12.24.2012

Sundays are made for plan making and plan breaking and awesome food.

Guess what? I did it again. I made plans for a specific lunch at a specific place: Luke’s Inside Out on S. Lamar. I thought about it all week long. The time came, the car was parked, and I made my confident stroll to the service window and… it was closed until five that evening. OF COURSE IT WAS. What I’d read online about them being open for Sunday brunch was that they cater Sunday brunch at nearby Gibson Bar.

Ugh. This has become a recurring theme, hasn’t it?  

Begrudgingly, my mom and I made it back to the car, laughing about how this has happened to us now three weeks in a row. But as this new theme goes, I always end up stumbling face first into a plate of awesome by pure chance. This Sunday was no different.


As we sat in the car coming up with our next moves, the words “NOBLE PIG” rang out loud and clear in my head; louder and louder and louder until I couldn’t take it any more. Yep, we were going to the Noble Pig. I made the announcement and pulled back on the road, headed north.

Noble Pig Sandwiches in north Austin offers familiar flavors in new and totally delicious ways. Yeah, they have a BLT, but it’s made with smoked pork belly and roasted tomatoes. Their take on a Reuben includes smoked duck pastrami, and house made rye pickles and creamy house-made Russian dressing. They take what we all know and love and put an elevated twist on it, taking flavors that you would expect and changing them into something new and well... unexpected.

The Noble Pig’s website explains the philosophy behind the the delicatessen as being "grounded in culinary experiences that range from relaxed cafe fare to fine dining, as well as a love for scratch cooking. And yet, it’s a philosophy that can be summed up simply: Make it, and make it better than the guy down the street."



I think that’s what makes this place so dang charming. First of all, it’s unassuming as heck, situated quietly in a small strip shopping center, way up north off of FM 620 N. The shop itself is quaint and appears to be just any old deli. But once you scan the chalkboard menu, and the packed house, you will see immediately that this isn’t just any old deli.




The core of Noble Pig’s menu is that they use high-quality ingredients. According to their website, they select local and sustainable items – and a practical, crafted approach to making good, satisfying food. Basically, the two chef/owners, John Bates and Brandon Martinez, know exactly what they’re doing.

And they’re not making JUST sandwiches either! Feeling in the mood for some pate? Or a perhaps a terrine du jour? Foie gras, pork and apple? Yeah, they have all of that too. Fancy. Shmancy. They also sell house made Italian sausages, fresh made bread, sweet treats and their fresh packed pickles to-go.



I couldn’t wait. This sandwich place had been near the top of my “I have to go here” list ever since I saw it on that Food Network show hosted by Guy Fieri, Diners Drive ins and Dives, and the time had finally come. WOO HOO!! (Click here for the clip.)

We arrived for lunch after two in the afternoon, and the place was slammed. I’m not even kidding you. There was a huge line that was ahead of us and continued to form behind us.

I spent my time in line scanning the various sandwich options, and became highly indecisive. If I’ve learned anything in my three-week in a row planned-lunch FAIL, it’s how to face a menu and order without scheduling ahead.



I have a personal habit where I just… have to plan my meal in advance. But like I said, these past three weeks have been a lesson in picking something that is daring and exciting and unusual or different for me. It’s been a lesson in delving into the unknown and not being a stuffy fool always eating salads with dressing on the side…

The people ahead of me were suddenly gone and it was our turn! I made my decision right in the nick of time. I ordered the Knuckle Sandwich on white with pickles (roast beef, caramelized onion, cheddar cheese and horseradish sauce and au jus, $8). My mom had made her decision early on and ordered the Thai chicken on wheat (jalapeƱo-cabbage slaw and cilantro, $7).  We also ordered my dad the namesake sandwich, the Noble Pig on white (Spicy ham, pulled pork, bacon, provolone mustard and mayo, $8), to go. We broke down and ordered some bread pudding and a chocolate-bacon tart to go too.



We weaved through the steadily growing line and snatched a table just as some people were leaving. Once we sat down, I was able to take it all in. This place was bustling with conversation, with laughter… with joy! I mean, I knew I was full of joy waiting for my sandwich. Sandwiches are my favorite food in the world. Divine appointment sent us on our way to this place and with this happening three weeks in a row, I knew this was going to be finger lickin' good.

After about 15 minutes, our name was called and one of the sandwich crafters brought us our sandwiches. The presentation was fun, simple, and a tip of the hat to a classic deli, where food is served no-frills with butcher paper and pickles right on the tray. I couldn’t help but smile at this.



The sandwiches were beautifully prepared and looked nothing less than amazing. But, now that I was good and stuffed from eating with my eyes, it was time to taste with my mouth.



My knuckle sandwich punched me in the face with super flavorful roast beef, slightly sweet caramelized onions, and the sharp notes and gooey texture from the melted cheddar cheese.  The au jus was meaty and delicious, but I must say I'm not a huge fan of dipping my 'wichs in juice... I tried one bite with it, but I was plenty happy without soggy bread. On the other hand, the horseradish sauce, in my opinion, made the sandwich complete. It was dreamy, creamy, meaty love on a plate. Mmm…



Horseradish makes any roast beef sandwich a step above the rest, and this horseradish sauce was something special. It wasn’t mild in the slightest, but it was creamy enough to get into every nook and cranny in the bread and subsequently, every nook and cranny of my mouth. And the ratio of meat to sauce was perfect too. There was just enough of everything. Oh, I do love ratios…



My mom was also really happy with her sandwich, though she was sad there wasn’t more chicken between the slices of the absolutely delicious wheat bread. The flavors were sharp, crisp, spicy and bright. The chicken was tender and flavorful, but as she said “The chicken is sooo good, I just wish there were more of it!”



We both fell head over feet in love with the pickles too. Apparently, they make them daily, and it takes a 24-hour soaking process before they become perfect. The pickles are made from a combination of cucumbers, carrots, celery and garlic cloves. Each bite was crunchy, sweet, tart, sour and bright. They had that distinctive taste that can only come from honest freshness.

After we cleared our plates paper lined trays and licked our fingers, it was time to pick up our to-go order and roll ourselves out of there. This trip, longer than our usual 30-minute journey, was well worth it.



When we got home, I pulled my chocolate and bacon tart from the to-go bag and couldn’t hold back. I decided to be nice though; I cut the tart in half and saved some for my dad. I popped that sucker in my mouth and holy cow… The chocolate was rich and thick, like a ganache, and tasted like it was made with bacon drippings. The sea salt sprinkled over the top made the chocolate more chocolaty and the bacon more bacony… or… baconier?  Whatever the word, it was glorious.



The bread pudding was another little taste of sweet-treat heaven. The pudding was somehow both dense and airy, and had the warm and homey tastes of cinnamon and vanilla. Mmm… it took everything in my willpower not to just eat the whole entire calorie laden marvel in one bite, but I was somehow able to resist.


Saving the best for last, my dad finally surfaced from painting in his studio to taste the masterpiece called The Noble Pig sandwich. Though it was now cold and the cheese had sort of congealed, the flavors were still there. 



This was sandwich-gold. The ham was thin-sliced, salty and spicy. The pulled pork was smoky and moist, requiring no sauce. The bacon was thick sliced, smoky, peppery, and honestly outstanding. These three pig products came together to create a symphony; something out of my very decadent dreams. No wonder this is their crowning glory, and worthy of being named, “The Noble Pig.”



Next time, and yes there will most certainly be more than one or two next times, I will most absolutely order this sandwich for myself. Or maybe I’ll order half a Noble Pig and half a Seared Beef Tongue with smoked green onion, pepper relish and aioli. So many options! AH!

Essentially, if you haven’t gotten up north to this magnificent deli hidden in a strip mall serving up a sandwich stacked high with three kinds of house smoked meats and scratch crafted fois gras terrines, it’s about time you do.






Want to go? 
11815 FM 620 N. Suite 4
Austin TX 78750


When can you go?

MON–THUR: 7 AM – 3 PM
FRI–SUN: 7 AM – 5 PM


Want to get more info?

noblepigaustin [at] gmail [dot] com
or
www.noblepigaustin.com






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