What kind of BBQ restaurant do YOU want in Salem?

While getting my BBQ-education at the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association Judging and Cooking class hosted by Wild Pineapple, I found myself sitting next to Ken Pickett, owner of the former Smokin Swine Publick House.  He was there to brush up on his own BBQ education, and get a better understanding of what goes into competition 'Q.  Ken and I talked for a little while about Smokin Swine and the events that occurred which led to it's sad, ultimate demise.  In short, Ken says, "I screwed up."  He recognizes that he had a good thing going, and attempted to grow too fast.  During class, I leaned over and whispered, "I have two goals today: 1) Learn about judging competitive BBQ, and 2) Convince you to re-open Smokin Swine."  In my conversations with him, he confided that he is indeed mulling over starting up the Smokin Swine again.  He's tossing around some ideas, from standard walk-in restaurant as it was before, to mobile BBQ unit like the Kogi Korean BBQ trucks.  But he hasn't decided anything yet.

And now, faithful Eat Salem Readers, here's where you come in.  I suggested that we rally the Eat Salem troops and ask Salem what Salem wants.  You have a unique opportunity here to sound off and have a say in what kind of BBQ restaurant we get to have in Salem.  Do you want a mobile BBQ truck available that can change locations weekly (like Kogi)?  Do you want a sit-down BBQ restaurant?  Do you want something available in North Salem? South Salem? Lancaster? Keizer?  Now is your opportunity to speak up!  Ken will be monitoring EatSalem.com and compiling all the feedback here so he can do his best to try and deliver what you want.

Please Note: Constructive criticism and honest opinions will bring the most value to this conversation.  "Smokin Swine sucked. I hated it..." will not help, and that kind of comment will probably be removed.  On the other hand something like, "Smokin Swine consistently served old crawdads that smelled like my great aunt's feet..." is perfectly acceptable criticism (I don't think they actually had crawdads on the menu).




45 comments:

Salem Man said...

South Salem or downtown. Order at the counter. Smoked meats. Kids menu. Outdoor dining in summer.

Amber said...

I second Salem Man's outdoor dining comment. We need more of that. But I kind of like the truck idea, especially if they give updates on their location. We've misplaced our favorite taco truck, not knowing where it's next location was going to be.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

I agree with Salem Man (location, format, seating). I like the idea of ordering at the counter as well, but NOT cafeteria-style (like Busters) - sorry Salem Man.

Meats must be smoked on site (not purchased pre-cooked). I really want a place that serves ribs that I can honestly say are THE BEST ribs in town and feel good about it. A place that occasionally runs out of product tells me that it's cooked daily, and that's perfectly fine.

I'd like to see local products used whenever possible. For example, beef from LingFarm, pies from Willamette Fruit, etc. It's great to know that when I order a meal, I'm supporting 3 or 4 different local companies and families within my community.

I'd also add that beer on tap is a must, and it would be great if we could have live music.

I'm sure I'll think of more later.

jeff said...

I have to admit - the Smokin' Swine I liked best was the second one - the one on Market St. The food was great, the decor divine.

The third one (Lancaster) was just sterile.... Unless there was some stuff going on behind the scenes that I didn't know about, Ken's problem was landlords who kept kicking him out of locations after he'd become established.

Sit-down is best, btw. Food carts work in Portland, but they've got a heck of a lot higher population density.

Rebekah said...

I think a small place is fine. Counter-style ordering goes well with a small spot as well. I think something central. Location is key. Perhaps not downtown, but I wouldn't locate WAY out in any direction.

I like the idea of more food carts in the Salem area. We are really lacking in that area, but a cozy little BBQ spot sounds pretty nice too. I DEFINITELY like the idea of outdoor seating though!

Other than that, good BBQ (already have that down), good sides and good service!

Anonymous said...

What kind of BBQ do I want in Salem? I want Smokin Swine! I do, I do. I miss it so.... I don't care where they open up, if they were to re-open I would make the trip. Beer on tap is a must and home-made, unique sauces are a must.

Obviously the meat has to be cooked in-house. It's not BBQ if it isn't and hardly even a restaurant if it isn't. Outdoor seating is great too but whatever! Bring on the BBQ!

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to think that there is a possibility of the Smokin' Swine re-opening. Frankly, I don't care what the style of the place is, I will go there as long as the food is the same as it was before. I was very sad when I heard the place was closing.

The food was always great there. I had several friends that would make trips to Salem from Portland because of the Smokin Swine.

Ken was a teacher of mine when I was in middle school (Whiteaker 1995-1996), so it was kind of cool to be able to eat at his place and say I once knew him.

Fingers crossed that something works out that the place can re-open.

KandN said...

I too am excited over the possibility of having Smokin Swine again. Like Jeff, my favorite was the Market Street set-up; table service, awesome decor and funky furniture. I remember one time N and I were there enjoying live music while we ate. :>) Outdoor dining? That would be a wonderful extra.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I already have what i want in a bBQ restaurant with Adam's Rib. That is more than enough for me. :)

Anonymous said...

The Smokin Swine was my favorite Salem restaurant. Their second location was perfect. It was a North Carolina inspired BBQ Joint. No one did Pulled Pork like the Swine. Being from NC I know pulled pork. Ken forget the Mobile Cart, and forget trying to be some large souless place like Busters or Tuff Ranch. Just be a nice North Carolina inspired Mom and Pop joint with an onsite pit smoker, low and slow smoked meats and house made sides. We miss you guys, bring back the Smokin Swine.

Anonymous said...

Bring back that wonderful yummy cornbread!

Amecameca said...

I would like to see a BBQ place is Salem that is just like Big Stuff BBQ in Cottage Grove:

http://bigstuffbarbecue.com/

It starts with a wood smoker that you can see and smell on site. The meat is fresh every day. The sides are high quality. There is a good selection of beer. The pit master takes a lot of pride in his work. Take a field trip to Cottage Grove and see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Smokin Swine was good eats! We took a party of about 16 people there once on Market St and it was excellent.

Ordering at the counter is fine with BBQ, in fact, I sort of prefer it, because you can often peek at the meats before choosing to see what looks best that day.

Just my 2 bits.

Anything for more local BBQ.

KandN said...

Big Stuff BBQ sounds impressive! Thanks for sharing Amecameca!

Anonymous said...

We were big fans of smokin swine.

I have been in the restaurant business all my life and it really comes down to location. I've seen great restaurants fizzle because of bad locations and very average restaurant thrive due to location.

Look at Best Little Roadhouse. If you took their operation to Lancaster or market street, they would do terrible with their very average food. Look at how well they do where they are at - packed all the time.

I think downtown or close in south salem. Thompson's is a good model - though building code & the ADA folks pretty much prevents cool places like that anymore.

Hope to see you open again (in close in south salem).

Anonymous said...

I would love to see two types of BBQ places in Salem:

(1) Traditional smokey BBQ w/ BBQ classics (Carolina pulled pork, ribs, Texas brisket, etc.) and great sides (corn bread, mashed potatoes, baked beans, potato salad, mac n cheese, etc.). Wide selection of good beers on tap and in the bottle. Picnic tables inside and out. Good pies. Outside dining under big trees (similar to the outdoor seating at Thompsons). I don't like ordering at the counter -- prefer having wait staff. Noisy and vibrant. Located downtown or in South Salem. My dream location would be the original Wild Pear location on South River Road -- that place is just begging for a great BBQ joint.

(2) My mouth waters for Korean BBQ -- cook thinly sliced meat at your own in-table grill. Yum! I wish we did not have to go to Portland, Seattle, or SF to get it.

Thanks for asking.

Kristi said...

I was not a salemite when Smokin' Swine existed before, but what I want in a barbeque joint is care and attention to detail. There are enough Midwesterners out here to know what good bbq really is, and honestly I haven't found any out here yet. Lots of the local places have good and even great days, but consistency is a problem. I care less about style (NC, Kansas City, Texas, etc.) and more about quality. I do favor a downtown, outdoor option eatery, but will travel for good food. :)

Salem Man said...

The old Wild Pair location on S. River Rd. would be ideal for BBQ and more. I wonder why they haven't been able to get a tenant in there since WP left.

Anonymous said...

I love that location of the old Wild Pear, but it would really be a bad move. You want to be closer to busy roads and population centers. It is a numbers game with restaurants. No matter how good you are, you need people filling tables as much as possible and you would do that much better in town. Closer to more people who are getting hungry at varying times.

That said - I do LOVE that location for a restaurant/pub for my own visiting/eating/drinking. It just wouldn't do nearly as well as being near dense population.

From what I heard the rent was high. You'd have to do very low overhead out there to make up for the lack of lunch crowds and the odd slow day because 85% of salem wouldn't know where you were.

Anonymous said...

I think the old WP location would be good if the owner of the property would consider negotiating with the SS to be open only on weekends and holidays. Hey, it’s better than sitting empty. That location has BBQ written all over it. I know I would drive the few miles to sit outside with a cold brew and eat the Swine’s fantastic BBQ. Let’s get this thing going, I don’t care where they open , just get open, I’m hungry for great BBQ!!!!!

Snarfy said...

I really just want someplace I can walk in, order a great messy pulled pork sandwich for 5 bucks or less, and eat it outside on the grass.

Anonymous said...

The old Wild Pear would be a terrible location. No lunch crowd. A very limited audience. It is a cool space, but restaurants have a lot of overhead whether they are open one day a week or seven. You need to sell a lot of BBQ to meet those costs before you start making any money.

Anonymous said...

I loved the Smokin Swine until it moved to Lancaster. I still miss it and had some really great memories from it, so hearing that it could come back really makes me happy. One of my favorite things about the place beyond the great food was the huge portion sizes. There are several places around town I simply have no interest going to because I feel like they're being stingy. I don't really care about the venue so much as if it can get food, sauces and portion sizes like they used to be. Also, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if it was in West Salem so I wouldn't have to trek out as far.

Anonymous said...

What about in West Salem? We need BBQ too and it's not far from downtown and you'd bring people from further out West. Smokin' Swine was yummy. I agree with outside seating, if possible and order at the counter is fine too.

Anonymous said...

The Smokin' Swine was the best BBQ around period. If I'm not mistaken, It was rated #6 in the country by a national travel magazine. And to not have that kind of quality available is surely a shame. Mobile BBQ just sounds to seasonal to me. This kind of great food should be consumed in a place of character, with the proper refreshments available. I would much rather pay an extra buck or two more to eat in a place with atmosphere. Then send the truck out to different parts of the city. You might even consider delivery. I'd buy it.

Anonymous said...

I definitely loves Smokin' Swine when it was open. Always an amazing experience when it was open. Nothing but good food and good people. Don't know about the mobile idea thought... Seems too half-baked for my tastes. All I know is I want the best barbecue I've ever had from a restaurant back in Salem!

Charlie said...

Anything Ken decides to do would get my business. SS was my favorite BBQ of all time... really. However, I'm from Texas, and I've been to several BBQ takeout place down there. I like taking my BBQ home so I can eat it with my own coleslaw. Gotta have peanuts in my slaw. Locate as central as possible cause I live in West Salem.

Ken Pickett said...

I have been following the comments for a week now and it's time for me to respond. First of all I want to thank all of you for the feedback. I will consider each and every one of them before I open. I closed because I let people talk me into doing something I didn't really feel good about, expanding. Big mistake!!!!! Next time I will do it according to my inner peace. I feel I want to work out of a custom made concession trailer; it would have my smoker on board. I can be mobile and also take it onsite to catering and festival type events.
I have three reasons for working out of a concession:
1. I would like to be available in different areas. I will post my next location on Twitter before each move. I would like to stay in each location two weeks at a time.
2. I will not have employees to watch over and make sure they will do things correctly. The entire menu made will be by my hands only.
3. The BBQ will be fresh daily. Nothing will be held over from the previous day.

I plan on being open at least 3 days/week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) in each location, it’s time for me to semi-retire. Part of the problem last time was that I burned myself out by being open 7 days a week. Life is too short to work so hard while my family and personal life suffer.

Again, thank you for your encouraging comments. This time I will depend on my Heavenly Father to guide me and every step be bathed in prayer. This time I’m listening to the voice inside me.
Ken Pickett

Chuck Bradley said...

Ken,

Wonderful news!

A respectful suggestion. Don't forget Facebook for getting the word out on your new endeavor and it's location moves.

Can't wait!

Salem Man said...

Ken, I can't wait to try your bbq. I'm sorry I never had it before. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Ken, we will be there! Following the scent of your smoker around town. You're absolutely right, life is too short to work it all away. Your plan sounds great and we can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the commenting party but wanted to chime in support for a South Salem location. We just moved here from Tennessee and have been appalled (seriously) by the lack of good Q - adam's rib included.

My mother is a Memphis in May judge and ran her own team (that was featured in Vogue, long ago!) so I'll be the first to admit that we're a little spoiled when it comes to BBQ, but seriously, this would be so successful if there were someone out there who could get it right.

Praying for good Q in the PNW,
ECT

Jodi B said...

The idea of a moving food cart in Salem is awesome. Love the Smokin' Swine and to have it back as a food cart that moved locations would be great. Just don't forget the hush puppies! Make sure you keep us updated on your Twitter/Facebook location.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

AHHH the hush puppies! One of my very favorite parts of the good ol' Smokin Swine. No one else makes them so perfectly. Total let-down the first time I ordered them from Adam's Ribs lately. Ken you're on it, right?!

Anonymous said...

The slim pickins for gluten free choices at Salem restaurants (even tho they say they have gluten free menus, I routinely get sick ordering off of them)so any BBQ made using spices/sauces that are gluten and MSG free would be very, very welcome. Also I really miss the red slaw. Man that was the best thing ever!

Anonymous said...

I'd vote for South Salem...real dearth of good places out here.

Carolina Q would be good. Multiple sauces and meats would be ideal.

And don't forget the sweet tea. Buster's lost serious credibility with me when they stopped serving sweet tea.

Crystal said...

I actually worked for Smokin Swine in Bend. I had just moved from Texas back when they opened the restaurant. The food was AMAZING and I miss it so much. When I had heard that they had to close down both stores, I was devastated. If anybody can get in touch with them, please email me at crys_bergen@yahoo.com. My name is Crystal and I'm hoping maybe for a recipe for their pulled pork for myself! Pass on that Texas misses them! :)

Crystal Yell (Texas) said...

KEN! I just saw your comment! I will bookmark this page now so that I can see if you or Kathy write again. I miss you guys! I wish you could open up down in Texas, but I will be moving to Germany soon. I agree about facebook. Almost everybody uses it and I looked for you and Kathy on there to keep in touch, but I haven't found either of you! Look me up if you decide to go on there!

Crystal Bergen Yell said...

I used to work at the Smokin' Swine, but in Bend. I had moved up there 1 week prior to it opening from Texas. Everybody there was so friendly and the food was amazing! (My favorite was the pulled pork, so I'll take that recipe) I wish that they could have opened up shop in Texas (San Antonio is where I'm living). I was so sad when I learned of what had happened to the Smokin' Swine when I talked to Kathy many years back.

Ken! It's Crystal (Texas).Please look me up if you see this message! You guys can email me crys_bergen@yahoo.com or find me on facebook at the same email. I looked for you and your wife on there, but found nothing. Hope you all are doing great, and I'm so excited to hear that yall might be opening back up! I will have to stop by next time we're in the area! (My husband's family lives in Dundee) Miss you guys!

Crys

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the return of Smokin' Swine! I actually liked the first location--it was cozy.

Another suggestion--something like West Bros. BBQ in Eugene before something went terribly wrong. (It moved, the quality went steeply downhill, and now it is closed.)

But the first few years it was open it had great meat and delicious sides. And it was a BBQ joint that also served great vegetarian food! (It was in Eugene after all.) I'm no longer a vegetarian (bring on the pulled pork!) but I still have very fond memories of a Chicken-Fried Tofu special with garlic mash.

Something like West Bros. might not fly in conservative Salem, but it was great to be able to take your family to a place where everyone from carnivore to vegan could find something to eat.

R said...

Smokin' Swine's Carolina Sunrise sauce was the best! I have used up my last bottle and wonder if, even though the restaurants are closed, Ken is still producing this sauce. Anyone know how to obtain some?

Chuck Bradley said...

These are my notes from a visit back in mid-may:

Not bad at all. Why BBQ places struggle in the mid-valley is a question which has long perplexed me. I tried their pulled pork sandwich today. They offer four varieties of sauce: Smokey, Sweet, Tangy Amber and Spicy. Smokey and Spicy were my favorites. The pulled pork meat lacked the smokey flavor I enjoy, but the sauces helped make up for that. All in all a decent BBQ joint. I hope they fare better then most others have in the Salem area.

Anonymous said...

I've never been a fan of Smokin' Swine, though I tried several times. I even had a pulled pork sandwich today from their food booth at the Powerhouse Museum in Brooks. I could only eat half and my stomach hurt the rest of the day. Smokin' Swine has made me not want to eat pulled pork out again.

Gerri said...

We are watching BBQ Pitmasters on TLC and reminiscing about Smokin' Swine LOL. We LOVED the 2nd location and ate there as often as we could - at least 2 times a month, and I would take home a whole sweet potato pie LOL. PLEASE sit down and not buffet style - we live in S Salem but we would go to wherever Ken Pickeett sets up his restaurant!

Chuck Bradley said...

Any updated info on Ken Pickett's/Smokin' Swine concession trailer. I sure hope it happens. That would be a wonderful thing!