Righteous Pig rubs meat the right way

News-DemocratMay 4, 2014 

The opening of a new barbecue place in downtown Belleville two months ago was a little rocky.

The owners were threatened with legal action by a New York City restaurant because the name, Rocket Pig, already had been trademarked.

But Scott Muir and Greg Hinrichs didn't let it get them down. They promptly came up with another name, Righteous Pig.

"It's old-school Memphis-style barbecue," said Scott, 44, of Belleville. "There's no sauce. It's all about the rub and the meat."

As managing partner, Scott does the smoking with charcoal and soft woods, such as cherry, apple and peach. Greg owns and operates Back 2 Health Chiropractic.

The restaurant is starting out slow with lunch only, Thursdays through Saturdays. Its short, simple menu includes pulled pork, brisket, turkey and smoked tuna salad sandwiches, rib plates and a handful of sides.

Scott also whips up daily specials with a creative twist. On a recent weekday, it was smoked beef tenderloin with caramelized bacon, onion and garlic relish ($12 with a side and homemade garlic pickle).

"We always do some kind of fresh vegetable," Scott said. "We've done fresh green beans, and people love them. With the weather getting nice, we've also been doing cucumber salad. It's just a light, fresh side."

The restaurant is housed in a historic storefront on East Main Street with exposed brick walls, tin ceilings, hardwood floors and mosaic tiles on the counter and landings.

Customers sit at picnic tables with rolls of paper towels and four kinds of sauce: Righteous Pig, Kansas City, Peach Chipotle and Ballistic. (Guess which one is hot?)

The restaurant has been heartily welcomed by businesses on the block.

"I think it's the best barbecue around at the moment," said Ryan Malaschak, 34, owner of Adrenaline Prints next door. "I mix it up, but I have the smoked turkey quite a bit. That's my go-to."

Another regular is Christian Powell, 40, of Belleville, owner of Happy Hop Homebrew and Gourmet.

He describes the barbecue as some of the best he has tasted in St. Louis and Kansas City. His favorite sauce is Peach Chipotle.

Christian also likes the smoked tuna salad, which is made with fresh, not canned, yellow fin ($9 small or $11 large with a side).

"I gave Scott some hops, and he used them to make pickles," Christian said. "Now I'm brewing him a batch of Irish dry stout, and he's going to use it as the base of a sauce."

Scott has been working in the restaurant business off and on for more than 25 years, starting as a teen-ager at Bonanza.

After serving in the Navy, Scott catered at ESPN's summer and winter "World of X Games" and Nascar races all over the country. Then he served as sous chef at an upscale Denver restaurant before joining Bogart's Smokehouse in St. Louis.

Earlier this year, Scott decided to strike out on his own. One of the things he did to get people talking about Righteous Pig was to start making chocolate-covered bacon.

"In the first couple of weeks that we were open, we probably gave away 30 pounds of chocolate-covered bacon," he said. "People just love it."

At a glance

What: Righteous Pig Bar-B-Que

Where: 124 E. Main St. in Belleville

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Seating: 50

Handicap-accessible: Yes

Carryouts: Yes

Information: 618-520-8817 or Facebook

On the menu

Pulled pork sandwich -- $8 for small or $10 for large with one side

Other sandwiches -- $9 for small or $11 for large with brisket, turkey or smoked tuna salad and one side

Barbecued ribs -- $14 for half-slab or $23 for full with one side

Side dishes -- Pit-smoked beans, German-style potato salad, cole slaw, chips or applesauce, $3 (also available in bulk)

Jumbo Rocket -- $42 for a full-slab of ribs, two large sandwiches and three sides

Chocolate-covered Bacon -- $2 an order

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