the oink cafe
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The Oink Cafe
July, 2012, Page 163
Photos by Richard Maack
Pork lovers go hog wild at this Phoenix haven for all things bacon.
Can you think of a dish that isn’t improved with bacon? The folks at The Oink Café can’t. The family-owned restaurant’s tag line – “Breakfast, Lunch, Bacon” – reflects a near-religious zeal for humanity’s favorite piece of cured meat. They even offer a wine-bar-style “Bacon Flight” featuring each of the restaurant’s aromatic and appetizingly crisp bacon styles, including jalapeño, applewood-smoked, honey-cured, sugar-cured and peppered ($6). There’s a succulent strip of sow for every palate, and the north Phoenix eatery finds myriad ways to bring the bacon into play.
Consider the maple bacon donut ($3). Made famous by the venerable Nickel Diner in L.A., Oink’s version is so superior to the Nickel version it’s like comparing Disney’s boisterous, dancing Pumbaa warthog to Winnie the Pooh’s diminutive Piglet. Surprisingly subtle, the sweet-salty topping and moist cake-like texture mesh beautifully. (Breakfast-shmeckfast, it tastes like dessert to me.) Peanut brittle fans may never go back once they taste the caramel pecan/bacon confection sold here for $3 a bag, and Bloody Mary enthusiasts will find a dusting of bacon salt around the rim of the glass next to a bacon-strip stirrer. The most authentic Bacon Bloody Marys use pork-infused vodka. This one ($6) doesn’t, unfortunately.
Standing in for the wan Canadian variety, Oink’s bacon elevates eggs Benedict with crunch and deep flavor. Otherwise, it’s the classic preparation with nicely oozy poached eggs and silky hollandaise ($10). Non-bacon items include a crusted, tender chicken-fried steak with rich cream gravy and two eggs ($9) and credible huevos rancheros featuring deliciously chunky fries ($9). Pair it with the spunky chorizo ($2.50).
Oink breakfast burger
The house sausage is excellent, too, and arrives as a patty topped with a fried egg and crunchy hash browns in the decadent Oink breakfast burger ($10). Three Little Pigs in a Blanket ($7), sausages cradled in fluffy pancakes and drizzled with syrup, are as cute as they are satisfying. Flaky biscuits and sausage gravy ($6) also hit the spot.
Lunch options aren’t as well-conceived. Despite the great bacon topping, the Oink burger ($11) was under-seasoned and overcooked. The beef in the French dip sandwich ($9) was seared to shreds, and the jus was too salty. Same deal with the chili (cup $5, bowl $7), which has an odd machaca-like texture and insufficient heat.
Though it seems like the building should be thematically pig-shaped, The Oink takes the form of a long funnel with a charming little patio at the wide end. A cheery citrus color scheme and swine-related art provide the decor, and what the service lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in warmth and energy.
Ultimately, The Oink Café looks like a little piggy’s house that won’t get blown in – no matter how much huffing and puffing the bacon naysayers do.
Inside Oink Café
The Oink Café
: 4326 E. Cactus Rd., Phoenix
: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday-Monday. Closed Tuesday.
: Maple bacon donut ($3), bacon eggs Benedict ($10), chicken fried steak ($9), huevos rancheros ($9), Oink breakfast burger ($10), biscuits and gravy ($6), Pigs in a Blanket ($7)
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