Taste Bud: Bring on the Big Dude

I’m not sure I was quite prepared when Teanitia Lashley presented me with the Big Dude.

Wow, that sounded dirty. Let me explain: The Big Dude is a menu item at Pig Out Barbecue in Shelbyville, just a couple of blocks off I-64 at exit 35. It’s Lashley’s Americanized, down-home-barbecue version of ossobuco — and Italian dish that basically replaces lamb shank with pork shank and substitutes homestyle sides for braised tomatoes and other vegetables.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Joanna, who works there and tipped me off to the place. I made the drive for lunch last week, and Teanitia, who runs Pig Out with her mom, Kippie, hooked me up with a sampler plate of sorts. (Proof that it’s good to know people in the barbecue business.)

Several items jumped out at me, one of them being the Big Dude. This thing is roughly a pound and a half of meat, as it’s basically a whole freaking pig leg. For $14.99, you get a Big Dude and two sides, and I feel fairly certain it could come close to feeding two people. The pork is ridiculously tender and flavorful, marinated for half a day and braised in sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. It’s a cliché, I realize, but the stuff darn near melts in your mouth.

The next on my list of new loves are the Hogwings. That’s right, Hogwings. These, basically, are smaller versions of the Big Dude — so, they technically could have been called “Little Dudes.” But I think Hogwings work quite well.

“We were trying to find something catchy,” Lashley said. Mission accomplished.

The Hogwings are equally as tasty as the Big Dude, but they are lightly deep fried for a bit of added crispness. It really is a lot like eating a chicken wing in that you can pick it up and eat it, dip it in sauce if you want, and when you’re done, all that’s left is a bone. You get six and two sides for $12.99. Prepare to be full.

Why the Big Dude and Hogwings? When working on the menu for Pig Out, which Lashley took over about a year ago, she wanted something different and was exploring other places for ideas.

“Those are two different things I’d never had,” she said. “When I taste tested them, I said, ‘Hell yeah!’”

I almost did, too.

Another Pig Out menu item you should try — or maybe you already have — is the Ralph Burger. Pig Out occupies the former site of Ralph’s Market, which was well known for its burger. Lashley bought the recipe from the former owners, and the Ralph Burger is now alive and well in Shelbyville.

She and Kippie made me a tiny version of it, complete with pickle, onion and tomato, and I have to admit that it’s a damn fine burger. Lashley swears the recipe is nothing terribly special — mostly just a generous helping of fresh, lean, quality beef.

“The flavor of the grill is what makes it special,” Lashley said. “It’s just a pure, lean, good old burger.”

“Good old cow ass,” Joanna interjected.

Um, right.

The sides are all solid, from macaroni and cheese to baked beans to homestyle green beans. The standouts for me, however, were the baked potato salad — loaded with sour cream, bacon, shredded cheese and green onions — and the homemade coleslaw.

I’m usually not a coleslaw fan, because it tends to be a bowl of shredded cabbage swimming in white goo. The stuff at Pig Out is more like a mini-salad, sans all the goo. It’s fresh and crisp and not overly sweet, despite Lashley’s warning that she puts a lot of sugar in it.

Next on my list of favorites I tried would have to be the pulled pork. Add one of the house-made sauces — I enjoyed Pig Out’s Best for its tanginess — and you’ve got a mouthful of tender heaven.

One item I didn’t get to try was the fried pickles, which is one of Joanna’s favorites. She said it’s the cornmeal in the breading that makes it for her. She got some for her kids once and now sort of regrets it.

“Every time we drive by now, they say, ‘Mom, can we get some fried pickles?’”

You know, I don’t think I could drive by there now without stopping for some Hogwings. Or a Big Dude, if I was really hungry. If the pickles are anywhere near as good as the other stuff, I totally get it, kids.