Pig foot feels more like a dare or man-versus-wild challenge than a tasty, quick after-work meal at one of San Anto’s newest and best gastropubs. It brings to mind pale pink appendages soaking in a glass pickling jar in the ethnic food market. Those who aren’t die-hard foodies likely haven’t worked up the courage to dine on swine feet, and that’s to be expected. It’s an unusual dish, especially for a popular Southtown drinking spot. That’s what makes the Monterey so peculiar. Its lax atmosphere, stacked beer and wine menu, and spacious candlelit patio make it a perfect place to stake out a table and throw back drinks late into the night. But its ever-changing menu is remarkably ambitious, often featuring the avant-garde, seizing the spotlight with exotic, high-quality ingredients that put other bar food, and many other local restaurants, to shame.
And that’s the beauty of gastropubs: they’re different things to different people. For some, the Monterey is Southtown’s go-to restaurant with a knockout beer and wine list. For others, it’s a great bar with a killer menu that rings of gourmet. And by being so accessible, and affordable, the Monterey challenges your average bar-goer to try things they otherwise wouldn’t. Which brings us back to pig feet, the stand-out experimental fare from the Monterey’s latest menu. Unless you’re already familiar with how pig feet are prepared and cooked, the first thing you have to do is forget what you’re ordering. If you’re picturing a shiny pink pig hoof staring up from your plate, you’re dead wrong — some restaurants dub them “pork trotters,” I imagine, just to avoid the whole foot-in-mouth imagery.
As is standard with pig feet, the meat’s braised, deboned, and molded into a crab cake-like portion, coated in a flour batter and fried to a nice crisp. The meat itself is very, very tender, bordering on gelatinous, with a deep pork flavor that’s strong but not too overpowering. The Monterey serves the pork over a bed of roasted succotash, with hints of tomato doubling as a nice sauce for the crispy hoof.
Pig feet won’t don the menu at the Monterey for long. On my visit last week, I was told they might roll out a new one as early as this week. But a new challenge will always be waiting, whether its pig feet, roasted bone marrow, or beef tongue. Have a couple drinks. Calm down. Don’t be freaked out. Be adventurous. Order.
1127 S St. Mary’s St