I channel Alvy Singer every time I make the drive to Swine & Sons. Negotiating that borderline-legal left turn in the face of unyielding, sunset-blinded drivers and into a crammed and suspension-testing parking lot is as hair-raising an entrance as I care to make. And for what? Certainly not to eat a plate of mashed yeast with a flaky, androgynously dressed Annie Hall, that's for sure. Though I suppose if any destination is worth the cost of an extra session with one's analyst, Swine & Sons would be it.
Just entering and taking in the atmosphere at this bright sanctum of meat palliates any vehicular neuroses. Why? Dangling meats, for one. Those familiar with the work of Ravenous Pig executive chef Rhys Gawlak know he takes charcuterie and whole-animal butchery quite seriously. Gawlak is a partner at Swine & Sons (along with his wife, chef Alexia Gawlak, as well as RavPig/Cask & Larder's James and Julie Petrakis), and the curing room you see upon entering has his stamp all over it.
To skip the charcuterie board of shaved meats ($18) would imply you intended to enter Winter Park Cleaners next door and mistakenly passed through Swine & Sons' doors instead. Just sampling the salumi – spicy Calabrese and nutmeg-and-clove Varzi, in particular – along with Mobay cheese and a glass of Cask & Larder's Olde Southern Wit alone would've left us plenty content – that is, if it weren't for our, umm, ravenous desire to sample more of Gawlak's unpretentious yet sophisticated Southern fare.
I should note that Swine & Sons is more a takeout concept than a sit-down, but the interior's homespun design doesn't exactly motivate you to hurry on out the door – quite the opposite, in fact. Only an 8 p.m. closing time precluded us from pecking, nibbling and munching on butcher sandwiches and sides well into the night: sandwiches like the house pastrami ($9), for instance. Nothing gimmicky or gargantuan about this classic forged with brined and smoked brisket, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard on marble rye. It's as straight-up as it is succulent.
An added dimension to the side of collards ($3) came from an infusion of molasses, while an added dimension to the smoked turkey sandwich ($8) came courtesy of the inclusion of pea tendrils. They gave the sandwich a nice earthiness. If you prefer a flavor blast to subtlety, the pimento grilled cheese ($7) with bacon and pickled green tomato combines salty, smoky and spicy elements between two richly comforting slabs of subtly sweet pain de mie. Those four esses also find their way into the Nashville hot chicken, a regular "Blue Pig Special" ($17) that's an absolute lip-smacker. If smoked brisket tacos are available as a BPS, I suggest putting your order in early. Other sides to consider: addictive BBQ-flavored house potato chips ($3) and a serving of beets and goat cheese ($6) – the latter more for the candied pecans than anything else.
With noted pastry maestra Alexia Gawlak in charge of desserts, you know endings will be nothing but sweet. Case in point: chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies ($3) and a textured chocolate pudding ($4) with vanilla mascarpone Chantilly cream and cocoa nibs. As a last act, peruse the provisions (caramel corn! porcini rub! Fresno hot sauce! crowlers of beer! sous-vide short rib!) and challenge yourself not to take something home with you, though you'll get no kudos from me for resisting.