Pork and Beans exceeded our expectations, perhaps more than any other of the Deshantz restaurants, with its insanely delicious house-smoked meats and creative sides. But, as with most of Deshantz's restaurants, comes at a price.
A Focus on Atmosphere and a Stellar Bar
The atmosphere at Pork and Beans will make you feel like you're on some back road in the rural south. It's funky and rustic with lots of exposed brick, wooden boards, and string lighting. The seating is a mix of booths and long tables, so be prepared to cozy up next to some strangers if you get a spot at one of the long tables.
You certainly won't go thirsty at Pork and Beans as the draft list contains several dozen options. There is a good mix of styles from craft breweries from all over the country, with about a quarter of the options being from local breweries. During our recent dinner we sipped on a German hefeweizen and a Troegs IPA.
We've also visited on a separate occasion for cocktails as the cocktail menu also deserves a look. The classic cocktails are good if a bit pricey, but the more intriguing options are perhaps the beer cocktails, boilermarkers, and the pickleback shots. We definitely need to visit again to try items on the menu like the Haystack (Lindeman's Framboise and Ayinger Brau Weisse) and the Pennsyltucky (Wigle Rye and Yuengling).
Oh, and if that's not a big enough drink list for you, there's also a huge list of bottles, 40s, and bombers. We went before a Pirates' game and there were plenty of people pre-gaming with 40s.
Curate a Plate from the Small Plates, Sides, and Meats
The food menu here is a mix of small plates, salads, meats, and sandwiches. The house-smoked meats change daily but pulled pork, ribs, brisket, tri-tip, and turkey are common. Vegetarians may have a tough time finding options unless they come during happy hour, when house-smoked jackfruit is sometimes available.
The appetizer list reads like something straight out of the south and/or the 1970s, and it's oddly amazing. Options like boiled peanuts, pimento cheese dip, deviled eggs, and Frito pie were all tempting, but we decided on the jalapeno corn fritters.
The fritters were like hush puppies and were spicy but tasty with a crunchy cornmeal texture. They were served with a green goddess dressing for dipping which was full of garlic and herbs, and a lard honey butter. The sweet, rich, fatty butter was a great topping for the very spicy fritters.
To try a little bit of everything we then opted for a pulled pork sandwich, tri-tip, carrot salad, and burnt end beans.
The tri-tip was a half pound of meat served medium to medium-rare. Some of the more well done pieces were a bit chewy, but for the most part, the meat melted in our mouths. The smoked meats come with potato rolls, house made pickles, cilantro onions, and pickled red cabbage. The sides were all deliciously tangy and briny compliments to the rich meat.
We liked the pulled pork sandwich even more than the tri-tip, if that's possible. The pulled pork was so tender, moist, and well-seasoned. It was served on a super soft roll with crunchy and tangy slaw, pickles, and a few fried jalapenos. The sandwich had so much going on and the meat was so juicy that I didn't even feel the need to add one of the barbecue sauces (classic, hot, mustard, or seasonal – on our visit fruity and smokey).
Normally at Pittsburgh barbecue places the sides seem sort of like an afterthought, but at Pork and Beans they definitely deserve their own attention. The burnt end beans had multiple kinds of beans mixed in with huge pieces of fatty burnt ends. The sauce was spicy and smokey, such a relief from the normally over-sugared baked beans.
One of the most interesting dishes of the night was the carrot salad. The carrots were charred, giving them an unusual but complementary smoke-filled flavor. There was a creamy, tangy feta cheese mixed in, along with crunchy croutons, sunflower seeds, and a vinaigrette dressing. There was a lot going on here but it all worked together surprisingly well.
All in all, the expansive drink list, tender house-smoked meats, and creative sides won us over and made us fans. Granted, this is probably the most expensive barbecue meal we've ever had, with a well thought-out tray of barbecue pushing $30 if you go big like us, but we think it's worth the occasional splurge.
Pork and Beans is located at 136 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
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