For many of us barbecue is a noun as in “a social gathering at which barbecued food is eaten.” For others it’s a verb (to roast or smoke food over wood using smoke at low temperatures over a long cooking time). For the most passionate and devoted, barbecue is a way of life…even a religion. That religion is practiced by large and small congregations in both outdoor and indoor temples throughout a portion of U.S. Highway 61. The hymns wailed and warbled by choruses of angelic voices are the reason that portion of U.S. Highway 61 is known as the “Blues Highway.”
Rivaling Route 66 as the most famous road in American music lore, the portion of U.S. Highway 61 known as the legendary “Blues Highway” runs north from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. So common is the paring of barbecue and blues along this stretch that U.S. Highway 61 could rightfully be called the “Barbecue and Blues Highway.” Visit the iconic Beale Street in the heart of Memphis and you’ll understand why Bon Appetit declared “Blues and barbecue, smoke and sauce. In Memphis, they all meld beautifully. Just like heaven.”
We didn’t wear blue suede shoes during our visit to the much-revered B. B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. Nor was the legendary blues artist performing at his eponymous club, but if barbecue and blues in heaven are as good as we experienced at his club, we decided we need to go there, too. Blues also played in the background when we experienced an epochal epiphany with the discovery of barbecued baloney (a dry-rubbed, charcoal-grilled and thick slab sauced and nestled in a bun with coleslaw) at Memphis’s Cozy Corner.
Though we’ve enjoyed barbecue across the fruited plain, rarely is it as soul-satisfying as when blues are piped in over a house system or preferably performed live. If “barbecue” is used on a word association test, our response is likely to be “blues” and vice-versa. Is it any wonder we were so excited to try Blu Pig BBQ in Moab, Utah? Maybe it wouldn’t be the Blues Highway, but that magical pairing of blues and barbecue exports well.
“Let ’em eat barbecue” is the Blu Pig’s mantra. Its operating statement: “Here at The Blu Pig, we pride ourselves in serving the freshest, best tasting, food we can prepare. We prepare brines, rubs, and mop Sauces. Then, we slow smoke on low heat using local fruitwoods for hours and hours until we have the most tender, “fall off the bone” ribs or tender, moist, yummy Tri-Tip. With all that smoky goodness right in front of you, we have a number of different homemade barbecue Sauces to choose from.”
Blu Pig’s menu is truly a cure for the blues (feelings of sadness or melancholy not the music we love). Best of all, live music (including the blues) is available seven days a week. The Smokin’ starters menu is not for the calorie-conscious. Neither is the Blu’s Burgers & Sandwiches menu. BBQ Favorites (the entrees) are served with two sides and cornbread. Salads & Sides include a number of surprises. One thing’s for certain–at the Blu Pig you’re going to need a doggie bag or two. Expect to be fed…or overfed.
1 June 2023: Among the sides which blew us away was the most unique gumbo we’ve experienced–and we lived just over an hour from New Orleans. By strict definition, gumbo translates to okra. In practice, gumbo is soup or stew that features a few key ingredients: okra, a protein such as meat or shellfish, vegetables, and a roux. Blu Pig’s style of made-from-scratch gumbo is made with veggies, brisket, turkey, Cajun sausage, pulled pork and spices. A dollop of rice is the only thing standing in your way of a meat-fest swimming in a meat broth. We quickly devoured every morsel and would have ordered a second portion had Evelyn, our sweet server, not reminded us our entrees would feed a family of nine. During our return visit 22 months after our first, we had to order that gumbo again. It’s absolutely fantastic!
28 August 2021: My Kim’s entree was the Voodoo Smoked Chicken (a half-chicken lightly seasoned, smoked and mopped with KC BBQ Sauce. Flash-fried for a crispy outside while tender and juicy on the inside). On the side she had a baked potato and more okra than five bowls of Blu Pig’s gumbo. A beauteous bark sheathed a succulent smoke-ringed half chicken as tender and delicious as we’ve had in a while. With sweet and thick KC BBQ sauce slathered on, the meat sings almost as well as the blues over the sound system.
28 August 2021: When yours truly couldn’t decide between the certified Angus beef tri-tip or the Blu Pig’s signature smoked prime rib (available only on Friday, Saturday or Sunday after 5PM) I asked Evelyn to surprise me. Thank goodness she ferried over a twelve-ounce slab of prime rib seasoned with a smoked black pepper blend. It was the best prime rib we’ve experienced in a long time, even better than the Big Texan’s version. Prepared to about 130-degrees of perfect doneness (after resting), it was a tender, juicy exemplar of medium-rare. The accompanying au jus and horseradish sauce weren’t needed to bring out any of the prime rib’s inherent deliciousness. It would probably have been superb even raw. The baked beans were terrific and the cornbread, slathered with a cinnamon butter was a surprise.
28 August 2021: The alluring flavor of smoke-kissed food permeates Blu Pig’s signature dessert, a smoked pecan pie as rich and decadent as it is delicious. As with any pecan pie, you’ll want a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream to counterbalance the sweetness of the maple syrup, doing so with its own brand of sweetness (it’s a magical quality ice cream has). Blu Pig’s version reminded me not that very long ago Paco Aceves, an innovative Albuquerque chef was incorporating the element of smoke into virtually every ingredient of every dish he created–including pecan pie. The realization that Paco’s transformative restaurant no longer exists made us as sad as the smoked pecan pie made us happy.
1 June 2023: Although several Moab restaurants offer patio dining, The Blu Pig does it best. Visit Moab in early June and you’ll find out why that’s important. Most Moab eateries have “unprotected” patios meaning that although they can shield you from the sun, they can’t protect you from the lecherous, blood sucking (no, not politicians) mosquitoes. Moab shelters some 20 varieties with different breeding times, bite habits and disease potentials, several of which can carry West Nile Virus and other diseases. While The Dude seems impervious to these little pests, I was not. Swarms of the little a******s attacked and bit me while our debonaire dachshund sniffed each blade of grass. Thank goodness, the Blu Pig’s shielded patio prevented more of the mosquitoes feasting on me while I was feasting on tri tip.
Tri Tip isn’t often found in the Land of Enchantment, but it’s been very popular in California for years. Named after its triangular shape with a tapered “tip”, tri tip might just be one of the most flavorful cuts of meat that you may never have had. Often confused with brisket or picanha, tri tip may also be referred to as a Santa Maria steak or even as a “poor man’s brisket”. But unlike brisket – which comes from the front of the cow, below the chuck, tri tip is actually considered a steak. That explains why it’s so flavorful. Blu Pig knows how to prepare tri tip, serving eight or twelve ounces of the beautifully smoked meat with a slight bark that’s caramelized to the point that it’s legitimate meat candy. Notes of fruit wood permeate every delicious bite. Tri tip isn’t the type of smoked meat you can cut with a fork. Like most good steaks, it does require a knife…and this is a great steak!
1 June 2023: Pulled pork derives its name from the manner in which the pork shoulder (sometimes called pork butt or Boston butt) roast is prepared just before it’s served. Pitmasters use their hands, a pair of forks, or meat claws to shred the pork into thin pieces. The “pulling” process tenderizes the meat and unlocks the intense flavor, especially after hours of smoking. It’s a time-honored tradition I was able to witness in a visit to South Carolina several years ago. The pulled pork in the Carolinas is a religious experience. It’s so good, I won’t order pulled pork anywhere else.
My Kim, on the other hand, loves pulled pork in sandwiches, combination plates or by itself. The Blu Pig’s pulled pork (pork shoulder smoked for 16 hours, pulled and tossed in a sweet and tangy KC Sauce) is among her favorites. Available in portion sizes of eight- or twelve-ounces, the pulled pork is a massive mound of tender tendrils of shredded pork. Thankfully the Blu Pig doesn’t slather the pork with a surfeit of sauce or you might lose some of the smoky flavor. Plus, Blu Pig’s garlic and black pepper sauce is better than its sweet and tangy KC sauce.
Moab may be more than a thousand miles from the Deep South’s fabled Blues Highway, but for the hour or two you spend at this delightful eatery, you’ll be transported to the birthplace of the country’s most delicious and melodious pairing
Blu Pig BBQ & Blues
811 South Main Street
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LATEST VISIT: 1 June 2023
1st VISIT: 28 August 2021
# OF VISITS: 2
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Gumbo, Voodoo Chicken, Smoked Prime Rib, Smoked Pecan Pie, Tri Tip, Pulled Pork