Fed Man 55: Noble Pig (18)
Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 18: Noble Pig (now called Noble Sandwich Co.)
Hours: 7am-3pm Mon-Thu. 7am-5pm Fri-Sun.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.21.12
The Noble Pig enters this list at No. 18 because it’s the best sandwich shop in Austin. Simple as that.
For $7 or $8, you get a taste of what happens when two guys with real kitchen chops get restless and want a sandwich. The Knuckle Sandwich is like a French dip hoagie, or more like Chicago hot beef with a side of do-it-yourself dunking juice, a swampy broth like braising liquid and bouillon on a wheat roll with a thick bready backbone and oats for style.
Duck pastrami is a study in the power of simplicity. On toasted Pullman white bread, the duck quacks like a haute rendition of deli, cut thick and fatty with a little briny flavor boost. With sweet, eggy Russian dressing and elegant razor-cut pickles, it’s the best straight deli sandwich in Austin. Even a humble egg-salad sandwich gets a makeover here, with three full deviled eggs cut in half and distributed in unstable hillocks, cradling a bedeviled and be-curried yolk.
The Noble Pig’s PBLT sandwich hasn’t lost a bit of the magic that ruined the mortal BLT for me almost two years ago. The “PB” is pork belly, switch-hitting for bacon. The crispy edge of bacon is there, but it’s backed up by pork belly’s compounding layers of fat and lean. It’s like kitchen barbecue without the smoke alarm, and it glides to the finish on rails of roasted tomato almost gone to preserves in the heat, a state between fresh and sauced not unlike the feeling you get after two drinks before you ruin it with the third, fourth and fifth.
The front case also carries pickles and pâtés for carryout. On top of that case are crisp little tarts for 75 cents, one with raspberry and white chocolate, the other with chocolate cream and a little piece of bacon, a middle finger of defiance against the fat, salt, sugar and nitrates we once feared but now embrace so fully that not even dessert is off-limits anymore.
“Our sandwiches don't come with the standard mountain-high pile of shredded iceberg lettuce and underripe tomatoes,” co-owner John Bates told me shortly after the shop opened in 2010. “We try to build the menu around simple pairings. I think that's a very Italian approach to cooking in general, trying to find the right combination of three, four, five items and then leaving it alone." That sounds like the thinking of a guy who ran the kitchen at Asti, the trattoria coincidentally in yesterday’s No. 19 spot. Brandon Martinez is the other half of the Noble Pig, a cook and baker with a little Italian experience of his own in San Francisco and experience making sausage for Whole Foods. Between them, they bake the bread, cure the meat and pickle the vegetables that make the Noble Pig ... noble.
(TOP: The Noble Pig's pork belly BLT (center), Knuckle Sandwich (left) and duck pastrami (right). FIRST INSET: The ordering counter before the storm. By 11:30, the line stretches out the door; the PBLT leans on braised pork belly and roasted tomato. SECOND INSET: Curried egg salad sandwich and a dessert tart with bacon. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants