SWEET ’N’ SMOKED Wings at the Dancing Pig.
The laid-back tone of the place is established by its name and accompanying cartoon logo of a smiling pig in a top hat. Inside, tasseled valances against burgundy walls suggest a bustling gray-haired granny in the kitchen. By the time your water is brought in a handled Mason jar, you are assured that country items will dominate the menu, and we're not talking French Provincial.
This is "a BBQ-influenced, American comfort food restaurant," according to the menu description, which gives priority to ingredients from area farms. The place was opened last November by husband and wife Kieran and Lesley Smith, he serving as executive chef with 20 years experience and she as hostess. The Dancing Pig is located in the wilds of Cumberland, but not your grandfather's Cumberland. Being the only town in the state that saw increased population in the last census, the place is now home to a large influx of commuters to Providence, as well as the flannel shirt set. The menu here is designed accordingly.
The lumberjack and cowboy customers can more often be found upstairs, around a large bar that seats three dozen. Downstairs, away from the noise, there are tables for about as many diners. They may choose from a small but careful selection of nearly two dozen wines, including some interesting offerings, such as a Gewürztraminer from Washington state. Among their specialty cocktails, I recommend the fine-tuned Jamaican iced tea ($7), a pleasant distance from Long Island with four different rums. Yacht Club sodas attest to their local loyalty.
The Dancing Pig | 401.658.5151 |48 West Wrentham Rd, Cumberland | Tues-Wed, 3 PM-Midnight; Thurs-Sat, 3 pm-1 am; Sun, 3-11 pm | Major Credit Cards | Full Bar | Sidewalk-Level Accessible
The menu is eclectic but with a country tilt, as indicated by the starters. There are wings, pulled pork empanadas, and fried pickles, but there are also stuffies — and crab cakes, another indigenous item. Their "Breadtzels" ($6.99) are bits of soft pretzel served with a bacon, cheddar, and horseradish dip. Sounds habit-forming.
We had the empanadas ($7.99), which attracted me because they were wrapped in puff pastry. The five hot half-moons were mild-tasting, sweetened up with a thick and tasty peach dipping sauce. We couldn't not have chicken wings ($7.99), which are smoked more than two hours and served with brushed-on sauce: BBQ, jerk, honey-chipotle, or Thai chili. The last was our first choice, and the spice-enhanced sriracha sauce was pleasant, not overwhelming with heat.
We went on to share a bowl of their signature chili ($7.99), which was considerately split for us. Wow. There was as much short ribs meat, spice-rubbed and braised in beer, as there were black beans, the spiciness modified by generous dollops of sour cream. I don't know when I've had better chili.
Neither of us could ever easily pass up mac & cheese, so that wasn't likely to happen now. There are six variations ($5.99-$8.99), from "naked" to Jonah crab and short ribs. We got the one with applewood bacon, little bits that suffused the al dente elbows with a wonderful smokiness. Quite a treat. (The mushroom and truffle oil version, which I brought home, was also an earthy delight.)