A new book deems Smokin Pig as one of the best barbecue restaurants in the United States.
Not bad for a venture that began as just a hobby.
Smokin Pig, which has locations in Richmond Hill and Pooler, made the list in author Johnny Fugitt’s book “The
100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America.” The barbecue critic wrote the book after visiting 365 restaurants across 48 states in a year’s time.
“For the guy to visit as many barbecue places as he visited and to choose us as one of the favorites, we’re pretty proud,” said Kevin Fabre, who owns Smokin Pig along with his father, Clyde Fabre.
Fugitt used research and recommendations to decide which restaurants to visit. He then scored them based on the quality of meat, sides, sauces, atmosphere and barbecue “it” factor.
“A friend in the Savannah area said Smokin Pig was THE place to go for good barbecue,” Fugitt wrote. “I took his recommendation, connected with owner Kevin Fabre and was glad I did.”
Kevin and Clyde Fabre opened the Smokin Pig in Richmond Hill in 2007. Situated on Highway 17, next to a gas station just off Interstate 95’s exit 87, the restaurant is nothing fancy to look at from the outside.
“It’s a typical hole-in-the-wall barbecue place,” Kevin Fabre said.
What sets it apart is the Fabre family recipes. For years prior to opening the restaurant, Kevin had been cooking barbecue pork for groups of friends or corporate events.
The Fabre father and son started Smokin Pig simply as a side venture to supplement their incomes. Kevin was working full-time in sales and Clyde was running his own business, Coastal Garage Doors.
“We opened up in spring of ’07, and two months later we both quit our other jobs because it took off,” Kevin said. “We’ve been blessed here in this town.”
Business has remained strong. The Fabres opened a second Smokin Pig on Highway 80 in Pooler in 2010, and the Richmond Hill location expanded its hours about a year ago.
“(Customers) are here about 10 o’clock in the morning, about an hour before we open, trying to get in the door,” said Smokin Pig employee Kim Bragg.
Smokin Pig’s menu includes ribs, chicken and beef brisket, but the signature dish is the pulled pork. The Richmond Hill restaurant cooks as much as 300 pounds of Boston butt per day, according to Kevin Fabre, and it is all hand-pulled after it comes out of the smokehouse. The end result for customers is a lean, tender serving of pork.
“A lot of barbecue places pull the bone out and chop everything together, and you get fat and gristle,” he said. “We take our time and hand-pull it.”
Fugitt agreed with Fabre’s assessment. He ranked Smokin Pig No. 8 on his list of America’s 10 best restaurants for pulled/chopped pork.
“Without a doubt, the thing to get at Smokin Pig is the dry-rubbed, hand-pulled, lean, smoky pulled pork,” Fugitt wrote. “Add a little bit of the spicy vinegar sauce and you have yourself a bite that will make you squeal with delight.”
For those with a different taste in barbecue sauce, Smokin Pig’s mild sauce dates back four generations, according to Fabre. That was the original sauce served when the restaurant opened its doors, and original-recipe hot, sweet and spicy sauces have since been added.
A common barbecue side item guests won’t find on the menu is french fries — or anything fried, for that matter. Because of the cost and upkeep of fryers, Kevin and Clyde Fabre opted against having any when they opened the restaurant.
Instead, they offer sides that are all homemade from “good country recipes,” Kevin said — potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, green beans, baked beans, corn on the cob and Brunswick stew.
“We’ve made it eight years without frying anything,” he said. “We basically just took barbecue the way we do it, we grabbed a bunch of our moms’ and aunts’ and grandmas’ recipes and put them as side dishes, and opened the doors. And here we are.”
Kevin and Clyde Fabre spend plenty of time together running the business, and Kevin described them as being as much good friends as they are father and son. The family atmosphere carries over to Smokin Pig’s other employees.
“Once you work here, you don’t want to leave,” Bragg said. “It’s better than a franchise. It’s a mom-and-pop place.”
Some of Smokin Pig’s employees started working there as teenagers and are in their 20s now, Fabre said. Having minimal employee turnover and keeping familiar faces customers see on repeat visits has been good for business, he added.
“We try to treat our people good, and they take care of us,” he said.
• Where: 3986 Highway 17, Richmond Hill
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
• Phone: 912-756-7850
• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Web: www.smokinpigbbqjoint.com