In North Carolina, no celebration is complete without a proper pig pickin’. Stick a whole hog or two on top of the smoker, and then spend the day drinkin’ and carousin’ and waitin’ for the succulent pork to be hot enough to melt in your mouth. The owner of Arrogant Swine, Tyson Ho, was born above the Mason-Dixon line, but while on a spiritual journey to the barbecue heartland, he found something awfully compelling about the pig pickin’ ritual.
Tyson’s appreciation for that type of southern soiree led Arrogant Swine down a slightly unusual path. Tyson didn’t follow the natural trajectory that most food projects do, from occasional pop-up to dependable presence at Smorgasburg to physical storefront. Instead, Tyson Ho, the owner and founder of North Carolina style BBQ company Arrogant Swine, didn’t want to do a pop up. “It’s too food-oriented…I’m not a big ‘look-at-me’ kinda guy,” he said. Instead, Tyson started serving his whole-hog smoked pigs at craft beer events, preferring to be the pig guy in the back, rather than the main attraction.
Tyson Ho shows off his smoked hog.
Before he fell in love with barbecue, Tyson crunched numbers for a living, writing software for finance companies. And, naturally, he hated it. For a while, he worked during the day and smoked pigs by moonlight. But eventually, he couldn’t help himself, and he made the leap and quit his day job, proclaiming, “Aw, fuck it—I’ll do what I want to…which will probably be my undoing.” His pigs got popular; Arrogant Swine got popular, and before long he began to dream a little bigger.
By the time I sat down with Tyson, he was already enjoying a refill on his large coffee. His energy, and his caffeine tolerance, are formidable. Even though we’re seated in the middle of busy Starbucks in Manhattan, he exudes everything that makes you crave Southern barbecue. His humility is genuine, and his enthusiasm is thick.
Expect the Church to welcome in the parishoners of pork this very summer. Come May, or June at the latest, you’ll be able to waste whole afternoons (and evenings! [“I’m not interesting in turning tables. I’m not interesting in reservations.”]) enjoying over twenty taps and feasting on heritage hams and pork sandwiches. And the place is huge, almost obscenely so: 14-foot celings, over 4000 total square feet. A German style beer hall, right in the heart of Morgantown.
Barbecue is one of those foods, like pierogies, that people have a lot of emotion about. A neuroscientist once told me that smoked meat lights up a very particular part of the brain, evoking something within us that is both animalistic and tender. You can’t help but want to wreak just a little havoc when there’s pork ribs on the line, and when Arrogant Swine opens its doors in Bushwick, the most pleasing and gentle kind of beer-hall chaos will undoubtably ensue. And you can trust Tyson Ho to serve up the kind of pork that taps exactly into that barbecue vein: “If I’m gonna stay up all night cooking it, I’m gonna get the best pig possible.”
Arrogant Swine is expected to open this summer. It will be located off the Morgan Ave subway stop.