Atlanta Orders In: Curious Pig takes ‘wide-based approach’ to survive pandemic

Crab cakes among the offerings at the Curious Pig gastropub. Courtesy of the Curious Pig.
Crab cakes among the offerings at the Curious Pig gastropub. Courtesy of the Curious Pig.

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Peachtree City gastropub expands patio, adds sister restaurant in Senoia

Like Peachtree City’s 100-plus-mile network of golf cart paths, the outdoor space at one of its local gastropubs, the Curious Pig, is ginormous.

The wide, grassy front lawn hasn’t always been the draw at this establishment, opened in 2018 by chef-owner Scott Smith. But, since COVID-19 hit, it’s been prime real estate. And, as the 2021 patio season gets underway, Smith plans to make the most of it.

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Scott Smith, chef-owner of the Curious Pig, stands on the expansive front lawn of his Peachtree City gastropub. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Scott Smith, chef-owner of the Curious Pig, stands on the expansive front lawn of his Peachtree City gastropub. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

A massive outdoor upgrade includes: 10 more socially distanced umbrella tables, adding to the current stock of five; three fire pits, each surrounded by “plush, resort-style” lounge seats; an outdoor bar; a sound system; open-air tenting; and a landscaping makeover. Smith expects to unveil the improved space later this week.

He’d hoped to take better advantage of the patio’s potential more than a year ago, when he had the space fitted with string lights. “We never even got to use it,” he recalled. “I had all those lights installed, and then COVID happened.”

Smith shut the restaurant down in mid-March. “Let’s stop everything and take a look,” he told his wife, Amy. “Why don’t we just close the restaurant for dine-in ahead of the curve, so none of our staff gets sick, and offer $10 to-go meals?”

The Nashville hot fried chicken is the most popular sandwich on the Curious Pig menu. Courtesy of the Curious Pig
The Nashville hot fried chicken is the most popular sandwich on the Curious Pig menu. Courtesy of the Curious Pig

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

They did. And, it worked, with the Curious Pig selling upward of 600 meals some days. Curious Meals to Go — a concise, weekly menu of $10 ready-to-reheat dinners, pre-ordered by Friday evenings for Tuesday pickup — continues to attract busy households looking for a value-driven, homestyle meal, made with high-quality ingredients.

Smith’s style of running his operation during the four months that the dining room remained shut did more than attract a public hungry for country-fried pork steak and airline chicken made with Springer Mountain poultry. It also kept all of his staff employed, even though the dining room continues to seat far below capacity.

Scott Smith is the owner of the Curious Pig, where none of his full-time employees has a second job. “I want the people who work here to be happy,” he said. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Scott Smith is the owner of the Curious Pig, where none of his full-time employees has a second job. “I want the people who work here to be happy,” he said. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

I first met Smith in the fall of 2019, when I visited him and his staff to learn about his approach to restaurant management, which prioritizes a nurturing workplace. Besides paying fair wages, Smith thinks that the reason he has retained his staff during the public health crisis is due to empathy. “Every night, after we closed down and cleaned, we did family meal. We would all sit down and have dinner. We did that for months.”

Smith thinks that practice was especially impactful, because of the social isolation everyone was feeling. “That kind of family environment that we have — people don’t want to go anywhere,” he said.

He recognizes that none of it would have been possible without customers. “The community support was a very amazing security blanket for us,” he said.

The crowd-pleasing pimento cheese plate at the Curious Pig includes house pickles, bacon jam and crostini. Courtesy of the Curious Pig
The crowd-pleasing pimento cheese plate at the Curious Pig includes house pickles, bacon jam and crostini. Courtesy of the Curious Pig

Credit: handout

Credit: handout

Those successes enabled Smith to make another curious move in a curious year: opening a second restaurant. His impetus: “COVID made me realize how fortunate we were, and I wanted to make sure, if there was an opportunity to offer more employment to locals, we could do that.”

Curious Kitchen & Bar debuted in downtown Senoia in December, feeding the flow of visiting “Walking Dead” fans, as well as Curious Pig regulars who want a more bar-focused experience, a change of scenery and a different menu that still offers Southern comforts.

The House-made Tots with warm beer cheese, jalapeno and Beeler’s bacon is a popular appetizer at the Curious Pig. /
Courtesy of the Curious Pig
The House-made Tots with warm beer cheese, jalapeno and Beeler’s bacon is a popular appetizer at the Curious Pig. / Courtesy of the Curious Pig

Back home at the Curious Pig, the kitchen still is serving up crowd favorites, like tater tots with beer cheese, a pimento cheese plate with all manner of pickled produce, and the Nashville hot chicken sandwich. But, with spring in the air, an arugula salad, crab cakes and crispy trout over creamed corn risotto shake up the cooking routine.

Smith assessed the overall performance of his business in the past year: “We took a wide-based approach,” he said. “It wasn’t easy. We had to make a lot of changes to everyday operations.”

But, he concluded, “the Curious Pig weathered COVID pretty gracefully.”

THE CURIOUS PIG

Menu: Southern gastropub

Alcohol: full bar on-premises; beer and wine to go

What I ordered: house-made tots ($9); pimento cheese ($9); crab cakes ($12); arugula salad ($8); Nashville hot fried chicken ($12); cornbread crusted trout ($19)

Service options: dine-in or carryout; order in person or via phone; curbside available

Outdoor dining: expansive lawn with umbrella tables; currently undergoing upgrade to add more tables and fire pits, with lounge seating

Mask policy: required for all front-of-house employees; not required of guests

Address, phone: 114 Huddleston Road, Peachtree City; 678-545-6327

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Website: thecuriouspigptc.com

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