Green Pig Bistro makes it on my dining to do list because it’s been the subject of some positive buzz. I haven’t really focused on the details of the buzz because there are a few things holding me back from dining here. 1) it’s in Clarendon 2) it has the word pig in the title, which is a deterrent for my husband and many of my regular dining companions, and 3) it’s in Clarendon.
I have dinner plans with a friend who 1) has no food restrictions 2) gets as excited about discovering new restaurants as I do, and 3) is willing to drive to Clarendon on a weeknight. I am positively giddy when I realize that my opportunity has arrived. We’re going to Green Pig Bistro and no one can stop us from full on pigging out.
Let me just say this: do not attempt to drive from Rockville to Clarendon at 6:45 on a weeknight and expect to get there by 7:30. It’s not happening. Traffic is not on your side. I know that there are thousands of people who do this commute every day, including people who I work with. I now realize that I should cut them some slack if they get a little cranky. About anything. Traffic can lead to insanity.
We arrive at Green Pig around 8:10. I am hungry and in somewhat desperate need of a drink. We are led through the cozy front room to a much larger area in the back. The five month-old restaurant is hopping. It’s one of those places that are rustic and modern at the same time. There is a commitment to sustainability evident in the decor as well as the menu. The Washingtonian’s Todd Kliman refers to it as “hipster farmhouse,” which is a perfect descriptor. It’s a little loud and a lot dark , a trend I’m hoping will end soon. Unfortunately restaurant designers are not on board with me on this. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to a good meal.
I begin with a Peachy Manhattan to take the edge off. Bourbon, peach bitters, sweet vermouth, and dried orange peel. It does the trick in terms of calming my traffic-induced anxiety.
The cuisine at Green Pig Bistro is described as “classic rustic French cooking – with a decidedly American push.” Chef/Owner Scot Harlan has designed a menu that “utilizes the entire product, from head to tail.” It includes some unique dishes such as corned ox heart reuben, blood cake with fried egg, and kung pao sweetbreads. There is actually less pork on the menu than I expected. We agree to order more than we can eat and not feel guilty about it. This is the perfect restaurant for this, as there are a variety of snacks and sides in the $5 to $8 range. We steer away from the more exotic offerings and order things that are more familiar to us. When it comes down to it, I’m just not ready for corned ox heart and the like.
Cornbread served with maple butter arrives in a large skillet. I have my first bite without the butter and it’s quite good. Topped with some maple butter, it’s irresistible. We follow this with pig tacos. I always experience some Jewish guilt when I eat pork. This is multiplied when I’m eating something simply labelled “pig.” The tacos are made from pig ears and pork shoulder. I swallow the guilt along with a bite of pig taco. The pork shoulder is moist and the pig ears are crispy. The creamy avocado, crunchy cabbage, and fresh jalapenos offer up a jolt of flavor. I’m gasping for water, and at the same time eager for my next bite.
We can’t resist trying loco corn, which is grilled corn on the cob with parmesan cheese, chili powder, and lime. It’s good, but in retrospect we should have tried something more representative of the restaurant’s more offbeat offerings.
The dish that I’m still thinking about is smoked duck cavatelli with peas and cippolini, topped with an egg. It’s lighter than it looks and tastier than any pasta dish I’ve had recently. When I can’t eat any more, I find myself seeking out the pieces of smoked duck, because they are too good to leave behind. I feel the same about the sweet cippolini. I leave a few morsels of pasta on the plate, because I must.
There is still rockfish with vegetable succatash and new corn puree to conquer. The rockfish is moist and has good flavor, but I’m particularly drawn to the vibrant vegetables resting on a base of herb infused oil.
The dessert selections cannot be ignored. (I suppose they can, but not by us). We opt for the doughnut, split in half to accommodate peanut butter ice cream. The doughnut is covered with a thick layer of chocolate, poured table side. It’s a bit too rich with the peanut butter ice cream, and we are thinking it is somewhat one note. My friend and I simultaneously take a bite with some brittle, which adds saltiness and texture. I seek out the bits of brittle, much the same way I foraged my pasta dish. I wish there was more of it to discover.
We leave the restaurant sated and happy to have a small bag of leftovers in hand. Cornbread for breakfast sounds good to me.
It’s long past rush hour and we anticipate our ride home to be less painful than the ride there. Not quite. As we attempt to get on the beltway towards Maryland, there appears to be a work crew on the road and the exit is blocked. I have no where to go but in the wrong direction.
The road to Green Pig Bistro is fraught with obstacles that make me wonder if it’s worth all the trouble. I feel like I’ve accomplished something important just by making it here, but I’m not sure I’ll venture to Clarendon again on a weeknight. But if I could somehow beam myself over to Green Pig Bistro, it would be a different story. I might be willing to venture into new territories to try some of the more unique items on the menu. In fact, you might just say I would embrace the experience “whole hog.”
Green Pig Bistro, 1025 N. Filmore Street, Arlington, Virginia
Washingtonian review by Todd Kliman
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema