Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Place Called Swine

If a restaurant has the name of Swine, would you visit? Imagine standing at the entrance of an upscale eatery and seeing firewood ready for a smoker stacked against the front window. 

Stacks of firewood greet customers at the entrance.

That’s the scene on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, the main thoroughfare that bisects the fashionable business district of Coral Gables, Florida, where Swine entices crowds daily for food and drink. Although the restaurant is decorated creatively with photos and other art (as well as stacks of firewood) and softly lit with amber lighting, the huge lightbulb sign “Run Pig Run” is what captures the attention of new patrons. (Appropriately the website address for Swine is

Run Pig Run says it all for Swine.

The place called Swine has the feel that it was just moved from a farm. Its exposed brick walls and wood structures deconstructed from barns create a comfortable feel that fits well with its comfortable food. The vintage-style bulbs with exposed filaments add to the restaurant’s relaxing atmosphere.

Customers enjoy Swine's relaxing atmosphere.

Officially known as Swine Southern Table & Bar, the restaurant has risen fast to the top of places to dine in South Florida. The Swine burger tops the list of best burgers in Miami by Miami New Times (which has also anointed Swine as the best restaurant in stylish Coral Gables), perhaps because it includes short rib, brisket and smoked pork with double hamburger patties.

The pork shoulder is ready for serving after twelve hours in the smoker.

However, the twelve-hour slow-smoked pork shoulder on the menu under the category “From the Smoker” is the entrĂ©e that caught my attention. Adorned with tomato-peanut relish and spiced honey glaze, the pork had been prepared superbly by Chef Cristian Cuevas, whom I sought out in the kitchen so that I could see Swine’s smoker. The smoker is impressive with layers of shelves for smoking beef brisket, pork ribs, and chicken, the other smoked entrees with pork shoulder: All four categories of an event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society are on the menu.

Every chef, like Chef Cristian at Swine, needs a good smoker.

The sides -- or fixins as Swine describes them -- can delight any follower of Southern food. The roasted chilled beets that I ordered came with pickled red onion, cumin seed olive oil, and blue cheese; thy were a creative complement for the pork shoulder. Because I hadn’t ordered charred okra at Yardbird (a sister restaurant in Miami Beach that I had visited earlier in the week), I had to try the skillet charred okra. Coated in anchovy bread crumbs and charred with brown butter and lemon, the okra was another tasty dish. Because I saw it on several nearby tables, it must be more than an initial fascination but a delight enjoyed by customers more familiar with the menu.

Charred orka may be the most popular fixin at Swine.

Because I had visited Sunburst Trout Farm in North Carolina last year, I appreciated seeing it listed on the menu as the source of mountain trout for Swine, which also serves Florida shrimp, Atlantic swordfish, and Atlantic salmon as fish plates. The sides that accompany these plates (which I’ll have to try on my next visit) are also intriguing. Creamy Carolina gold rice is served with the mountain trout. Sea Island red peas come with the swordfish. Zucchini and red bell pepper succotash complement the salmon plate.

Florida berry cobbler ended my visit to Swine and was as noteworthy as the smoked pork.

Would a name other than Swine fit this restaurant? Because it is distinctly Southern, Swine is definitely the place to enjoy smoked pork and ribs. The customers come initially to taste something from the smoker and keep returning to enjoy the creative fixins -- if only every Southern restaurant that serves pork and ribs could be as imaginative and innovative.

No name other than Swine would be appropriate for this restaurant.

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