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Review Tue Aug 17 2010

Paddy Long's Pig Roast

Paddy Long's barPaddy Long's is a fairly unassuming, Irish-inflected Lincoln Park bar with a well-priced international beer selection (charmingly chalked onto the bar's blackboard in approximations of the draught beers' brand fonts). Delirium Tremens and Lindeman's Framboise are both on tap. A Manchester United tin plaque is on the wall. And in the upper left cornice of the bar, a creepy plastic pig mask almost blends into the pleasantly low lighting. But don't be fooled -- pig is big at Paddy Long's.

As previously reported, Paddy Long's is hosting Friday and Saturday pig roasts all summer long, $22 for all you can eat of pork and sides -- less if you have a Groupon or Baconfest promo in hand. The low-key, casual set-up reminded me of the Map Room's International Night dinners, but without the mad scramble at the bar to earn your plate by stamping your ticket and gulping down your beer before the food is dished out. I prefer to scramble for the food and then eat and drink at my own pace. (Also the guy behind the food table doesn't yell at you, unlike the Map Room.) More on the food itself...

IMG_0870The food was minimally complex, but bountiful -- which is probably what you case most about if the trigger for your attendance was "all you can eat." Pork, freshly hacked off the roast. A steamer tray of surprisingly hearty buns (dense enough to stand up to the avalanche of pulled pork I applied to them). Sweet, tangy coleslaw and potato salad, both just sauced enough with mayonnaise and seasoning to stand head and shoulders above over-dressed deli counter and church picnic fare, and creamy enough to provide an excellent foil for the smoky, chewy meat. Some squeeze bottles of sweet barbecue sauce rounded out the flavors -- none of that vinegar-based North Carolina nonsense here, thank you very much. But the sauce was kept separate from the pulled pork for DIY flavoring -- a thoughtful gesture for the pure pork enthusiasts, though I didn't see anyone without at least a smear of wine-colored sauce on their plate.

Paddy Long's plateTwo of my friends went for the skin, bringing glistening, dark, sauce-lacquered chucks back to the table like they were trophies from battle. Eating it was less pretty, though equally heroic. The chewiness of first bite quickly turned to molar-tearing, squinty-eyed impossibility. I felt like a dog with a rawhide. A lucky dog, since there was a meaty coating of fat on the skin, but a terrier nonetheless. Maybe that's why they keep the skin separate from the rest of the meat, in what I initially thought was a discard bin. There is something sort of primal about the very idea of a pig roast. It's an entire animal, or, was an entire animal. Cooked with the simplest tools: a fire and a spit, or perhaps a ditch and some coals. When it goes onto the fire it looks like an animal, and when it comes off the fire it looks like an animal. There's no comforting distance in the transmutation of its shape, from four-legged beast to a poorly drawn triangle of chop, or a cylinder of tenderloin. Labeling the event "all you can eat" also seems to strike a primal nerve -- grab what you can, as much as you can, and if you're lucky you can go back for more.

IMG_0880For such a potentially primeval affair, Paddy Long's does a great job of keeping everything on the polite and civil end of the spectrum. An event that seems to have been tightened up since its debut earlier this summer (if one severely disappointed Yelp review is to be believed), the roast ran smoothly from start to finish, from the wristbands at the door, to calm and attentive service as we stuffed our faces, to a final proffered platter of pig brains on bread. Talk about primal. I tried a piece, taking the deep plunge into offal territory, and it was...okay. Like a very fatty and under-flavored pate spread, the flavor was rich and meaty, but there just wasn't much there. Not that I was complaining or hollering for more. But I appreciated that it was there.

Paddy Long's
1028 W. Diversey Pkwy.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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