Baldy’s Barbeque, perennially voted Bend’s best barbecue restaurant, is celebrating its sixth anniversary this weekend … and customers will reap the benefits at this weekend’s “Baldyfest.”
All week long, owners Brian and Paige Dioguardi have served up half-racks of ribs, pulled-pork sandwiches, deep-fried okra and other house specialties at deeply discounted prices.
The customer-appreciation party reaches a climax tomorrow when Brian roasts an entire pig in his portable wood barbecue pit, on the patio at his west-side Bend establishment — located at 235 S.W. Century Drive, next door to Pine Mountain Sports.
While Three Quarters Short entertains guests with live country rock from 1 to 4 p.m., Brian will finish cooking the animal that he’ll start roasting tonight in his driveway.
The Chicago born-and-raised restaurateur — his polished skull well known as the caricature on Baldy’s logo — was almost salivating yesterday as he visualized the finished pig.
“The skin is so thick, and the pig gets so hot inside, that steam builds up under the skin,” he told me. “It slowly starts to separate the skin from the meat, until there is a gap of 2 to 3 inches between.
“When you cut into the skin, you have to be careful, because you can burn yourself just from the steam. But the meat is so tender and tasty, you’ll fall in love with it.”
Life has been good to Brian, Paige and their two daughters — Karlin, 9, and Amelia, 7 — since they chose to make a permanent home in Bend in June 2004. After six years in Aspen, Colo., they arrived in Oregon with big restaurant plans; Baldy’s opened on Feb. 8, 2005.
“The first three years just crawled by,” Brian recalled. “The last three went by in the blink of an eye.”
Just six months ago, Baldy’s established an east-side Bend location within the Stop ‘n Go Shell station, on East Highway 20 at 27th Street. And next month the company will add a Redmond restaurant.
There, Brian said, meat will go directly from smoker to barbecue to plate. “This new restaurant has really invigorated me,” he said. “I am having fun.”
Ever since he began washing dishes in a Chicago restaurant as a teen-ager, said Brian, now 42, he has been in love with the business.
Barbecue has become a passion.
“Timing and temperature are crucial,” he said. “You’ve got to cook low and slow.
“It takes attention, love, good preparation techniques. You can’t over-salt, but you can’t under-season.
“You must learn when your product is done. You can’t fall asleep or it can ruin someone’s meal.
“And the sauce has got to complement the meat.”
Brian’s original barbecue sauce — from a recipe that he devised 17 years ago — is still made in Chicago and shipped to Bend four times a year in 600-gallon batches, he said.
He since has added a spicier Cat’s Meow barbecue sauce, but he’s not yet done creating.
“Not everyone likes a tomato-based sauce,” Brian noted. “I want to make a vinegar-based sauce. The tanginess really brings out the flavor of pulled pork.”
A final note: If Brian Dioguardi asks you how you are enjoying your meal, don’t tell him, “It’s good.”
“That’s the worst word,” he said with a half-smile. “I want to be able to really connect with a customer and get real honest answers.
“What can I do to make this GREAT for you?”