When Pigs Fly
With a combination of Latin, African and American flavors, Pig Floyd’s is the real thing—and really good.
The matahambre sandwich (front) is a highlight at Pig Floyd’s.
At the beginning of the Orlando food truck craze three years ago, our first stars were known as The Big Six: Big Wheel, Korean BBQ Taco Box, Red Eye BBQ, Crooked Spoon, Yum Yum Cupcake and Treehouse Truck. A social media frenzy created massive lines, with fans hopping from one converted van window to the next.Mobile food has since settled into the relatively commonplace, and The Big Six have mostly moved on. Big Wheel closed in 2013, with Chef Tony Adams moving to Nantucket to helm a restaurant; KBBQT Box grew to a multi-vehicle franchise, then drove into the sunset, leaving one, newly owned truck behind; the Red Eye Bar and Grill in Ocoee supplanted its truck in 2012; and the late Steve Saelg took off his wheels and opened The Crooked Spoon Gastropub in Clermont. The award-winning Yum Yum truck was sold in October but still plies its sweet creations on the road.
Treehouse was known for outrageous creations like the Luther, a bacon cheeseburger between two Krispy Kreme donuts. You’ll still see the truck at food gatherings, but Thomas Ward, who started it, is no longer behind the wheel, having sold it two years ago. He can now be found at the cleverly named Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa, serving outstanding Latin, African and American fusion that has had me returning to his kitchen several times. The location on Mills Avenue has a history of culinary amalgamation—once home to a Vietnamese and Korean sandwich place and a Turkish steak and salad spot. But a physical overhaul and the promise of unique food has revived the spot.
Ward, 31, went from Rollins College student to food truck owner in 2011, moving in 2012 to Puerto Rico where he started, and soon closed, a restaurant. He isn’t a cook, but he has a keen concept of food combinations and conveys that vision to his chef, Jason Carlucci, who worked on the Treehouse Truck. It’s exciting to see Ward stationed at the kitchen pass-through, inspecting every dish before it goes out, an unusual degree of attention at a “fresh casual” restaurant.
And the food is glorious. Invoking the Caribbean roots of barbecue, barbakoa is traditional Puerto Rican smoke cooking, full of rich flavors and tropical ingredients. Oak-smoked St. Louis ribs (half-rack $14.99, full $22.99) are slow-cooked and glazed deep ruby red, the sweet coating a perfect match to tender, meaty ribs.
Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa
The brisket on the matahambre sandwich ($8.99), a smoked flank steak with South American influences of chimichurri sauce, features grilled tomatoes and an over easy fried egg. Parsley, garlic and olive oil chimichurri, the hot condiment of the season, is fresh and fragrant; the brisket is super tender while still retaining a beefy texture; it might be the best I’ve ever had.
“I don’t want to be compared to 4 Rivers or Sonny’s,” Ward says, and there’s not much chance of that in his eclectic menu. The North African chicken sausage and shrimp platter ($8.99) pairs house-made sausage with grilled shrimp and is served with two sides. Among my favorites: fennel apple slaw, crisp and full of sweet licorice flavors; and grilled corn on the cob, smokily charred and sprinkled with pepper, lime and salty Mexican cotija cheese (separate sides $2.49 each).
Ward says there were 350 people waiting in line when Pig Floyd’s opened in September, and I can see why. I seldom have time to return to any one restaurant after a review, but my taste buds keep drawing me back to Pig Floyd’s barbakoa excelente.
A Handful Of Flavors
Tacos entice in several varieties. Shrimp and sausage ($3.79) combines spice-rubbed shellfish, chicken sausage, tangy orange sambal and tart yogurt. Flavors of India enhance butter chicken ($2.95), coated in tikka sauce, pepitas, jalapeno and cilantro. Traditionally made with pork, the al pastor ($2.95) layers yogurt-marinated chicken with fresh cilantro, radish and charred pineapple wedges.