words David Scherr // photos Ben Sarle
At the intersection of Interstate 89 and Vermont’s Route 100, where traffic meandering along the spine of the Green Mountains crosses the purposeful speedsters on the highway, sits the quaint Vermont town of Waterbury. This modern crossroads hosts a growing number of top-notch places to eat and drink, among the best of which is an outpost of barbeque excellence known as Prohibition Pig.
With meat as smoky as a North Carolina smokehouse, drinks as lovingly made as any at a cocktail bar, and a selection of beer fine enough to please the connoisseur, Prohibition Pig adds a welcome element to Vermont’s rapidly expanding culinary scene. Occupying a charmed site formerly inhabited by the Alchemist bar, now a famed brewery, Prohibition Pig is a must-stop destination for anyone with the slightest inclination for high-quality southern barbeque and good beverages.
To start a meal at Prohibition Pig, a visitor would be well-advised to whet their appetite with the Panko Fried Pimento Cheese starter. These are basically cheese balls served with a chili pepper jam, but if the term “cheese ball” brings visions of a thick, goopy blob to your mind, banish them. These are shockingly delicate orbs of cheese with a slightly sweet coating. As you bite into it, the fried cheese seems to melt like cotton candy, leaving a wonderful combination of savory cheese, slightly spicy with the chili pepper jam, and a sweetness that complements the flavors perfectly.
If you aren’t looking for a huge meal, the Chick’n Biscuits small plate will leave a diner satisfied. Made with buttermilk biscuits and antibiotic- and hormone-free fried chicken, with some raw honey in the mix, these are small explosions of flavor in the form of chicken and bread. Their sweetness is pleasant without being overbearing and is nicely balanced by the savory flavor of the tender chicken.
Another excellent option is the Mac and Cheese dish, made with Vermont baby swiss, Cabot Clothbound, and sharp cheddars. With a crust that nicely complements the creamy cheese and noodles, this classic mac and cheese is made with the finest ingredients, clearly assembled lovingly in the kitchen and far better than any standard mac and cheese.
Prohibition Pig’s remarkable sauces complement any of these dishes. The Bacon Barbeque has medium heat and is lightly smoked, the Hot Sauce has a pleasant but not overwhelming heat with a lot of flavor, and the Pepper Vinegar brings a spicy kick to a standard vinegar sauce. The restaurant also offers a seven-generations-old Eastern North Carolina sauce, made from a vinegar base and perfectly flavored with a variety of spices and ingredients. A diner that doesn’t try these wonderful sauces will be missing out on the full Prohibition Pig experience.
A diner at Prohibition Pig would be remiss if they did not include a taste – or really, a full portion – of the sliced beef brisket in their meal. A 12-hour smoked brisket with Texas dry rub and bacon barbeque sauce, this beef puts most other smoked meats to shame. Unlike many such dishes, where the smoke flavor tastes merely rubbed on with sauce, the smoke flavor is deeply and deliciously embedded in the meat, bringing a rich and rugged flavor to every bite. This dish is, without contest, the best smoked brisket this reviewer has ever tried, and it is quite unlikely that a diner can find more richly smoked meat.
If a visitor has any room left for dessert after the riches of Prohibition Pig, the Vermont Apple Crisp for two will not disappoint. Served in a hot pan with vanilla ice cream, oatmeal brown sugar crunch, sliced apple, boiled cider caramel and walnut brittle, this perfect balance of sweet and fruity tastes and smooth and crunchy textures is a perfect finish.