Zellers: Swig offers eclectic food and drink optionsWritten by Don Zellers | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I gotta admit, I didn’t know what the hell “charcuterie” was before I went to Swig. So I went to the local library, dug through the stacks and found a book on French cooking terminology. Well, seriously, I just went online and looked it up. While there are several slightly different interpretations, they all generally have to do with the preparation and curing of meat, especially pork. Charcuterie can also simply mean the place where the meats are prepared and sold. Swig stays true to the definition as all of its sausages, franks, ham and bacon are “handcrafted” in-house. All grinding, seasoning, stuffing, cooking and smoking is done on site daily.
Swig is not a big place; there are about12 tables inside, maybe 10 on the small patio. Parking is scarce, its sign is kind of easy to miss and it is usually pretty packed. Now that I have all of its negatives out of the way, let me tell you the good things about Swig: pretty much everything else.
Nothing is typical or “old hat” about Swig’s menu. From the backward nature of the “reversed hot wings,” which are covered in ranch and served with a side of hot sauce, to the craziness of the Scotch egg or the odd coupling of bacon and ice cream, Swig has many flavor adventures for your taste buds to enjoy.
Swig delivers seven different authentic regional takes on the classic frankfurter. When it came time to order, Memphis, with its pulled pork, pickled peppers and barbecue sauce, just slightly beat out a Cleveland bacon-wrapped dog covered in Coney sauce, cheddar cheese and stadium mustard. Sorry, Cleveland, I know it’s been a rough year with the whole “Lebron thing” and all, but Memphis’ style was just too intriguing. The intermingling of the barbecue sauce, the tender pork and the pickled peppers was sweet, a little spicy and insanely delicious. It was gone before the three women I was with were even halfway through their entrées.
Before I bit into the main body of my Memphis dog, I made sure to have a couple of bites of the frank sans toppings to get the full, unvarnished flavor of it. I was surprised by how vibrant the taste was. It made me feel guilty, like I’ve been cheating my stomach by eating standard ballpark and grocery store hot dogs all these years.
There were so many fun things on the menu that I ordered several items and also talked my wife and friends into letting me sample their orders — “It’s for the good of the column,” I told them.
All of the sausages were top notch. The Polish, gyro, kielbasa and Andouille were all very tender and packed with flavor.
The Scotch egg came highly recommended and sounded so peculiar, I had to give it a go. It’s a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep fried. It comes garnished with red onions, pickles, peppers and a tomato. I must admit, during my initial bite, I thought to myself, “What’s all the hype about? This is kind of dry and crunchy.”
My second bite made me forget about the first as I dunked it in the homemade (mildly) spicy ground mustard dipping sauce. It was a whole new ball game as the tasty mustard softened the crunchy shell and knocked out the dryness from the deep frying, letting me really enjoy the flavor of the sausage and the egg.
They only serve one kind of soup and it is aptly named Swig Soup. It has a cheddar cheese and beer base, and contains crumbled bratwurst pieces. To add to the flavor, they top it off with swirls of sour cream. The taste is so rich that you’ll feel like Donald Trump when you’re eating it.
I was a little reluctant at first to try the Chocolate-Covered Bacon Sundae, primarily because it just seemed like a motley mix of different tastes. However, to my surprise, chocolate-covered bacon, bourbon-soaked pineapple, Guiness-infused chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream do go together. The taste confused and delighted my palate, creating a memorable end to my meal.
The variety doesn’t end with the food choices. Swig goes lightyears beyond the standard selection of libations you will find at many eateries or bars. You won’t find any alcohol listed on the menu — the beers of the day are all written in colored chalk on a giant board on the wall. This is due to the constant rotation of the myriad specialty brews they offer, referred to as “musical taps.” Rogue’s Dad’s Little Helper, Black IPA, Great Divide’s Samurai Ale and Stone’s Arrogant Bastard are just a few of the uncommon microbrews you might find on tap on any given day. The featured beer on our visit was the “Southern Tier Mokah” which is brewed with an infusion of coffee and chocolate and packs a punch at 11 percent alcohol by volume.
The price range is pretty diverse as well and isn’t posted, so be careful. The Jolly Pumpkin Luciernaga was quite tasty, but one of the ladies at my table about hit the floor when the bill came and they were $8 each for what looked like about a 10-ounce glass.
Overall, however, Swig was pretty affordable. The daily special was two Coney dogs with fries for $6, and many of the specialty beers are in the $4 to $6 range.
If nearly 20 unique beers on tap and a plethora of adventurous eats aren’t enough for you, Swig has live bands on the weekends. They are generally small, often acoustic acts due to the tight quarters, but they do add a little ambiance without the dreaded cover charge. Swig champions itself as “a laid-back place devoted to the different.” I’ll buy that. I also won’t be shy about buying another chocolate-covered bacon sundae on my next visit.
Swig Charcuterie and Suds
219 Louisiana Ave.
Open seven days
11 a.m to 2 a.m.