The newest evolution in Fast Food is hitting seven Southern cities in the next three months: All will be open by July 4th. Get ready Atlanta, Birmingham, Charleston, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis and Charlottesville, as PB&K will completely make you rethink “fast” food. In fact, their tag line is “Where Slow Food Gets Fast.”
PB&K stands for Pork Belly & Kale, the two most ubiquitous items on any trendy Southern food table. As the phrase “farm-to-table” has been increasingly used to describe local menus throughout the South, foods like pork belly and kale have really taken off. Pork belly, by the way, is the exact same cut of meat as is American bacon. Yes, the exact same. The only difference is in the preparation — pork belly is not cured. So, if you still think “pork belly” sounds nasty, just think “bacon without the brining” and now it probably sounds amazing. And kale … it’s so easy to grow 12 months out of the year, so it’s an easy leaf to serve year-round sourcing it from the little farm, just down the road.
Here’s what owner Mike Thompson says about this new concept: “We’ve taken the two most beloved items of the current farm-to-table movement, pork and kale, and proven that we can source locally and produce amazing food, and fast. Our average patron will need to wait less than four minutes after ordering to receive their food. We know our customers crave convenience but with a conscience. They want to embrace their local farmers, but they don’t have the time to eat around a table each meal; many are eating at their desks or, quite frankly, in their cars, at traffic lights. Parents are filled with guilt after working all day and really are just wanting a drive-thru, as all their energy has been sapped. We understand and we aim to better this common situation with PB&K. Just because it’s local doesn’t mean we can’t pre-prepare foods and get it to the customer fast.”
We were surprised to find that every menu item at PB&K actually has pork and kale somehow incorporated into the ingredients. With only 8 menu options available all day (breakfast, lunch and dinner all share the same menu), it’s easier to do than you may think. The sweet potato waffle fries are served with bits of fried pork belly and are garnished with shredded kale. The Hot Chicken Piggy Biscuit sounds divine as Mike describes it, “With wheat freshly ground each day at each individual PB&K, we then make biscuits that would make mama blush they are so good. Spicy hot fried chicken is served up with a thinly-cut slice of souse (skin from the head of a locally-raised pig made into a meaty jelly that is then pickled with a house-made vinegar) and a thick slice of bacon. Finally, we dunk half the biscuit sandwich in PB&K honey-kale bourbon butter, which we also make on the premises from the milk of a local cow. And, you’ll have it within 2 minutes of ordering.” As an added note of interest, PB&K employs Amish women to make the butter and grind the flour at each location, meaning each is done without electricity.
And, as an added convenience for busy customers, each Friday and Saturday morning, from 8-11 a.m., the Circle of Life Petting Zoo will be at each PB&K. Thompson knows that people today feel a disconnect with their food and crave more. “Customers want more information on the food they are eating, but are too busy to get out to the farms. So we are bringing it straight to them, two days a week. This way our children grow up realizing where their pork and beef are coming from. They can see real chickens, pigs and cows which will eventually end up being handed to them through the drive-thru window … it’s all about making connections.”
We wondered about these drive-thru lanes and the excessive use of gas from the cars waiting in line and asked Thompson his thoughts. He flat out rejects the idea that drive-thru lanes necessitate gas guzzling. “We actually have employees monitoring the lanes (we’ll have two running at all times). Patrons are encouraged to turn off their car when it’s not moving, unless of course it’s electric—these can stay on the entire time. If patrons refuse to help us save the planet by simply turning their car off when not inching forward, their order will be voided. We will not tolerate such waste on PB&K property. They can go to hundreds of other drive-thrus if they want to act with such disregard for our planet and others.”
Wow. That seems harsh, but it is a private establishment and they are telling you the rules up front. Of course, you could always park and walk in to avoid the drive-thru lane altogether.
But, it’s the food the matters most, and after trying all these items, we think you’ll be willing to do just about anything to ensure you can get what may become a daily fix. Here are the highlights:
For pricing, everything on the menu is $7.27, except the fries, which are just $5.27.
You’re So Sweet Fries: sweet potato fries** with pork belly** and kale** garnishings and hand-finished with sea salt.^ρ
Down Home Breakfast Sandwich: biscuit* with a fried egg**, thick cut bacon**, and honey-kale bourbon butter*.
Hot Chicken Piggy Biscuit: fried chicken breast** coated for spicy heat, souse**, thick cut bacon**, honey-kale bourbon butter* and kale aioli* served on a cheese biscuit* made with locally made goat cheddar cheese**.
PB&J at PB&K: organic peanut butter*, strawberry jam*, kale shreds** and 2 strips of bacon** served on 7 grain bread**.
Not-So Irish Stew: beef**, pork belly**, carrots**, onions**, kale** and sweet potato** topping.^ρ
PB&Kale Salad: with almonds and hardboiled eggs** tossed in a warm bacon vinaigrette*.^ρ
Greenie Brownie sandwich: two dense, chocolate brownies* sandwiching shredded kale** and two strips of bacon** and topped with Cool Whip™∞.
Whole Meal Smoothie: 1 cup kale**, 7 strips bacon**, 2 cups milk** with 2 tbs of coconut oil, ⅓ cup of almonds, cinnamon and local honey, all pulverized into a delicious smoothie.^ρ (You may add Cool Whip™∞ at no additional cost.)
** locally sourced; *made in house; ^ Gluten Free; ρ Paleo, ∞ because everything is better with Cool Whip™
Thompson hopes to have 15 PB&Ks opened in the South by 2016. He says, “Our idea of “slow food gets fast” will resonate with the modern consumer. It’s not about calories anymore, it’s about embracing your local heritage, which obviously in the South is built on pork belly and kale.”
When we asked Thompson if he has any plans to expand out of the South, he instantly said, “Yes, I want to open in Colorado soon. We have an experimental kitchen there already working on recipes that include the ability to sub your kale on several items with locally sourced, organic marijuana. I mean, that is the essence of embracing the local community and we want to be at the forefront of marijuana cooking, where your last customer truly may be your next.”
If you are interested in purchasing a PB&K t-shirt, to help start the “Where Slow Food Gets Fast” movement among your friends, you can do so today with the code: APRIL FOOLS.
(But really, you can order a tee, no joke: cafepress.com)