The Iberian Pig

121 Sycamore Street, off the square in Decatur, 404-371-8800

The woman sitting next to me at the bar asked the bartender, “What does Iberian mean?” It’s a question many people may ask of The Iberian Pig, a new restaurant that took Sage’s spot off the square in Decatur.

The bartender answered, “It refers to the Iberian Peninsula.” Nothing. “You know — Spain, Portugal?” An uninvested nod.

Geography notwithstanding, this restaurant specializes in Iberian foods and dishes, though authenticity is often in the mouth of the beholder. The name led me to believe I might be dabbling in Spanish tapas and Portuguese bacalhau, and much of the jazzed menu leans in that direction, especially with charcuterie and cheese — including the famous Spanish ham, pata negra, or Iberian ham, cured from the black pigs of Spain.

The space has been minimally morphed from khaki and green to dark hues of red and black, and carries a strong pub vibe.

Dark and brooding, it’s not unlike a few of the tapas bars I remember visiting in Barcelona, though the space is much larger. There is a giant blackboard at the bar that on one side touts some well-crafted cocktails, and on the other a list of oddly placed rules: Ladies can’t be approached by gents unless asked; no cellphones; no hats unless you are a barkeep. Quaint, but a might old-fashioned for those of us who’ve been navigating bars for the past 20 years.

The Iberian Pig is born of the extremely hospitable Castellucci family, who own the homespun Italian restaurant Sugo, in Roswell — the kind of place that serves gooey, cheesy pasta dishes the size of your head. It’s been a success since 2003, expanding to three locations.

While the Spanish and Portuguese influence of chef Chad Crete’s cooking veers into the absurd sometimes, many dishes — particularly huevos con trufa, with tender, slow roasted pork cheeks covered in truffles and a beautifully poached egg, all over a thick slice of rustic grilled bread — are spot on.

Servers will tell you that the barbecued octopus is the big menu talker, but I can’t figure why: The octopus on our plate had the unappealing allure of Vienna sausage in both taste and texture, and the thick barbecue sauce and yes — braised pork — gave no aide to its cause.

Patatas al Valdeon will stay the course: There’s no way potatoes chunked and fried up like patatas bravas and draped with a tomato salsa and tart, heady Valdeon cheese won’t please. And the meats and cheeses are a geographical and gastronomical lesson in Spanish nibbles: The Iberian ham is actually not sliced from the hoof, but still has a lovely prosciutto-like quality; Serrano and salchichon (a cured Spanish sausage similar to salami) round out offerings that pair well with Valdeon cheese, manchego and Idiazabal, the luscious, smoky, sheeps’ milk cheese from the Basque region. It would have been nice to have a nibble of Portuguese chouriço.

Crete loses me with pork tenderloin — delicious though it may be in a Rioja and dried cherry reduction, flavored with piquillo peppers and dotted with walnuts and wisps of shallots, deep-fried like Barbie-sized onion rings. Never once did my waiter tell me that when chef said pork tenderloin, he meant the whole loin — not just a serving of it.

While there is a pleasing attention to detail here, often the kitchen fumbles by trying too hard. It’s okay to serve fewer dishes, better. And it’s okay to have only three ingredients in a dish. The menu, with almost 20 tapas plates and nearly 10 entrees, would satisfy more with less. Desserts are Latin-influenced, with churros crowning a blessedly short list. Deep-fried, served hot and not too sweet, they are scrumptious when dipped into a rich ganache laced with chile and cinnamon.

The Iberian Pig may not beam you over to Spain or Portugal, but it will certainly conjure the image.

The Iberian Pig

Overall rating:

Food: Dishes from and inspired by the Iberian Peninsula

Service: Very polite and attentive, even when busy

Price range: $$

Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club

Hours of operation: Open for dinner only Monday - Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday - Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.

Best dishes: Pork tenderloin, cheese and charcuterie plates, huevos con trufa

Vegetarian selections: Stuffed eggplant, pan con tomate

Children: Yes

Parking: $3 valet on N. McDonough Street

Reservations: Yes

Wheelchair access: Yes

Smoking: No

Noise level: High when busy

Patio: Yes

Takeout: Yes

Address, telephone: 121 Sycamore Street, off the square in Decatur, 404-371-8800

Web site:

Pricing code: $$$$$ means more than $75; $$$$ means $75 and less; $$$ means $50 and less; $$ means $25 and less; $ means $15 and less.

Key to AJC ratings


Sets the standard for fine dining in the region.


One of the best in the Atlanta area.

Very good

Merits a drive if you're looking for this kind of dining.


A worthy addition to its neighborhood, but food may be hit and miss.


Food is more miss than hit.

Restaurants that do not meet these criteria may be rated Poor.

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