans to keep your horses charging. David answered simply, “There were no good barbeques in town, so I started my own.” Sure, a wallowing Secessionist might call him a modern-day carpetbagger, but on this part of the map, I’m inclined to regard David Priest as having a goodly dose of Western Opportunism.

Besides, when it comes to this style of cooking, flavor trumps the Old South’s aristocracy every time. And for David’s part, the Yankee lets the cannons boom early. The Pigsty’s brisket sandwich is a heap of Scarlett O'Hara in front of her family home, Tara.  roasted goodness that overwhelms the boundaries of its bun. Taking in the sight of it, I was inspired by the words of Scarlett O’Hara: “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!”

On the other half of my first Pig Sty plate waited the favorite fuel of the South: grits. While the best preparation of hominy is a subject that draws more scandal than the daughter of the Tara plantation ever did, it’s safe to say that David’s version needs a little something more. But whether it’s a little more cheese or a little more water, perhaps a lap of bacon bits or sautéed mushrooms (or both!), is not for me to decide. Let the ladies of Dixie try to solve that cross-generational conflict, but I certainly appreciated the chef’s honesty when he admitted that the side dish is still a work in progress.

Pig Sty photo collage for The Bozeman Magpie

On my second trip to the Pigsty, I ordered the pulled pork and got a sandwich succulent enough that even Rhett Butler would give a damn. With baked beans on the battle drum, rapping away with hearty texture and sweet zip, I witnessed for myself the best that the Pigsty offers. I’d recommend to all first-timers that your Main Street tour of the Confederacy start right there.

Rhett Butler.Though the Pigsty’s menu is refreshingly direct, David manages to instill a broad landscape among his Southern selections. A Jamaican jerk frequents the sandwich list, and all the aforementioned meats can be alternatively prepared on flour tortillas. The chef further informed me that he keeps things lively with daily specials, like the shrimp tacos that wooed me on my most recent visit. And don’t forget to try the huckleberry lemonade on a warm afternoon—assuming there are a few of the latter left in 2011.

With down-home flavor, good-ol’-boy servings and competitive value (around $10 per person), the Pigsty’s biggest challenge might be its own mobility. David moves his truck more than Johnny Reb on the run, and patrons may have fits some days trying to find him.

Lately, an agreement with the Imperial Inn makes the Pigsty a fixture on their lot Monday through Thursday, 11am-2:30pm. After that term ends, however, the proprietor offers social media as the guide for tracking the vehicular campaign (here’s a link to the Pigsty fanpage on Facebook). On weekends, the daytime schedule becomes even more open, since the Pigsty markets itself for special events. As an example, David recently catered to 90 ladies at the 90th anniversary celebration of Pi Beta Phi sorority right up the hill at MSU. On weekend nights, look for the black-and-pink behemoth parked somewhere between the Bozeman Hotel and the Rockin’ R Bar. Although the hide-and-seek is likely to prove too windy for some, I say it’s worth the effort.

Current home for the Pig Sty, Bozeman's mobile BBQ.

And after that? Well, maybe “Montana’s most business-friendly community” could take a Reconstructionist approach to the Main Street parking regulations for an enterprise of this nature. “Are you listening City Hall? Where-oh-where is Brit Fontenot…” -TBM

If you like Beverly Ridge's spicy mixture of restaurant reviews and big-screen culture, check out this report on the Cafe Francais des Arts.

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