The “Caja China” or “Cuban Coffin” may sound like some arcane torture device, but not in the hands of an experienced chef. Beginning in September, Nomans in Oak Bluffs hosts a weekly good old-fashioned pig roast every Tuesday from 4:30 to 7:30 pm, or “until it’s gone.”
Musical guests à la Dock Dance Band, the Dukes of Circuit Avenue, the McMahon Brothers, and others provide “Vineyard Vibes” (a.k.a. music), paired with beer specials from co-sponsor Wash Ashore Beer Company.
“We’re really excited about doing the traditional pig roast,” explains pitmaster and Nomans executive chef Austin Racine from beneath a well-worn bandana and elbow-deep in pork. “Using the Cuban Coffin we can bring the cooking time down on the pig to about 4 hours. I made two for today,” Racine said.
Indeed, within the wood and metal accented box lies the farm-raised prize, embalmed for two days in brine, injected with citrusy “Mojo” spices, and all dressed down for the big event. “The goal is crispy skin on the outside,” Racine sharpens his knife, “and tender on the inside.”
The pig looks good enough to eat, and it is. For $20, you get 8 ounces of meat, coleslaw, a roll, and a choice of two sides — mac and cheese, baked beans, potato salad and/or Collard greens. “We have two sauces,” Racine said, “Carolina and sweet — and three hot sauces. Oh, and I also have bread and butter pickles and buckets of Love.”
The Love Racine is referring to is not just the adoration bestowed upon the precious pig, but a reference to co-sponsor Wash Ashore’s “Love Ale” – a crisp beer that is juicy, fresh with lots of ripe fruit, and with 4.9% ABV, it’s just so crushable. Each blue can features a picture of either “Boy Meets Girl,” “Boy Meets Boy,” or “Girl Meets Girl,” romantic silhouettes walking hand-in-hand on sandy, New England shores. A bucket of Love will run you $12, not unreasonable for something from the heart and consisting of three frosty brews.
Owner Doug Abdelnour strolls in and joins the eager crowd gathered for the unveiling. “This one has been fun,” Abdelnour says as he motions from the pig to the sprawling patio that has become a signature of the first-year restaurant’s success. “Every restaurant is a labor of love but we’re starting to figure out our system here. It’s pretty exciting.”
After only a year on the Island, Nomans boasts a loyal following of eaters, greeters, game-players, and kids. With two giant Connect Four boards (my girlfriend recently toasted me to break a year-long tie) and Jenga pieces available at arm’s length, one can easily see why.
Nomans plans to remain open until November for locals and late summer wayfarers alike. And don’t be afraid to use the “dog entrance” — it’s human friendly too and will lead you right back to the action. Not a fan of the blessed beast? Not to worry. Nomans’ regular menu is also available on pig-roast days.
It might still be September but there’s a feeling in the air tonight. “See those coals,” whispers Racine, “Now, we’re going to throw oysters on top of those.” Right on cue, one of Racine’s pit crew rolls out a bucket full of shellfish — or what some would also call “buckets of love.”
“This is going to be fun,” the chef and owner share a smile. I have a feeling they might be right.–
Pig Roasts at Nomans continue every Tuesday through September. Nomans is located at 15 Island Inn Rd. in Oak Bluffs and is open every day from 11 am to 9 pm.