Smokey Pig Bar-B-Que | On the Kentucky BBQ Trail

Review by: Michael Stern


No two region’s plates of BBQ exactly match. Every part of America that smoke-cooks meat does it differently. Consider these issues: Which meat is cooked? What wood do pitmasters prefer? Do side dishes matter? What about sauce (if any)? The rituals of serving and eating it vary widely from place to place. Until finding the Smokey Pig Bar-B-Que along the Kentucky BBQ Trail in Bowling Green (in Warren County, Kentucky), I was unaware that Monroe County has a style all its own.

Monroe County BBQ

Scott Huffer, whose family runs the Smokey Pig, explained that Monroe Co. BBQ is signified by shoulders thinly sliced into big pieces (not chopped or pulled). They customarily bathe the pieces in dip, the central Kentucky term for sauce. Dissimilar from dip up in mutton country around Owensboro (such as that at Old Hickory BBQ), and even less like more typical ketchupy red sauces, it occupies a unique space on the BBQ sauce shelf. It reminds me of piggy au jus infused with an alarming shot of hot pepper. It adds up to an exciting cut of meat, a vigorous chew with explosive flavor. You definitely want to accompany it by palliative mac ‘n’ cheese, sweet & smoky beans, and slaw. The kitchen makes both tart vinegar slaw and mayo slaw.

(I wondered, Why does a Warren County BBQ parlor serve Monroe County BBQ? Scott told me that his family hails from there.)

More familiar barbecue on the Smokey Pig menu comes highly recommended, too. Pulled pork, soft as meat can be, is succulent and subtle flavored, wanting only a drizzle of sweet Kentucky sauce. In the world of lavish-flavored meats, brisket gives bacon a run for its money. Smoke infuses big, meaty ribs. Chicken drips with juice as soon as you breach its chewy skin.

Casual, Comfortable

Casual comfort rules at the Smokey Pig. From one dining room you have a nice view of the Barren River below. Place your order at a window in the front room. The window is surrounded by moveable-letter signs with the regular menu as well as hand-written placards noting specials. Choices abound. (none are bad, in my experience). First-time travelers along the Kentucky BBQ trail may need a while to decide. But if your palate is a curious one, I recommend starting with Monroe County shoulder.


What To Eat

Shoulder, Dipped

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Half Chicken

Macaroni & Cheese



Cole Slaw


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