It’d be interesting to know how many successful businesses are bought by enthusiastic customers when they come up for sale — as was the case with The Piggy BBQ of Walker.
In late 2012, Steve and Cathy Blake were opening The Piggy BBQ at 607 Minnesota Avenue.
About the same time, Steve and Amie Hopper, the Piggy’s current owners, were moving back to Walker where Amie grew up. The Piggy quickly became their favorite place to eat and a mainstay of the local dining scene.
A couple of years later, Amie saw the Blakes’ post on The Piggy Facebook page announcing that 2015 would be their farewell summer. She and husband Steve immediately contacted the Blakes and after many meetings and conversations, bought The Piggy.
“It’s been an incredible five years, watching our little spot on main street turn into a Walker staple and ‘must stop’ for visitors,” she reflects.
Amie grew up in Walker and worked at The Village Square during high school. After moving to Nevada, she worked for The Cheesecake Factory and opened several locations for them over the course of 11 years.
Then Kim Hoffman, a longtime resident of the area, moved back to Walker from Idaho to join her daughter and son-in-law as co-owner in this venture. She grew up at Wi-Wi-Ta Resort in Longville and has spent years in the service industry.
Steve Hopper, on the other hand, was a heavy equipment operator by trade. He spent the first years of the new business venture traveling the country working on power lines during the week, then put on his pitmaster hat at The Piggy on weekends. He has been a full time owner/operator at The Piggy for two years now.
The hardest part of the business transition was, and sometimes still, is making enough food not to run out; so it’s best to make a reservation or pre-order, especially for large orders.
“We smoke the best quality meats, rub and smoke the brisket and pork overnight. They are pulled early in the morning,” Amie describes. “Then we put in our ribs and burnt ends and beans to smoke, just in time for lunch.”
The menu includes traditional BBQ “sides” — pork and beans, mac and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, cornbread, pickle medley plate, brisket chili and caesar salad.
The Piggy’s dessert menu features UGLY (Unusually Good Light Yet Cheesecake) Cheesecakes delivered fresh from Brainerd every week. They also have a mini Key Lime Pie, Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownie and gluten-free Chocolate Chip Nothing Bundt Cakes.
The cocktail menu serves up everything from Piggy Press, Mules and Mojitos to Pineapple Manhattans; has a variety of craft beer on draft and a nice wine list. The “Winter Warm-Up” cocktail menu will return this fall.
The Piggy’s menu is intentionally a la carte style. Some customers stop by to grab a sandwich and chips for lunch while others want the whole meal deal, with cocktails, appetizers, sides, desserts, as well as BBQ.
“Our BBQ even serves Jackfruit for all our vegan/vegetarian fans!” Amie adds.
[Jackfruit trees grow in southern India and the rain forests of southeast Asia. The fruit has a dense texture and some describe the flavor as similar to pulled pork, especially when cooked.]
The COVID-19 pandemic, plus opening a new location in West Fargo, has led to lots of sleepless nights for the owners. But thanks to loyal customers and an amazing staff, they adjusted, adapted and overcame.
“We added some great features during the shutdown that has kept Piggy fans coming, even though they couldn’t stay and dine,” Amie says. “All things considered, this summer has been good to us. We always had a strong take-out following, but we noticed it has grown. Our team was great at adapting to the new regulations and taking precautions to make our guests feel safe and welcome.
“But we really missed the community events that did not take place and the opportunities to help support the community. We’re looking forward to jumping back in next year.”
Inside The Piggy, seating capacity, based on social distancing criteria, is down to five tables and four bar stools. Heaters will be installed on the patio next week and the patio will be “wrapped” to allow the outdoor seating option for a few more months.
The Piggy BBQ has a successful relationship with Portage Brewing, delivering BBQ to Portage customers and working with them on many events. They also have a great partnership with Erin Haefele and the Walker Green Scene team and work together on full service events and weddings. The Piggy has also been a vendor at Walker Bay Live, Leech Lake Frostfest and Ethnic Fest, and will be a vendor Sept. 17 at the West Fargo Cruise Night.
As fall and winter approach, The Piggy will be bringing back fall menu specials. Visit www.thepiggybbqofwalker.com for details. Taco Day and Prime Rib will also return for the winter season.
The Piggy BBQ (547-OINK/6465), is located at 607 Minnesota Ave., Walker.
Open seven days a week, the current hours are Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Happy Hour is Sunday and Monday, all day, and Tuesday through Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m.
Fall and winter hours will be posted on the web site when they change.