My husband and I had a wonderful meal at Winter Park gastropub The Ravenous Pig, and it was too delicious not to share. Follow along with us while I give you a peek at the treats we enjoyed.
What’s a Gastropub?
The first thing you may be asking is, “What the heck is a gastropub?” The owners of the Ravenous Pig define it this way: “Start with a traditional pub experience, add a passionate culinary team and pair with an elevated dining experience—and you’ll get fare that is as delicious as it is unique.”
To me, the Ravenous Pig is fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere with bartenders that take the drinks as seriously as the food. What’s not to love about that concept, right?
We were dining on a Saturday evening, and we didn’t call for reservations early enough, so we ended up eating at the bar. Even for a bar seat, we had to wait about 20 minutes or so for a spot to open up. The place was already hopping by 6 p.m.
Since it was just my husband and I, that was really no problem, but if you’re dining with a larger party, do yourself a favor and call for reservations early in the week (or even a week plus ahead). I promise the dining experience is worth planning ahead for.
While we were waiting to get seated, we were able to order our first round of drinks. I started with a drink called the Umatilla Smash, which featured locally made Palm Ridge Whiskey, muddled pluots and mint and local honey syrup. It was a fun variation on the traditional Whiskey Smash, with just the right balance between refreshment and potency.
My husband started with some of the Palm Ridge Whiskey served neat. This was our first time trying the Central Florida-based distillery’s whiskey, and we were both favorably impressed. The nose was a rich toasted caramel, like sticking your nose into a bowl of dulce de leche. The flavor was incredibly smooth and drinkable, especially considering it was 90 proof.
Later in the meal, we sampled a couple more items from the cocktail menu. My husband ordered the Ravenous Pig Old-Fashioned, an Old-Fashioned made with bacon-infused Buffalo Trace Bourbon, vanilla maple syrup and bitters. Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite bourbons to begin with and the rich, smoky bacon flavor gave this drink a real wow factor. It was even garnished by a piece of candied bacon. But novelty is nothing if the drink doesn’t taste good, and this was surprisingly drinkable and enjoyable. My husband did remark that he’d like to try a regular Old-Fashioned next time, but if you like bacon, I think this specialty Old-Fashioned is definitely worth trying and sure to be a topic of conversation around your table.
We also shared a Rye Negroni. The Ravenous Pig typically serves it with a very non-traditional addition of peach puree, but we asked to have that omitted to just focus on the spirits. Negronis are more typically served with gin, rather than rye, but I liked the warmth of the rye against the crisp bitterness of the Campari. I’ll have to try recreating this one at home sometime, I think.
The Ravenous Pig uses a lot of fresh, in-season, locally sourced ingredients, so the menu changes on a regular basis. That means it’s a fresh dining experience every time, but no matter how much the menu changes, it is always reliably excellent food.
The menu features a casual, lower-priced “pub menu” as well as a full dining menu. We were pretty hungry when we grabbed our seats, so we decided to order a pub menu item as an appetizer then each have a full entrée from the dining menu.
We started with the Summer Fish Fry, which oddly enough didn’t include any fish, but what it did include was good. The sampler included crab hushpuppies (which reminded me more of crab boulettes than hushpuppies), fried carolina oysters and fried ipswitch belly clams. They were served with a preserved citrus aioli. The citrus flavor in the aioli was a bit overpowering, but otherwise everything was delicious. I’m conflicted on this one though because, although it was delicious, a fried dish probably isn’t the best showcase of what the chef can do in a place like this. So although we enjoyed it, I might try something more adventuresome next time.
For my entrée, I ordered the Steak Frites. It’s actually known as one of the restaurant’s specialties, but I’d never had it before, so I thought it was about time to fix that. I’m glad I did. This was amazing! The flat iron steak was served “medium” (although it was pinker than most mediums I’ve experienced) and pre-sliced into strips. Both the texture and the flavor were amazing. It was served with a small ramekin of a chimichurri-like sauce, but I didn’t do more than taste it once because it seemed like sacrilege to put anything on such a perfect, flavorful steak.
The steak is served with a side of truffle fries. This is another item that is probably a must-try if you’re visiting Ravenous Pig. They start with simple, crisp shoestring fries and toss them with truffle oil. If you’ve never had truffle oil, it’s hard to describe the flavor for you, but it is savory, rich and indulgent. These might just be the best french fries I have ever eaten in my life.
My husband had the roasted rabbit leg, but in our enthusiasm, we dug into it before I had a chance to snap a picture. The rabbit was served with a spicy chorizo and an interesting sort of vegetable hash with onions, potatoes and peppers tossed in a light vinaigrette. My husband enjoyed all three elements, but he noted that the chorizo was so strongly flavored that it threatened to overwhelm his palette for the rest of the dish. He ended up enjoying the rabbit and vegetables first, then eating the chorizo last.
We also ordered one more entrée to take home for my mom, who was babysitting for us. She had the Chicken Cannelloni, a rich, hearty dish with goat cheese and roasted red peppers. By the time we got home, I was stuffed, so I only tasted a bite, but it was good and my mom gave it a thumbs up.
Finally, we couldn’t pass up a little dessert. At the recommendation of our bartender/server, we had the Blueberry-Nectarine Cobbler. It was served warm and topped with a little dollop of tarragon ice cream. Lovely! Again, we got a little carried away and by the time we stopped long enough to take a photo, our plate looked like this.
So, in summary, it was an excellent meal from start to finish, and we’ll definitely be back to the Ravenous Pig.