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Dining Review: Oinkster goes well beyond pork

December 02, 2011|By Rebecca Bryant
  • The Oinkster pastrami sandwich includes gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and red cabbage slaw, at The Oinkster in Eagle Rock on Wednesday, November 30, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
The Oinkster pastrami sandwich includes gruyere cheese,…

Is it sacrilege to love the chicken salad at a joint famous for its house-cured pastrami?

The Oinkster in Eagle Rock sells its pastrami and its home-cooked Carolina-style pulled pork by the pound, such is the clamor by carnivores. And its meaty sandwiches are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But the Thai chicken salad is what had me hankering for more.

The restaurant inhabits the site of a former Jim’s Burgers chain. It’s still got the red roof and the funky sign poles, but this is a fast-food joint hipsterized. Green shoots of bamboo surround the outside deck to block the view and noise of Colorado Boulevard. Metal or plastic seats, wooden benches and metal tables give an eclectic feel. Inside, raised tables and chairs and comfy red booths cover the pebble floor.

Chef Andre Guerrero, known for his work at higher-end establishments, sees Oinkster as a way to make his imprint on what he calls “slow fast food.” He’s made an impression. The place is packed on weekends and even managed a line the day after Thanksgiving. Guy Fieri of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” even paid a televised visit.

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On our first visit, we went for the meat, including the signature Oinkster pastrami sandwich. Pastrami is piled on toasted French bread and covered with caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese and red coleslaw. We kept pulling slabs of pastrami out of the sandwich to savor alone. That’s also a strategy to make the gigantic sandwich more manageable. This is a meal to share.

The pulled pork sandwich, brined and smoked in house, was tasty with its topping of onions, slaw and vinegar-based Carolina barbecue sauce, but the pork itself seemed a little dry. The burger called the royale might as well be named “the kitchen sink.” It’s a one-third pound burger, with (take a deep breath) cheese, chili, bacon, pastrami, pickles, onion, tomato, lettuce and homemade thousand island dressing. The rest of our party was just starting on our sandwiches and sharing bites when we looked over and realized the teenager’s royale had disappeared. He blamed the sandwich’s architecture. “I couldn’t put it down or it would fall apart.” I blamed the pastrami and chili.

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