BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR--ST. PAUL - 2003
The Muddy Pig
An intrepid (and/or hard-drinking) anthropologist could spend a lifetime chronicling the rich and varied social life of St. Paul bars without ever hitting bottom (at least in the sense of running out of things to chronicle). Few establishments on either side of the river equal this relative newcomer to the bustling Selby/Dale corner in charm or diversity, though. A recent early-evening visit found a couple of empty-nesters playing a spirited game of Yahtzee in one of the Pig's comfy, well-worn booths, while regular Joes in their 40s discussed Harleys and sushi (simultaneously!) at one end of the long semi-rectangular bar, and a trio of Newcastle-sipping hipsters talked film at the other. (Best line overheard: "Have you ever seen Robert De Niro in an interview? Most self-conscious motherfucker you'll ever see!") Undoubtedly, the room itself, a spacious high-ceilinged study in tranquillity, is part of the Pig's draw, as are the nearly 60 bottled beers (including 20 Belgian and Belgian-styled brands), and a wine list that offers 10 bottles for 20 bucks or less. The house-prepared food (served till 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) is nothing to turn your snout up at, either. Nine bucks gets you a huge bowl of creamy risotto dotted with chunks of roasted vegetables, while a heaping plate of walnut-crusted walleye, mashed potatoes, and grilled veggies goes for a few dollars more. But ultimately, it's the vibe that makes the Pig truly exceptional. As with the food and potables, music runs several cuts above regular bar fare, with the likes of XTC and Wilco dominating the stereo. And service, whether you're in the big room, or in the nonsmoking section, or on the cozy outdoor patio, is consistently fast and friendly. Plus, Yahztee is just one of several games, including Scrabble, chess, and backgammon, that the Pig provides for its patrons. Clearly, this is a pig that wants you to linger.