Barbecue is bigger than The Beatles in Edmonton, a fact reiterated by the recent flurry of BBQ shack openings. We've come a long way, baby - far from the days when folks lined up, rain or shine, for barbecue purveyed from a camper behind the Superstore. (And this is by no means a sleight. We miss you Bubba. Your city needs you!) Hence, when signage appeared in Cafe Beirut's former home near the former Edmonton General, I naturally presumed (based on the name and the quasi-exponential growth of barbecue pits here) that Chic-Hog-O's Social Roast House would bear similar taxonomy.
Surprisingly, Chic-Hog-O's menu is not one of pulled pork and brisket. Rather, the carte is divided into appetizers, sandwiches and pasta; I am unsure of how the latter fits into the identity of "roast house," but no matter. Chic-Hog-O's L-shaped room is comfortably dressed in muted hues, but the top 40 radio station playing in the background is grating at best and does not jive with the evening vibe.
Supper commences with a small tureen of warm olives dressed lightly with citrus zest and toasted fennel seeds. They are black, green, and every shade in between. Lovely in their own right.
A Porchetta Sandwich is graciously crowned by perky lengths of roasted red pepper and sunny leaves of cilantro. Crumbles of cracklins are indulgent fun. The roasted pork itself, while flavourful and judiciously marbled, is somewhat dry. The bread - and, unfortunately this is a scenario that oft repeats itself in restaurants - needs improvement. It is standard fare that almost screams for a brush of herb-infused olive oil and a quick foray under the broiler...which is what I did with the leftovers the next day.
The Chic-Hog-O Burger blends together ground chicken and ground pork. The resultant patty is somewhere in between swine and fowl: very finely textured, almost imperceptibly sweet, pale in colouration, but as with the porchetta, a wee bit on the dry side. A crown of thickly-cut bacon and a melted mantle of cheddar are helpful. The tomatoes - alas - are underripe, and the bun is of the pedestrian sesame seed ilk.
Sweet, sweet redemption arrives in the guise of a maple-bacon ice cream sandwich. Pizelle replace the traditional biscuits and are a welcome twist on this archetypical comfort-food dessert. The ice cream is thick and heady with maple. Maple and bacon are the sweetest of synergies.
Chic-Hog-O's has scarcely hatched in the grand nest of restaurants, and natal fragments of shell are yet being cast aside. The association between name and menu contents remains yet fuzzy. Chic-Hog-O's will doubtless mature in the weeks to come, and perhaps shed the taxonomic placement of incertae sedis.