Often lost in the Bouré vs. Ajax debate for Oxford-dining supremacy is the subtle, but acclaimed Neon Pig. This little establishment has roots that run farther and wider than the 662 area code; the tastes and smells of Neon Pig have emanated down Highway 6 and throughout America’s heartland.
Tucked between a hardware store and the Japanese restaurant Jinsei, Neon Pig is hidden from the average passer-by; but that’s part of the restaurant’s allure. Upon entering through the narrow entrance, customers are immediately thrust into a bustling atmosphere where craft beers, stout chunks of meat, and familial banter converge. The dining area seats no more than 25. It’s charming, yet gritty.
Neon Pig owners describe the business as an “old-school butcher shop, a fresh never frozen seafood shop, (and) a food bar.” Their menu is littered with a wide array of options, ranging from their signature “smash burger” to a locally-sourced pork belly wrap.
Neon Pig is a hybrid establishment. They’re a prototypical restaurant, but also a full-service butcher shop. They sell seemingly every craft beer in the Southeastern U.S., yet they have a diverse selection of local produce. They even sell 662-made gelato and cake. They’re a conundrum in a market where most establishments have a fixed niche.
Their character is manifested through the duties of their employees. Grace Myers of Austin, Texas, hasn’t worked at Neon Pig for long, but she’s firmly immersed in their culture and philosophy.
“I would call myself a waitress, but I also know how to cook and dress the food, and I’m starting to learn how to butcher,” Myers said of her duties as an employee. This is indicative of the integrative nature of the restaurant.
Myers claims Neon Pig is “different than any other restaurant (she’s) worked at,” citing “you are expected to know how to do everything. They train you, but by the end of training, you are supposed to be able to work at every station.”
While Neon Pig’s complexity is certainly intriguing, their philosophy raises the bar higher. They pride themselves on being a farm-to-table restaurant, which, according to thespruce.com, is a process by which “food on the table comes directly from a specific farm, without going through a store, market, or distributor along the way.” The farm-to-table movement has swept the country, attracting proponents of clean lifestyles and healthy eating alike.
Myers indicated all their ingredients are local, stating: “We’re incredibly farm-to-table. We are getting stuff in from Oxford farms. Our chickens come from Zion farms in Pontotoc, and our meat from Como. Everything we sell is as fresh as possible.”
Throughout the restaurant are signs of where and how far the ingredients restaurant ingredients are from, a comforting sight to customers with motives ulterior to simple nourishment.
Neon Pig originated in Tupelo, where they have and continue to experience success. In the fall of 2015, Neon Pig expanded 50 miles west – a rational idea since Oxford is a commerce-heavy, food-centric town.
Myers believes Neon Pig plays a definitive role in the Oxford community. “It (Neon Pig) is changing the way people think about food,” she said. “When you come here, you know that your burger is coming from the area, and you know that your pickles are made in-house. It’s really changing the perspective of what food should be like and how food should be presented.”
Crayton Bowie, an Oxford resident for six years, believes “farm-to-table is always good for the community.” While Neon Pig isn’t his favorite restaurant in town, Bowie understands the impact it has on the area as a whole.
“I do love what Neon Pig adds to the local/small market feel of Oxford, especially in an increasingly corporate society,” Bowie added.
No discussion of Neon Pig is complete unless the infamous Smash Burger is mentioned. This concoction of meats, house-made sauces, and pickled onions is far from the average burger. In 2015, the Smash Burger was deemed “‘Best Burger in America” by Thrillist.com in a nationwide search to identify cheeseburger hegemony.
The name “Smash Burger” is derived from the unusual concoction of meats that form the patty. A combination of filet, sirloin, ribeye, New York strip steak, and Benton’s bacon are smashed together to establish the foundation of this nation’s best burger.
In an age when expeditious consumption and instant gratification reign supreme, Neon Pig is a breath of fresh air. Whether patrons are propped up at the bar watching the food be prepared, or relaxing on the porch and sipping some of Mississippi’s finest brew, the philosophy of the restaurant is present.
Myers puts it best: “Our philosophy is putting out high quality product that’s local and fresh, is good for your soul, and good for you.”
Smash on, Neon Pig.