When starting this blog, I didn’t want it to be all roses and honey, with only positive reviews of local restaurants. How can a place be improved without some constructive criticism? That’s how I approach the reviews on the blog. They’re not meant to be mean-spirited, but just how I experienced the food. How can a restaurant improve if it’s given endless positive reviews that overlook obvious shortcomings?
Plus, what restaurant doesn’t have its small problems? The Toasted Frog, which I rated #2 in Grand Forks, comes short on its fish and chips, opting for a fish stick-like offering that comes nowhere close to the real, beer-battered classic?
So, coming to the Wild Hog in south Grand Forks, formerly Jake’s, I had my expectations set pretty high. With the promise of house-smoked pork, chicken and beef I was excited from the get-go.
A friend and now new GFG blogger and I went there this weekend after the Sioux win over the Russian Red Stars. It was pretty busy on the eastern half, or bar side of the restaurant, with a few patrons opting for the western side of the dining room. We sat down within seconds of entering and our drink order was taken right away. Two beer orders in and we were given the new menus.
Previously checking their menu online, I knew what I wanted to get. Not feeling hungry enough for the Wild Hog challenege, 1 1/2 pounds of pork, chicken and brisket, I opted for its smaller cousin, the Piglet sandwich and the Spike, a deep-fried polish sausage. My friend, we’ll call him B, had the carne asada wrap.
He said the wrap was just OK, it staying two-note when it could’ve been a symphony. He said it tasted only of jalapeno and beef, which, after trying it, I can attest to. It was alright, but nothing to write home about.
I had the Piglet and the Spike, both of which I basically liked. There are a few things that could be improved though. The Spike arrived with fries and some sort of cheese sauce on the side. While we got our food only about 20 minutes or so after ordering, there was a film on my cheese sauce, sort of like pudding in the fridge, that was slightly less than appetizing. After poking through the film with a fry, the sauce was kinda tasty, although a bit bland. Some peppers or at the very least garlic would make it better.
The spike by itself was pretty tasty. I got the “American” spike, with jalapenos in the deep fried polish sausage and a bit of cheese on top. Now, I like spicy foods, but I think the sausage would be too spicy for a normal North Dakotan’s palette. I found myself reaching for the beer more than I would’ve normally. Unfortunately, I found a couple of harder than average pieces in the sausage at the end I had to spit out, but that is sometimes to be expected with meat in tube form.
The Piglet, the smaller and more manageable sibling of the Wild Hog sandwich, which comes with smoked, pulled pork, smoked, pulled chicken and the beef brisket on Texas toast was pretty good, although the outside portions of meat were a bit cold, which I liken to sitting for a while in the kitchen, the likely culprit of the film on the cheese sauce as well. The toast could use some garlic to bring it over the top, as it was sort of bland and tasted only of toast. Some butter and garlic would be an easy fix.
The pork and chicken were delicious, with a slightly sweet and noticeable smoke flavor. Finding pieces in the middle of the sandwich hot, the somewhat less-hot pieces on the outside of the sandwich were flavorful too. The brisket, though, was slightly dry.
But, I was left with the question of ‘where’s the sauce?’ The meat was only in smoked form, with no sauce option added. Some barbecue purists could argue a good smoked meat doesn’t need any sauce, but I was expecting it, or at the very least the option of whether I wanted it or not. I wasn’t even asked if I wanted ketchup with my two portions of fries. While it may seem a small infraction, it should be the first question a server asks a guest. We were approached about five minutes after digging in if everything was OK and that’s when I asked for ketchup, which was immediately offered.
B ate half 2/3 of his wrap and none of his tortilla chips as the accompanying salsa was brown and soupy. After I tried it, I thought it tasted fine, but still couldn’t account for its brown color. It looked just like apple sauce.
One thing both B and I agreed on was that the fries were some of the best we’ve had. They were crispy, hot and had sort of a buttery flavor. They were the only thing I took home, and I enjoyed them a few hours later. They lost very little of the flavor and only minimal structural loss. And it should be noted I never take fries home as they’re largely a loss.
So while Wild Hog could improve, it’s a good first start. It’s also exciting to see house-smoked meats in Grand Forks. Try the restaurant out and, if you already have, post your comment below and let us know what you thought. I’ll be a future patron of the restaurant, itching to try their ribs. Check for that review coming soon. One thing’s for sure, we need to support our local restaurants. Don’t just go with TGI McFunster’s, check out the local joint. It’s more than likely you’ll be impressed and pleasantly surprised.