Local Barbecue, Tacos and Beer – The Cultured Swine and Isley Brewing Co.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting a new local barbecue and taco restaurant and grabbing a beer flight at a local craft brewery.  Both spots far exceeded my expectations.  Here’s why:

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The Cultured Swine, located in the midst of the burgeoning Jackson Ward restaurant scene, offers tacos, sandwiches, tamales and sides that marry the flavors of Mexico, Korea and Jamaica with barbecue.  It might sound strange, but it works.  I tried the taco trio of the Tarheel Special (NC-style pulled pork barbecue with “swine sauce” and cole slaw), the Big Jerk (Jamaican jerk chicken with mango pico de gallo) and the Go Go Gogi (Korean-style beef with kimchi salsa).  My lunch pal had the Tarheel Special barbecue sandwich, and we shared a side of Riri’s Macaroni Pie.  Inspired by Rihanna, the macaroni pie was topped with crushed tomatoes and breadcrumbs and made a crunchy, spicy addition to our meal.

My three tacos were awesome.  My favorite was the Big Jerk – the mango pico de gallo was the perfect accompaniment to the heat of the chicken.  The Go Go Gogi was sweet and spicy, and the Tarheel Special had perfectly-smoked pork with crisp, tangy coleslaw and homemade barbecue sauce.

The spot itself is tucked away on a side street just down from Saison.  They’re open for lunch and dinner.  Their food was delicious – I can’t wait to go back!

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My husband and I got a rare Friday evening together sans kids, and we headed to Isley Brewing Co. for happy hour and some beer flights.  I’d tried their Choosy Mother peanut butter porter at Growlers to Go, so I knew they made some interesting beers.  I was not disappointed my my flight choices of Dark Palm (chocolate coconut dunkelweizen), Off the Boulevard red ale, Stunt Dubbel (pumpkin Belgian dubbel), Choosy Mother peanut butter porter (yes, I had to have it again!) and Ruby Red Slippers (grapefruit session).

I am a super fan of the Choosy Mother peanut butter porter.  I love dark beer, and I love peanut butter.  The combination was magical!  The Dark Palm was interesting, but seemed a little like a failed experiment (hence the marked down price of $3 a pint), but the Stunt Dubbel was amazing enough to be a new favorite pumpkin beer, and the Ruby Red Slippers was a crisp, refreshing late summer brew.  Complimentary Cape Cod chips and Snyder’s pretzels are available.  The brewery and tasting room are located in Scott’s Addition.  The space is sleek but comfortable, with a mix of bar space, tables and sofas/chairs to relax in.  Happy hour (4-6 pm) offers $1 off all beers, and there are food trucks and special events too.

If you’re in Richmond and fan of barbecue, tacos and beer, you’ve gotta check out The Cultured Swine and Isley Brewing Co.!

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