‘Wild Hog’ Has Room to Improve

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?

Flat screen and bar at the Wild Hog

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.

News menus and beer

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.

Carne asada wrap and chips

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.

The Piglet sandwich

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 and fries

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.

Piglet and fries

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.

Wild Hog on Urbanspoon

Barbecue Lovers Rejoice! ‘Wild Hog’ Heaps On the Smoked Goodness

In full disclosure, I have not yet made the trek down South Washington and smelled the no-doubt delicious aroma that is likely permeating through every inch of Wild Hog…. yet. But it won’t be long.

Wild Hog logo

What used to be Jake’s at 4401 South Washington has been re-branded as Wild Hog, with an emphasis on smoked chicken, pork and beef. They’ve brought in a commercial-sized smoker and it is, to my knowledge, the first place in town to actually smoke the meats on site. That alone is enough to give it a try.

I had been to Jake’s one time in the past. There’s a big, horse-shoe shaped bar that is the focus of the east dining room, and there’s plenty of seating. I know I ate something, but I can’t remember exactly so I can’t say how it was. One thing that intrigued me was what they call the Spike, a deep-fried polish sausage that lets you know when it’s done by splitting open from end to end. Out east, they call it a ripper and there’s probably a few other names. Needless to say, it’s an artery clogger but sounds awesome and I am happy to report they’ve kept it on the new Wild Hog menu.

The new menu includes wings, wraps, salads burgers and gourmet lavosh. But what sounds really good is their house-smoked meats. I’m a sucker for a well-prepared slab of ribs.

So, looking at the menu, good ribs are just one more thing that Grand Forks has finally been included on.

They’ve got a dry rub, honey bbq rub and a rhubarb rub, which I’ve never heard of before.

You can get a whole smoked chicken, smoked pulled pork, or smoked beef brisket as well. Pile it high with a combination plate, two meats for $15.99 or three meats for $19.99. That’s likely what I’ll get when I slink in soon.

Before digging into the Wild Hog sandwich

Perusing the Wild Hog’s Facebook page, I stumbled upon what is likely one of the best eating challenges in town. You get 30 minutes to complete the Wild Hog Challenge. It’s a gut-busting sandwich with a pound of pulled chicken, a pound of pulled pork and a pound of beef brisket topped with honey barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, onions and a pickle all on Texas toast. Oh and don’t forget the half-pound of French fries to equal everything out. It’s a vegetarian’s nightmare, but a carnivore’s delight.

So it’s looking great for the good people at Wild Hog, doing their part to deliver meat in smoked form to south Grand Forks. I’ll be seeing ya soon.

Phone: 701.757.4263