Tom Sietsema wrote about Black Hog for a January 2010 First Bite column.
Mike Tauraso says he's been "playing around with sauces and rubs" in his back yard for at least 20 years. When an old radiator shop came on the market in Frederick in November 2007, the Maryland restaurateur snapped up the property. From its brick walls and tin roof to its concrete floors and nearby parking lot, the 1913 building had everything a proper barbecue joint demanded, figured Tauraso, who eventually opened Black Hog the following August. It didn't hurt that the project was less than a mile from his more formal Tasting Room restaurant, also on Market Street.
Tauraso has taken some criticism for naming his younger place after the rare heritage-breed pigs prized for their flavor and texture, since no such pedigreed meat is served in his 57-seat dining room. "We're not doing anything wrong," he says. The name, he insists, was chosen to reflect the high quality of the service and food.
I can vouch for the former. The howdy at Black Hog is sincere, the drinks come quickly and there's more attention paid the customer than one might expect of such a laid-back operation.
The cooking, on the other hand, is mixed. The most memorable of the meats are the snappy, scored pork-and-beef sausage and the finely chopped "Carolina" pork splashed with vinegar. (Customers can choose from among five sauces representing as many barbecue regions.) An order of juicy chicken wings underscores Black Hog's biggest problem: The kitchen has a heavy hand with sugar. Chicken wings shouldn't remind you of dessert. Nor should baked beans, mustard sauce or corn bread. As for the sides, collard greens have sufficient sass, but macaroni and cheese comes off dry and vague tasting. Except for those wings, none of the food we got on a recent weeknight was hot.
Signs on the wall near the small bar show the distance from Black Hog to iconic barbecue cities around the country. Kansas City, for instance, is 1,029 miles away, while Memphis is 867 miles removed. Evidence of how detached we were from the real deal, however, was mere inches away: on the table in front of us.
Barbecue plates (with one side and corn bread), $9.99-$17.49
(Jan. 6, 2010)