Restaurant: HogsHead Cafe
Address: 9503 W. Broad St.
Phone: (804) 308-0281
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Check for two: $40, including a 20 percent tip.
Specials: The specials board is updated daily and the staff even posts a photo of it on the cafe’s Facebook page. Tuesday to Friday, happy hour offers $3.50 craft drafts and $2.50 domestic drafts.
Ambience: Small, comfortable, friendly with decor you’d expect for a barbecue joint. When we arrived at 7, the restaurant was full of older customers. Shortly after we ordered, the place cleared out and a younger clientele started to arrive.
Service: Our waitress was excellent, full of personality and helpful information.
Taste: My friend and I met at HogsHead on a Wednesday evening to see what all the TripAdvisor fuss was about. Based on user reviews, the cafe landed on the site’s Top 10 list of best U.S. barbecue joints in May. As we perused the menu, I heard one of the waitresses comment to another customer that the place had been packed since it earned TripAdvisor’s designation.
I’d read raves about the Hog Dog, a hot dog wrapped in bacon and deep-fried. Then it’s topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and coleslaw. As a special, the cafe was offering what it calls the Pignic Dog ($12.99), which was the bacon-wrapped hot dog, deep-fried and topped with pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad, onion rings and a bacon-topped deviled egg. Sold, I told the waitress.
When she brought it, I realized this would be a knife-and-fork endeavor; even then, it was hard to get everything into one bite. But it’s worth the effort to create the perfect bite of flavors and textures. The hot dog offers some snap, the bacon a little crispy crunch, the beans and pulled pork some smoke and meatiness, then the potato salad gives a little creaminess and zing. Top with a little piece of onion ring and maybe a little piece of the roll, and your dining companion will be enjoying a few moments of silence while you chew.
I admit I ate the deviled egg all by itself and it was creamy, sweet and tangy. Bacon bits on top added a salty crunch. A housemade maple dipping sauce accompanied my side of sweet potato fries. The sauce was thick, sweet and addictive and went well with the crispy, sweet fries; the waitress said the recipe is secret, so don’t bother asking what else is in it.
My friend chose the spicy tacos ($13.99) with blackened shrimp, a spicy chipotle cream sauce, ranch slaw, tomatoes and cilantro. He said they were fresh, flavorful and (yes) spicy. Since he can handle more spice than I can, I wanted to know just how spicy they were. He said fairly hot, which means borderline too much heat for me, but I tried a small piece of shrimp without the sauce and it was perfectly cooked with a spiced, smoky flavor. A side of fries ($3.49) was crinkle-cut, crisp and salty.