Fun, affordable, and bad to the bone, dressed in time-warped décor and hell-bent on making every bite count: every city needs a place like the People’s Pig. Or, at least, its scrumptious, cast-iron-baked corn bread dripping with golden cane syrup. Cliff Allen, who leveled up from mesquite-grilled sandwiches in a food cart to become a brick-and-mortar pit boss on North Williams, bows to no particular barbecue dogma. Instead, he stitches his influences (Italian food, oak smoking, pigs) into a laid-back ’cue kingdom conjured from five outdoor smokers and the vintage atmospherics of the Tropicana Barbecue, the low-slung building’s former, venerable incarnation.
What to eat? Everything. (Well, not the lame coleslaw.) Sandwiches are prime, juicy spare ribs vie for Portland’s best, and the heap of smoked pork shoulder—melting flesh and fatty halos on a sheet of paper—might even satisfy a central Texas hardliner. But the meat cave’s breakout hit is, somewhat ironically, smoked fried chicken—glazed in Allen’s fiercely hot jalapeño jelly, best tucked between house sourdough buns. Chef-y details, like fennel aioli to notch up a sumptuous lamb sandwich, signal that this isn’t just a throwback joint. The combo plate generously heaps all of Allen’s passions onto two trays, including the idea that three friends can still eat like barbecue kings for $40.