Smoke and mortality

Can The Dancing Pig's smoked chicken mend a broken heart?


CHEAP EATS Earl Butter's dad died, so they cremated him and put him in a cookie jar. Words were said by Earl Butter. I wasn't there, or someone would have laughed at his joke about the Waltons.

On the day that Earl Butter was flying back from New Hampshire, I walked past a new barbecue place in the Castro. It smelled real good. I was hungry. It was lunchtime...


Earl Butter being one of my longest standing and therest-for-me friends, I just kept walking.

Picked out some flowers at my favorite flower shop on 18th Street. I forget what it's called and I'm not a flower shop reviewer, so suffice to say that they were very pretty flowers and someone even said so.

A woman!

"Nice colors," she said, as I was walking past Bi-Rite, which is my favorite place to buy butter, but not flowers. I would have bought Earl Butter butter, too, except I never know what he's eating these days.

The milk in his fridge was soy milk, or rice milk, or even for all I knew almond milk. So instead of buying butter I swept his kitchen floor.

But anyway, I always know that whatever else Earl Butter is or isn't eating, he's up for barbecue. He could become a vegetarian, and he still would eat barbecue with me. I feel this in my heart and in my soul. I feel it in my very stomach, even. Dude's a BBBQFF, for sure.

Unlike some people I know.

So, hell yeah I swept his floor, washed his dishes, and scrubbed his filthy stovetop until you could almost see it. Did I feel bad about not going to New Hampshire for my BBBQFF's dad's memorial service?

I didn't. I mean, I didn't think that I did until I started writing all this. Then: all the nice things that I did for him on the day of his return. Oh yeah, I paid for the vodka that we got, even though I knew I wasn't going to drink any of it.

One day, I am led to believe, my own parents will die. Yours too. All of ours, I am led to believe. And this is why I have not myself had children.

Logic was never my strong suit. Whereas eating barbecue...

So, yes, so as soon as Earl Butter came home I started in on him: "Hungry? How about now? How about now? It's on me. They don't feed you on airplanes anymore, do they? You must be famished. Now?"

And eventually he said yes. Then away we traipsed to the Dancing Pig, my new favorite restaurant — but not on the strength of their chicken.

The spare ribs were good, and the sides that I tried were fantastic. The collards had chunks of bacon in them, the fries were fresh cut and perfectly done, and the green salad with citrus vinaigrette hit the spot.

Generous portions all around, and yum.

But the chicken. Dry city. You can't smoke chickens without them getting most-of-the-time all dried out, see? It's hit or miss, but mostly, in my experience, miss. That's why where I come from we fried or barbecued chicken, instead of barbecuing it.

But I have an even better idea: Go ahead and barbecue it! Just don't smoke it. Difference being: high heat. Not scorching hot like you want for burgers or steaks. But in-between that and the low, slow smoke job that pork wants, there is a sweet spot I have found in every kind of smoker I've ever used where even a lean, mean free-range chicken will come out juicy inside, and crispy out in around an hour. And, if you load your fire up with hickory or (better yet) apple wood chunks, it will be plenty smoky.

Which is to say: it can be done.

I stopped ever ordering chicken in barbecues after Cliff's on Bayshore bit it. Then, in New Orleans, I stumbled on someone does it like I'm saying. High Hat Café. Smoked roasted chicken, they call it.

I'm guessing they start it in the smoker, then finish it in the oven. And, like mine, it's juicy and delicious.

So there you have it, restaurants. Never say I never did anything for you.

Related articles

  • Drifting by

    THE WEEKNIGHTER Taking it all in over cocktails at Driftwood

  • Let's go eat

    TABLEHOPPING This week's openings include Arguello, Marlowe gets a new home, Quince reveals its fresh look, and dinner launches at Wise Sons.

  • Hype machine

    TABLEHOPPING Lazy Bear lumbers into the light, Mid-Market scores another dining spot, plus oyster happy hours

  • Also from this author

  • Three! Out!

    Baseball in Italy? Oh yes, it happened.

  • Three! Out!

    Grosetto, Parma, Scalera, and Hedgehog: In the Game goes to Italy

  • Fire fight

    Police versus fire department versus pig with mustache versus Pinkie (a basketball story)