Pork and Pickle pickins’


Richard Ahlgrim

The bar of Pork and Pickle BBQ

Nuzzled between a gluten-free bakery and another small shop in Essex Junction is a delectable new farm-to-table restaurant known as Pork and Pickles BBQ. In June, Chris Simard, former ecological agriculture student at the University of Vermont, created the Pork and Pickle to fill his culinary art desires. The restaurant serves meats and vegetables that are organic or locally produced.
After passing the restaurant twice driving down Park Street, I finally pulled into a parking lot wedged between railroad tracks on the north end and a strip mall-looking building to the south. It wasn’t until after pulling in that I noticed the bright, barn red-colored restaurant with a wooden porch overlooking the parking lot. With no signs on the road, I didn’t notice there were restaurants sharing the building with other stores.
As we walked up the wheelchair accessible ramp to the restaurant, a waitress greeted us and sweetly showed us inside. The first thing I noticed was the large wooden bar that cut through the room and separated the dining area from the kitchen. To the right were multiple candle-lit tables surrounded by wooden walls, giving the room a rustic feel.
The bar was centered in the middle of the establishment, allowing customers to see over it straight into the kitchen, where they can watch their food being prepared. Standing behind the bar as we approached was a waitress, who greeted us with a large smile, ready to show us to our seats. Due to the warm weather, I chose outdoor seating at one of the picnic tables that lined the porch outside the front doors.
As we sat down, we were given mason jars as cups and a large pitcher of water for the table. The menu was a one-sided piece of paper with a separate leaflet for the drink menu. The restaurant offers a separate menu for lunch and dinner, because only sandwiches and sides are offered during lunch. The dinner menu offered a variety of classic BBQ dishes including beef brisket, pork and beef ribs, and fried chicken. The only vegetarian option, outside of a salad, is the smoked polenta.
I ordered my favorite BBQ dish, the beef brisket sandwich with a side salad and a glass of homemade lemonade, while my friend ordered the smoked polenta with a side of cornbread and a Boylan bottled root beer. The restaurant was almost full while we were there, yet we only waited about 20 minutes before our food was served. The beef brisket came in large slices on a toasted bun with a variety of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber drenched in balsamic dressing on the side. The polenta came in cubic form surrounded by baked beans and an egg, with a massive piece of cornbread on the side.
The brisket was soft and delicious, but drier than I would prefer. The homemade BBQ sauce that was supplied at the table was a bit watery, but tasted strong and tangy. The brisket soaked up the sauce, which solved my issue by making it much juicier and tasty. The salad was very fresh and the cucumbers were crunchy, but soaked up a lot of the dressing by the end of my meal.
The polenta was extremely hot when it got to the table and we allowed it to cool while eating the cornbread, which was buttery and sweet. The polenta on its own had a smoky flavor and was a bit bland for a meal, but was delicious when mixed with the beans and egg. The greens that came with the polenta were a mix of spinach and soggy stalks that didn’t taste very delectable.
Both meals were large and more than enough to satisfy any appetite. On top of the ordered food, each meal was accompanied by a small side of pickle slices, hence the name “Pork and Pickles.” I’m not a huge fan of pickles, but I truly enjoyed the sweet, crunchy pickles served by the restaurant. Our drink sizes matched the size of the meals. The Boylan root beer came bottled and tasted raw, but rich and filling. The homemade lemonade was exceedingly sweet and sour at the same time, so I ended up watering it down to fit my taste. I highly recommend the lemonade with any dish.
The dessert menu consisted of one item: strawberry shortcake with fresh, organic strawberries, topped with whipped cream. Unfortunately, we were both stuffed from such a large dinner and decided not to order dessert. The table beside my own split their shortcake between four people and could barely finish it.
Overall, Pork and Pickles BBQ provides copious servings of delicious meat options, and some vegetarian, accompanied by tasty sauce, sweet drinks, and a relaxing, rustic atmosphere. Its location between Johnson and Burlington makes this restaurant the perfect place for students to stop for dinner on their way back to campus from a day of shopping in Burlington.