Texas is BBQ country. Beef barbecue to be clear, but you already knew that. You find your classic beef brisket, chopped beef, and beef short ribs basically anywhere you go. So what happens when a little Carolina ‘cue comes to town and starts making waves? Well Curly’s Perfect Pig is doing just that, bringing Carolina barbecue, aka pork barbecue, to the cattle-hungry Texans of Austin.
Situated in a bright pink trailer in the parking lot of a restaurant not far from campus, Curly’s Perfect Pig is serving up pulled pork like there’s no tomorrow. After months of resisting the swine siren, I made it a point to go check out the “competition” as it were. I walked up to the one-man operation for a late lunch and was faced with a choice: North or South Carolina sandwich. North puts the slaw right on the sandwich while South keeps the slaw on the side but with a mustard-based BBQ sauce right on top. I went with the North Carolina style, known as the Raleighwood. Throw in some pan-fried cornbread and we’re all set.
But we weren’t all set. Jay, the one-man operation, insisted on showing me a tour of other sides, so he added on some fried okra and a cucumber tomato salad free of charge, and for that I am grateful. So I took my seat in the shade at a picnic table and awaited my Carolina feast. With what seemed like forever but was likely 8 minutes, my styrofoam container was delivered with care and Jay bid me good eating.
What you see above in a clockwise fashion is fried okra, cucumber-tomato salad, pan-fried cornbread, and the pièce de résistance, the Raleighwood sandwich. The sandwich is… out of control. I picked it up and the first thought was “this bread is about to dissolve”. Fear not! The toasted bread holds up just fine, even with the comical amount of meat stuffed in between. As for the meat, this pulled pork holds
the my top spot. It’s lean and juicy and tender and loving and beautiful. Topped with a crunchy slaw that erases any notion that “you don’t like cole slaw”. Because this cole slaw makes everything better. At first you might think “I can’t eat this whole thing”. Don’t worry. Take a bite and you’ll be fine.
To go with the sandwich I rotated between the fried okra, cucumber tomato salad, and corn bread. The fried okra has a salty, crunchy coating found only on the best tater tots out there. Inside is a green, definitely-not-slimy slice of okra. You can almost feel good about eating a vegetable, except that it’s 50/50 fried/okra.
But that’s where the refreshing cucumber tomato salad comes in. It’s soaked in a light, sweet vinegar dressing like the early stages of bread-and-butter pickles. With the comforting okra and cornbread potentially weighing down your tastebuds, the cucumber tomato salad brightens everything up to keep you going back for me.
It took me a few minutes to place it, but I realized that the cornbread tastes a lot like a pancake made with cornmeal instead of flour. Because that’s basically what it is. It has a great, deep flavor from the cast iron pan it was undoubtedly fried in. I can’t say if I got a normal size order, but if I did, it’s huge for the $2 price tag. Easily enough to share with two or three friends. I would have liked a few corn kernels baked in, or something else to give a little texture, but it was still a great addition to the plate.
As for Jay, he’s a native Carolinian with vinegar coursing through his veins. After a stint in the military he spent nearly a decade in Nashville (woot!) before moving to Austin earlier this year. Now he’s redefining barbecue (or at least making people think twice about it). Be sure to give him a visit and tell him I said hi, not that he knows me. Just ’cause it’s nice.