If you Google “Connecticut cuisine” you’re going to get a lot of hits, but Cajun barbecue is not going to be one of them. Steak sandwiches, white clam pizza, mac and cheese, and steamed cheeseburgers top the list; barbecue doesn’t even make an appearance. So when, passing through Sharon, Connecticut on my way to hike on the Housatonic River (read here), I saw a sign for Louisiana Cajun BBQ, I took note. Post-hike, it was time for chow, and I headed back into Sharon to hit up When Pigs Fly South and to see how the Yanks do Cajun barbecue.
My exhaustive research for this post began, of course, with eating the food, but later continued with an intense perusal of their website. That was an exercise in futility. Their About section has three submenus: Louisiana Cajun BBQ, Our Smoker, and Testimonials. Louisiana Cajun BBQ contained nothing but a single stock photo of three drumsticks on a grill, while Our Smoker boasted three whole sentences about a smoker and another stock photo – of a smoker. Testimonials was empty. TripAdvisor fills in the endorsement gap with thirty-six excellent reviews. When Pigs Fly South doesn’t do websites well, but how do they do on barbecue?
They were offering curbside pickup, so, once inside the Sharon town limits, I pulled to the side of the road and called in an order. With some help from the voice on the other end of the phone, I chose a chopped brisket sandwich, honey-butter cornbread, and coleslaw. The chef recommended the spicy Georgia peach sauce. That sounded pretty sweet to me, but, feeling adventurous, I took the recommendation. My usual after-hike libation, a tall, cold, local beer, was unavailable, so I ordered a Dr. Pepper. The guy on the phone said they’d run the order out to me if I pulled up out front, so I whiled away the ten minute wait time listening to a podcast in my car, before driving to their location and popping my hatch.
When Pigs Fly South is in a slightly shabby, wood-sided building on Main Street decorated with a random selection of painted flying pigs. The restaurant is also adorned with a selection of possible names which led me to believe that the proprietors may be confused about what their restaurant is actually called. One sign reads When Pigs Fly Southern Barbecue & Catering; another says When Pigs Fly South. A third sign read simply WPFS.
(Next up on WPFS radio: Classical pairings from Beethoven to Barbecue … and Bach!)
Their website is titled When Pigs Fly South, Southern Barbecue and Soul Food, so, who knows. I called the place – it also might have been called Thank You, since that was the largest sign on the building – to announce my arrival and a few moments later, a masked employee hustled out and dropped my precious cargo in the hatch. I hightailed it for my motel, thirty minutes away.
Twenty-five minutes later (I was hungry), I was unpacking my dinner in my dimly lit room. There was no table; I arranged my meal on top of my cooler. I was pleased with my spread. The Dr. Pepper didn’t survive the car ride (I was thirsty), so I retrieved a cola from the cooler and dug in.
The sandwich weighed in at about a pound. I didn’t have a scale, but this stack of bread and brisket had some bulk. The first thing I tasted, however, was the cornbread. Excellent! I love cornbread, and this was good cornbread. Moist with just a hint of sweetness, and delightfully crispy edges. I gobbled up the first of my three pieces posthaste. I don’t get enough cornbread and there’s a strange and mysterious reason for that. Indulge me for a moment.
My wife, having been raised in southern household, made excellent cornbread. One evening, nearly twenty years ago, she and I were eating at Charleston, Chef Cindy Wolf’s flagship restaurant in downtown Baltimore. Cindy Wolf is the star of the Baltimore restaurant scene and, like my wife, prides herself on her southern inspired cuisine. Lisa plucked a piece of cornbread from the basket and eyed it warily. She tore a piece off and popped it in her mouth. Mere moments later, she declared, “Huh – this cornbread is nearly as good as mine.” I agreed, and not just because she’s my wife. Curiously, since that fateful night, Lisa hasn’t managed to produce a good batch of cornbread. No, I’m not making that up – we call it the Cindy Wolf curse. Ms. Wolf, if you’re listening, could you do us a solid and un-hex our cast-iron skillet? I miss my wife’s cornbread.
I turned my attention to the brisket. I smashed the sandwich down a bit so I didn’t have to unhinge my jaw to bite into it. Another winner! This was an amazingly tender brisket sandwich on a fresh, soft bun. I had chosen chopped brisket over sliced, and I think that was an excellent choice; it allowed the sauce to integrate better with the beef. The spicy Georgia peach sauce was tasty – not as sweet as I had feared – and a nice compliment to the lush richness of the slow-cooked brisket. This Georgia peach probably wasn’t going to win gold at Kansas City’s American Royal, but it was a fine sauce nonetheless. I put down my sandwich momentarily to try the coleslaw.
When Pigs Fly South’s coleslaw was the only part of my meal that rated average. It was fine, just nothing special, and a little too mayonaissey for me. It didn’t stop me from eating it – but then, I was hiker-hungry. I got a good-sized portion, too – not that three-ounce plastic, portion-control cup so often used in establishments that just don’t care about the nutritional needs of just-off-the-trail trekkers.
My meal at When Pigs Fly South set me back around $22.00, putting it squarely in the $$ category. A little on the expensive side for barbecue, but I didn’t feel cheated – primarily because of how very good the sandwich was. TripAdvisor seems to agree that this place is worthwhile, rating it four-and-a-half out of five stars. The handful of negative reviews mostly cited dryness of the food as the main complaint. I had no such experience – my brisket was tender, juicy, and dripping with sauce. One reviewer rated this barbecue place “average” because they don’t like barbecue, and When Pigs Fly Southern Barbecue (if that’s its real name) sells barbecue. Okay … isn’t that like buying a puppy at Dogs R Us and then giving the store a bad rating because you’re a cat person? Just another super-helpful review from TripAdvisor. Regardless, When Pigs Fly South offers darn good barbecue at a (mostly) reasonable price. I would eat there again. So, if you find yourself in Sharon, CT with a hankering for some Louisiana Cajun barbecue, head on over to Main street and take a virtual flight south. ♦
Date: October 3, 2020
Location: 41.879388, -73.478403
Price Range: $$
Everything Else: ★★★★
BIT|Hiker acknowledges the Indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of the lands on which we hike. Our research indicated we were on ancestral lands of the Mohican