There are certain restaurants that the minute I walk through the door I say to myself, “Yeah, I’m going to like this place.” It’s just an intuition I have and I rarely prove myself wrong. That’s what I felt before I even entered the Flying Pig in Oceanside. It’s location on a street that is a mix of homes and light commercial businesses gives it a certain outsider status off the bat.
Walking in, there is a warmth and energy that complement each other perfectly, and more importantly, the crowd looks like it’s there for the food and drinks and not to be seen at the latest hotspot. There is a cool bar, lounge and mismatched tables that they describe as “industrial farmhouse” and that’s a perfect way to put it. I’m jealous this place is not in my neighborhood.
So when I heard the name Flying Pig, I immediately thought of the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, which my brother Michael helped launch many years ago. It’s a great name for this casual gastropub launched by husband and wife team Roddy and Aaron Browning. If there ever was a couple whose destiny it was to launch a restaurant together, it’s these two. With 45 combined years of industry experience and a certified sommelier distinction under Roddy Browning’s belt, the solid foundation is in place.
They have hot young chef in 24-year-old Mario Moser who came from Nine-Ten in La Jolla. From what I’ve seen him pumping out of the Flying Pig kitchen, I assumed it was a veteran chef running the show. This guy has serious talent and despite his aversion to the celebrity chef syndrome, he could well be heading there whether he likes it or not.
Moser likes to cook food that makes him hungry, that he likes to eat, with simple execution and the best available ingredients. I really like his style and I’ll add that his serving staff is well-versed on the menu, fun, and keep the food flowing at a nice pace. Don’t come here in a hurry though, it’s not that kind of place.
As far as the food goes, I really wish I had room to just copy the menu word for word as it is that appealing to me. You can check it out on their website though and I would enthusiastically encourage that. I’ll stick to describing what I’ve tried so far.
We started with shrimp toast, which was new to me and very enjoyable, a local beet salad, and the risotto of the day, which was a forbidden rice risotto with egg yolk. They have a daily risotto and pasta and the pasta is made in-house. The pasta was a pappardelle with a mixed braised meat ragu that was very satisfying.
Some other great looking items from the sides and starters portion of the menu include bacon brussels, southern pickles, bacon mac n’ cheese and a couple of grilled flatbreads, one with tomato jam, roasted kale, goat cheese, house sausage and farmers eggs.
Next up was the ever trendy pork belly, which I find to be a little over-hyped for what usually is a cube of gelatinous fat. Maybe I need to release my inner pig or something but in that form it is not appealing. That’s not the case at the Flying Pig, as Chef Moser’s version had a nice ratio of pork to fat and was served with collards, caramelized apple and polenta spoon bread. I am now officially enthused about pork belly knowing it can be done like this.
The chicken and dumplings with chicken confit, fresh ricotta gnudi which was a very cool dumpling substitute, black eyed peas and sage, was original and inspired. Chef Moser took braised short ribs, which to be honest, I’ve grown tired of seeing on just about every menu, and made them fresh and exciting again braised in cabernet and served with creamy grits, bacon brussels and chimichuri. He definitely has a creative, fresh approach to his food and it works on all levels.
And finally, the fresh ground pork burger with tempura onion, 626 sauce, fried egg and cheddar is a burger worthy of entrance into my recently created burger hall of fame.
I hate to gloss over the wine and beer selection, but trust me that when you have a master sommelier running the show, it’s perfect for the menu. The dessert that stood out was the chocolate pot de crème with candied orange and vanilla cream.
That’s all I’ve got room for. Trust me on this one, it’s a gem.
Flying Pig is located at 626 South Tremont Street in Oceanside.
For more information, visit flyingpigpubkitchen.com.