The Leaning Pig
In the beginning, there were sandwiches. Humble slices of deli meats and cheese, assorted selections of greenery, sauced up and blanketed with bread. It has been the way of the sandwich world in Gainesville until Dragonfly veteran Dave Piasecki and Tommy Dorn of Dorn’s Liquors had a meeting of the minds. Together with Chef Jesse Burnett, who not only shares in their madness but seemingly revels in it, the team was set. In the midst of a pandemic, an opportunity arose when The Gelato Company closed. Now, in a narrow renovated space at 11 SE 1st Avenue, amongst natural wood and exposed brick, The Leaning Pig welcomes diners with a pink neon sign of a pig’s butt. As if to signify a turning of its backside to all other sandwiches, effectively rendering them into…well...sad-wiches.
But first, there are “small plates” that include charcuterie boards of fish/cheese/meat that generally hover around the $15-$18 mark. These are really anything but small. They feature rotating varieties of each item with house-made jams, pickles, and crackers that make for an Instagrammer’s wet dream. The fried chicken skins ($6) are a crispy, fatty treat served with romesco sauce or a Frank’s Red Hot aioli that give it the perfect acidic accompaniment. Or you can opt for a burrata plate ($6) of fresh burrata cheese served with a tomato jam, basil, oil, and crostinis for dippage. The roasted carrots ($6) are a stand-out, thick cut and lightly roasted then placed atop whipped chevre, almonds, and cane syrup.
Salads are on the menu if you’re into that sort of thing.
We all know the sandwiches are where it’s at. The restaurant cures their own ham, roasts their own turkey, crisps up their own hog jowl and chicken skins, while the bread comes from Village Bread Company in Jacksonville and pastries come from BakerBaker down the street at the 4th Avenue Food Park. The results are great ingredients made into great sandwiches. Crispy chunks of fatty pork jowl and bacon accompanied by arugula, sprouts, tomato, and Duke’s mayo on The Big Pig ($11). House cured ham, Duke’s mayo, arugula, caramelized onion, slices of green apple, and a mustard vinaigrette on the Ham Sando ($9). Vegan and vegetarian options are also available in two popular sandwiches; The Gainesville Hot Tempeh ($12) is a big ol’ tempeh patty made to emulate Nashville Hot Chicken as well as an Avocado Sando ($9) that tastes a lot like a sushi roll minus the sushi. Both are some of the heartiest vegetarian/vegan options you’ll find in town.
In fact, the sandwiches are quickly becoming so popular, after posting about The Dornwood sandwich (pictured) on my Instagram, all you fine folks ordered it so much that the kitchen became overwhelmed and it’s now off the menu. In lieu of it, is a Club Sandwich as a slightly tamer version. However – if you still want this monster made up of crispy chicken skins, bacon, hog jowl, tomatoes, arugula, pickled veggies, house cured ham, house cured turkey, and swiss – they will still assemble it for you as an off-menu item. You’re going to want to bring a friend for this one, but it’s insanely delicious and texturally one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever forcefully shoved into my mouthhole. Of course, if jaw unhinging is not your thing, you can always check the big chalkboard at the entrance to check out rotating samples with spectacular names like The Wrestlemania 69.
Right now, the restaurant is only serving beer but has a wine menu in the works. To go with it, there are a variety of accoutrement you can order as bar snacks or sides in the form of house-made beef jerky, olives, pickles, house-made pimento cheese, and fries. Breakfast is being served in the mornings with various sandwiches starting at $4 and highlights include a Big Morning Pig ($8 - crispy hog jowl, bacon, eggs, Frank’s aioli, and cheddar cheese on Texas Toast) and the hilarious Working Man’s Breakfast..which is just a can of Surge soda, some beef jerky, and a big ol’ side of LOLOLOLOLOL.
All this being said, the restaurant is showing tremendous promise in its very early stages. While the food can take a minute to come out of the kitchen and I found the chicken skins to be way too salty on a couple occasions, it will be interesting to see what they come up with when they hit their stride and expand the menu. The restaurant is currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays serving breakfast from 8:30 AM to 11 AM then lunch from 11 AM to 3 PM. Plans to expand service hours (including a happy hour) are in the works. Takeout and outdoor dining options are available.
They are just one of many in the continued resurgence and rebirth of the Gainesville restaurant scene, seemingly improving upon whatever was previously in its place (see Tinker’s takeover of the old Warehouse location). As one of the insufferable hipsters walking past the restaurant so exasperatedly declared, “Ugh…Gainesville’s changed.” – yes it has, and it’s getting better.