Three years after morphing from a famed sandwich food cart to an iconoclastic barbecue den on North Williams Avenue, the People’s Pig is expanding. Owner Cliff Allen has inked a lease at 3004 E Burnside, near Laurelhurst Market, with plans to open a 40-seat branch in late October. Far from the trend of upscale expansions, Allen aims to give this former Subway the “Pig” vibe: a funky, old-school luncheonette charm similar to the Williams space, one of the last sweet dives on a fast-changing street. One thing is certain, he tells Eat Beat: “It won’t be fancy.”
The kitchen is larger at the east side location, which will allow for fresh ideas and a rebooting of Allen’s old cart experiments. At first, the idea is to replicate the original Pig menu while the kitchen gets its legs. His muses remain the same: Italian street food, smoky fires, and pigs, pigs, pigs. These influences play out in a small daily list: several sandwiches (including the vaunted smoked fried chicken, glazed in jalapeño jelly); smoked meat slabs (pork shoulder to ribs to lamb), assorted sides, and fresh vegetable accents gleaned from the neighboring farmyard on N Williams (in what is surely Portland’s best barter deal, it’s a water-for-vegetables trade). Meanwhile, cocktails will continue their love affair with smoke—People's Pig smokes its house simple syrup to help drinks match the food.
Allen best explained his philosophy to Eat Beat in 2014: “I’m not married to any certain school. I don’t want to play whatever barbecue sauce game people play. It’s not Tennessee, it’s not Texas, and it’s not South Carolina. It’s a tomato-y barbecue sauce that kind of falls in the middle. It’s not going to make anybody happy, but I think it’s pretty satisfying.”
But the east side Pig also promises some surprises. When it opens, Allen will reprise his famed food cart signature: sausage-stuffed porchetta, tucked into custom buns with fresh lemon juice and arugula. If all goes well, he’ll dive, once again, into the kind of crazed meat art that made his cart a cult favorite. With a miniscule kitchen on North Williams, he’s had to reign-in his repertoire. Hours will stay the same: daily, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. But Allen says he expects to expand to morning hours, raising hopes that his irresistible fried egg sandwiches will live again.
Eight years in, from food cart maven to established pit boss, what has Allen learned? “It feels the same to me,” he says with a laugh. “Same hard work, just as hard as it’s ever been.”