WHOLE HOG SATURDAYS AT NICK’S BARBECUE
Nick’s Barbecue (one of the Jim ‘N Nick’s restaurant group) has a whole lot to be excited about. After a renovation of philosophy, interior design, and service, the popular pork stop on Charleston’s retail-heavy King Street, has a new prospect ahead: whole hog dinners. That’s right, Nick’s is cooking up entire pigs for some very special dinners. This past Saturday, Nick’s celebrated their fourth Whole Hog Saturday of 2013 and the first of a weekly series. Georgia native John Haire, owner of the King Street spot (which he calls the “smallest but coolest” of the franchise), spoke with us about the whole she-bang, which is a lengthy process that’s all about tradition.
“There’s a purity and genuineness of it. Let’s serve a lot of people with one hog. How pure is that?” Haire explained while greeting every cook and server that was headed home. Some of them arrived at 5 a.m. to get cracking on the whole hog, and many of Haire’s employees have been with him for as many as 20 years. The sense of community the Nick’s staff has is like a family, something you’d see at a barbecue picnic.
“Within 30 minutes of being open, you’ll hear five to six stories. Some [customers] have never had a hog, and others are going right back to the roots” said Haire. “It’s a catalyst for people to talk.”
A little about the pig: an entire hog smoked for 15 to 18 hours. ‘Nuff said. The condiments are simple: a side sauce (apple cider vinegar and pepper) with a homemade rub (sugar, garlic, paprika, and a whole slew of other spices Haire is not at liberty to share). Just like the spice rub, there’s a little bit of everything in a whole hog sandwich: from the traditional flavor of pork shoulder to the fatty pork belly, with a bit of bacon almost guaranteed. “Bacon takes you to that special place,” Haire said. Whatever is in it, people can’t seem to get enough: each event has quickly sold out.
Community-style dinners aren’t an all-new playing field for the restaurant. Nick’s has sticky fingers in community outreach, feeding 250 people at a neighborhood house this past Christmas or passing out pork shoulder and their famous cheese biscuits to people at Charleston’s Crisis Ministries. It’s also delved a little into the college community, and whole hog is becoming more popular for group gatherings. With a regular basis and being one of the only places in downtown Charleston, Nick’s has a community pining for pork, and they’re getting the whole picture.
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