Shaking up the rib scene at Porky’s
By Josh Koerner
At the corner of Velp and Glendale Avenue, a small strip mall dubbed “Glendale Crossing” had all but faded into obscurity, until 2021 when the Bacon Burger Company laid down roots.
With hand-ground patties infused with bacon, Bacon Burger transformed the Glendale stripmall into an epicenter for comfort-food.
In July of 2022, however, a challenger emersed: Porky’s Ribs and Shakes.
Sporting four distinct smoked meats, home-style lemonade, over dozen flavors of ice cream for their signature sundaes and shakes, and 25-plus toppings, Porky’s was poised to serve as a second mecca in Howard for comforting indulgence.
By the time I made my way to Porky’s, they had settled into their new home and made fast friends with their burger-smashing neighbors.
With the return of the school year, however, they were already running a skeleton crew with reduced hours.
With that, service may come a bit slower than one may expect of their establishment, with the owner doing the lion’s share of the work on his own.
If barbecue has taught me one lesson, however, it is that good things come to those who wait.
Take the brisket, for instance.
Porky’s brisket is infused with the fragrant sweetness of a robust hickory smoke.
The smoke holds heavy in the fat layer and accentuates the rub along the crust.
Beneath the fat cap, the beef is salty and rich, still holding more subtle notes of the smoke.
While brisket stands well enough on its own, I believe it is best enjoyed in sandwich form with a light layer of sauce.
Porky’s southern-style barbecue adds a familiar flavor arch, starting with a bite of vinegar, melding into spice, and finishing sweet.
The sandwich option brings a buttery brioche bun into the mix, perfecting a comfort-food profile, and cementing Porky’s brisket sandwich as my favorite menu item.
Beyond the brisket, the chicken and rib entrees are a coin toss for best-in-show, making the three a perfect choice for the three-meat sampler.
At first glance, I expected the chicken to be dry as the smoked skin, thick with rub, almost looked leathery.
In a pleasant surprise, however, the skin was delicate and only served to hold in the sweet, juicy meat inside.
The meat takes its unique flavor from a sweet and spicy rub blend smoked over a blend of fruit-centric wood chips.
The sweetness hits you on the nose, transitioning to the familiar flavor of a rotisserie-style chicken, and finishing on a pop of peppercorn spice.
Unlike the brisket, I recommend no alteration to Porky’s barbecue chicken.
I think it is perfect in its original, undressed form.
I give my final recommendation to the ribs.
Porky’s ribs are served naked, allowing the diner to get a good appreciation for the even rub and deep smoke ring.
Both the smoke blend and the rub are aimed at accentuating the natural flavor of the rib meat, with a balanced blend of sweet and savory smoke and a rub that revolves around salt, spice and earthy tones.
The resulting rib stands equally well on its own as it does sauced, and the tender meat can be easily peeled from the bone.
All of Porky’s entrees can be perfectly completed with a side of beans or fries.
The fries themselves are fairly basic, but feature ample seasoning and make a fine accompaniment.
If I failed to mention the beans, I think Pitmaster Sean would kill me as he changed the entire recipe based on my recommendation.
Enjoying a meal in Porky’s cozy dining room adds a particularly enticing element to the experience.
It’s almost impossible to stare at all of the topping jars above the ice cream cooler and leave without dessert.
The specialty sundaes have their own allure, but take it from me: you should ask what shakes they are featuring for the month.
This is how I managed to stumble upon Porky’s caramel apple pie shake.
Despite the crumbled graham cracker and chunky pie filling, this shake blends up to a pleasant consistency that tastes like fall feels (well, maybe just a tad sweeter).
They are also available in pumpkin while the season lasts, but we all know what the true flavor of fall is.