Pig & Pickle: Best Eats In AZ!
As I sit at home late Sunday afternoon preparing to head over to Pig & Pickle for dinner, a wave of excitement washes over me. True, one of my best friends owns the place and it’s always fun to hang out with him in his establishment, but he will not even be there today. However, this fact in no way diminishes my excitement. Right in the heart of Scottsdale Arizona, Pig & Pickle is truly one of my favorite restaurants in the world. And I have been outside of the country and in many cities and states within the US for business and pleasure and I’ve eaten at many restaurants. Pig & Pickle is at the top of the heap. The menu is exciting, the energy is fun, the music is jammin’ and the staff is top notch.
I am not a professional photographer, but hey, that’s okay. I definitely wanted to capture my own personal experience with photos taken by me, as well as showcase professional images of a variety of dishes.
As I walk in I’m greeted by a very friendly staff. Fair to say that there are people here that know me. But even the ones who don’t, like the person that greeted me at the entrance, are still incredibly friendly and welcoming.
As I try to determine where I will post up for my meal and article, I feel like I should be seated at a proper table. However, if I’m honest with myself, I normally hang out at the bar.
As I mosey over to said bar I see Bartender, and Head Bar Manager, Dom is here. His shift has just ended and he is seated at the bar having some drinks. We immediately engulf ourselves in conversation and I ultimately tell him that I’m here tonight to eat and for an article I am writing. We have a couple of shots together. By now my appetite is revving and I am ready to throw down.
My second starter is the Fried Brussel Sprouts, which are absolutely incredible. Crunchy, flavorful and they put a sunny side up egg on top. Like, what??? Amazing. I am told, “all that yolk is for a reason….it sauces the sprouts.” They also take requests with regards to the style of egg a customer may want. SOLD.
I begin with the Starter menu. My first stop is the Pork Shoulder Tostadas. Amazing, savory, meaty, crunchy… I’ve had them before and definitely recommend these.
So, I did not really have a game plan or strategy as I approached this experience. I kind of wanted to come in and just do my thing and write about it. So, what it ended up being is three starters and an entree.
My third starter was the jumbo House-smoked and Fried Chicken Wings. I chose Buffalo-style. However, they also offer Sweet Chili and Dry Rub. Delicious. Then finally my entree.
Okay, so I have to admit…as I’m waiting for my entree I’m definitely full from the starters. All of which I’ve basically killed. Actually, remaining from the tray of wings are three out of the original eight.
My final dish is the entree. There are four entrees on the menu tonight and I am informed that the menu changes regularly in order to keep things new, fresh and exciting. I like it. I chose the Crispy Skin Duck Breast, served with a Spaghetti Squash and Blackberry Brandy Marmalade. To die for!
“I LITERALLY WONDERED INTO IT BECAUSE I WANTED TO IMPRESS CHICKS. [LAUGHS] AS IT TURNED OUT, THE LADIES NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH A GUY WHO COULD COOK.”
BEN YOSEF: Welcome to VIGOROUS Magazine, brotha! I have been wanting to get you in here for a while now!
KEENAN BOSWORTH: Good to be here! Thank you for including us.
BEN: My pleasure! So, let’s start from the beginning. What got you into cooking?
KEENAN: I had a couple of close friends who were cooks. After hearing their stories about the biz, I literally wondered into it because I wanted to impress chicks. [laughs] But I fell in love fast because of the culture and the fast-paced action. And, as it turned out, the ladies never had a problem with a guy who could cook.
BEN: Ha! Nothing wrong with that for some original motivation! What was your first industry gig and how old were you?
KEENAN: I was fifteen, lied about my age and got in where I fit in. Rest is history. No one got why I was putting in those hours…but I did.
BEN: So, it’s safe to say that you always had this idea of opening your own place one day?
KEENAN: It was the plan, yes. It sure took long enough, but one has to do it when they are ready. In this business you can’t rush into it. Too many moving parts.
BEN: When and how was the Pig & Pickle concept born?
KEENAN: Around 2010 we came up with the idea that we would take our decades of fine dining skills and open a place where we could share those same skills. But also cater to a broader audience by relaxing the vibe to what we would want, if we were out with OUR friends and family and the neighborhood at large.
BEN: Who comes up with the menu? And is P&P cuisine inspired by anything in particular or is it, like you said, just a combination of what you have learned over the years?
KEENAN: Well, I’ve always believed in letting my cooks think and come up with fun stuff. Or relay family recipes in my kitchens. Ultimately I’m the Editor-in-Chief, so I sometimes adjust things or walk people through better techniques. Or ways of executing it on a busy line. Most of the menu is mine, however.
BEN: P&P also has an awesome bar. I have surely spent plenty of time at it! [laughs] You do some very unique things there. What can you tell us about the concept and style behind P&P’s libations?
KEENAN: We like whiskey, we like cocktails, and we really like beer. We have a small, but nice, selection of wine as well. We have always just tried to put whimsical plays on traditional cocktails. And then we barrel age and make our own. Oh, did I mention we have a lot of whiskey? [smiles]
BEN: Anyone would agree that staff…servers, greeters, bartenders etc.… can have a big impact on a restaurant. P&P certainly employs people with great vibes. How do you approach hiring?
KEENAN: We try to bring a laid back approach to how the vibe is in the shop. So, our hiring generally reflects that. We like a small, family-like environment. Generally with an eclectic mix. Keeps it fun.
BEN: Speaking of that mix, you guys are always playing a great mix of music. Definitely adds flavor to the place. How important is this “soundtrack” to the vision of P&P?
KEENAN: Well, very. It sets the tone from the minute one walks in, and it’s always different. We start the day out laid back and light, and move it up notches as the night goes forward. We serve food until 1am and are open until 2am, so by that time it’s quite fun. [smiles]
BEN: Where did the name Pig & Pickle come from?
KEENAN: It just came from us throwing words around that captured balance.
BEN: Eight months ago the world, and more specifically the culinary industry, lost one of its highest profile people. Anthony Bourdain. This loss was incredibly hard on many people within the industry. I know that it hit you pretty hard. For those who aren’t aware, what did Anthony Bourdain mean to cuisine and chefs around the world?
KEENAN: He was our voice. Particularly those of us who were coming up when he first started writing. We felt him, we were him and the world took us more seriously. We never forgot that, and he didn’t either. It was a very sad day. It’s hard to understand what he meant to us unless you’ve spent your life, literally thousands of hours, in the kitchen. Especially before the food networks and the interweb.
BEN: Who are some of your other influences?
KEENAN: Wow, too many to even list. Everyone who put their heart on the line to move this industry forward. And worked countless hours, missed birthdays, holidays, concerts, and loved ones, all in the name of the craft we love.
BEN: Well Said! Thank you for taking the time to share a bit of your story with VIGOROUS. It’s been fun. And I will be back over there soon! What is next for you and P&P?
KEENAN: I’ve got a soup place on my mind, plus my other business doing legal, cannabis and CBD private dinners, parties, weddings, etc.… @tablefourtwenty. Keeps me plenty busy. VIGOROUS