Right about now, as sacrilegious as it might sound, we’re sick of turkey and cranberry sauce. We want something with more of a kick and a crunch. That’s why we head to Hog Wild BBQ in Cottonwood. When the weather is nice, we grab one of the wooden picnic tables outside, the smell of the smoker mingling with the smell of damp leaves from the trees that shade the (dog-friendly) patio. That smell is just a hint of what’s to come: the best barbecue to be had in the Verde Valley.
Hog Wild is a no-frills joint. You order at the counter, and your food arrives at your table in plastic baskets with red-checked paper. Do yourself a favor and start with the addictive, deep-fried pickle spears, which arrive hot, crunchy, slightly spicy and with a side of ranch dressing for dipping. For entrées, Hog Wild offers sandwiches and platters. We highly recommend the beef brisket in any form. On our most recent visit, we dove into the Beef Brisket Plate. A half-pound of brisket is piled high and topped with the restaurant’s sweet-and-spicy barbecue sauce (there’s extra sauce on all the tables for good measure). The plates come with two slices of buttery, crispy Texas toast and your choice of sides. All of the side dishes here are tempting: the baked beans are tangy, the skin-on fries are sprinkled with salt and pepper, the crunchy coleslaw is slightly sweet and the sweet-potato fries are some of the best in the area.
Our second favorite option is the baby back ribs, which are available in a full rack or half rack. It might sound like a cliché, but the meat actually falls off the bone – we witnessed it. All of the meat at Hog Wild is slow cooked and smoked over local pecan wood. What we love about this joint is that you really taste the smokiness in the meat. Hog Wild has been in the same location since 2006, and it’s always full of locals chowing down and licking their fingers. Chicago transplants take note: Hog Wild also serves authentic Chicago food such as Italian beef sandwiches, Italian sausage and Chicago-style hot dogs. Enjoy a taste of Chi Town without the accompaniment of a bitterly cold winter. – Erika Ayn Finch. Photo by Deb Weinkauff.
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