3 stars for "barbecue worth waiting for" at Coral Gables’ Swine

Since the tsunami of pork belly, fried pigs ears and chocolate-covered bacon began washing over the food scene, I’ve been a little pigged out. But Swine has renewed my love of the other white meat.

The look may be down-home, but this barbecue joint exudes a rustic elegance. When is the last time you wiped your messy hands with a cloth napkin after eating crispy, burnt Black Angus ends? And the well-trained staff couldn’t be more competent or enthusiastic. The only issue I have is with the no-reservation policy. With only 100 seats upstairs and down, an hour and a half wait on weekends is the norm. And then there’s the blasting soundtrack, which ranges from Led Zeppelin to Bo Didley and can be a bit nerve-jangling. But food this good is worth putting up with a lot.

Ambience: The place practically squeals. What’s not made of salvaged barn wood is covered in maple-tanned leather, and cords of chopped oak stacked to the ceiling feed the smoker out back. You can smell the smoke from blocks away in downtown Coral Gables, an unlikely place to be breathing burning wood mixed with seared flesh.

What Worked

  • An impressive list of bourbon-centric cocktails
  • Oenophile-friendly wines and sudsy choices ranging from light lagers to hearty ales
  • Plenty of fine bottles for under 50 bucks
  • A garden of green salads that gets a good dose of cream, butter and/or bacon
  • An accommodating kitchen that  will customize anything
  • Fantastic wood-grilled whole local fish
  • A forager’s plate of wild mushrooms
  • A squash casserole dotted with crispy kale and spiked with sherry agrodolce
  • A Caesar piled with strings of smoky pork shoulder is one of my favorite salads of the year
  • Swine chili with slabs of smoky poblanos and pieces of brisket as soft as the trio of beans that is worth a trip on its own
  • Anything with the word “brisket” – the meat cooks all day and is covered in a spicy black dry rub that ought to be sold at the door
  • An amazing burger with a mix of brisket, pork and short rib meat
  • Brisket sliders 
  • A brisket sandwich complemented by briny pickled onions, fresh-grated horseradish and a tangy molasses barbecue sauce
  • Shrimp and grits made with springy pink shrimp from our own coast, crispy squares of Virginia ham and smooth, buttery, stone-ground grits shipped in from South Carolina
  • Southern fried chicken that is as tasty as it is at Swine’s South Beach sister, Yardbird
  • Moist, crumbly corn bread
  • Mac and cheese made with thick pasta the shape of curly-cued pig tails, swathed in a creamy mix of cheeses and topped with a crispy herb crust and bacon
  • Stewed green beans cooked with a salty ham hock and strewn with crispy shoestring onions
  • Charred brussels sprouts that are simultaneously sweet and tangy with green apple bits and bacon vinaigrette
  • Over the top desserts by the talented Max Santiago
  • Exemplary red velvet cake
  • Sticky Icky Bun – a French toast of a cinnamon-swirled bread in a pool of bourbon-spiked toffee-maple syrup with sweet potato ice cream and strips of candied, crisp-as-chips bacon