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Punk Pigs Moving into Former Home of Baba’s

Susan Post Susan Post Punk Pigs Moving into Former Home of Baba’sPhoto by Susan Post
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Grilled cheese and anarchy are on deck at Punk Pigs, 2515 Summit St. in Old North.

A soft opening is expected some time this week for the new joint that’s the brainchild of Paddy Wagon food truck frontman Zach James.

Had there not been a global pandemic, Punk Pigs might not have come into existence. Running an operation that largely depended on crowds and a general ban on crowds due to mass gathering restrictions, James had to reassess how he could do business. In March, operations with Paddy Wagon largely ceased. In April, he pivoted to offering some third-party delivery options from his production facility, giving first rise to the Punk Pigs concept.

For better or worse, the permanent closure of Baba’s in early June presented the opportunity for James to stake claim on a brick-and-mortar space. He says the pandemic shifted the playing field for everyone, and for someone who had previously not thought about a permanent space, a restaurant became a better option as the impacts of the pandemic look to be around for the long haul.

“The dynamic of dining out is changing because of that,” James says.

And the Old North provides the ideal spot for James to put down roots. Not only has he lived in the area for almost as long as he’s been in Columbus, but Paddy Wagon has also made the rounds in the neighborhood.

He calls it the “last bastion of grit for Columbus.”

“There’s something about it that really feels authentic and grassroots,” James says. “The spirit of the neighborhood fits with what we’re doing and how I engage in business.”

Photo by Susan Post

He’ll have some help with Punk Pigs, bringing in Daniel McCarthy, formerly of Tatoheads, and Mason Conway, who spent time as an executive chef at Hyde Park.

James says bringing in a chef like Conway has expanded the menu in new ways and into territories he hadn’t been able to explore in the limitations of a food truck.

The menu will center around grilled cheese – or perhaps a more fitting title would be melts. In developing the menu, James discovered a community of grilled cheese purists – a grilled cheese is cheese and bread. Period. Add anything else and it’s into melt territory.

There will be a lobster melt – lobster, fontina, tomato jam and shaved scallions – and a brisket sandwich that’s a riff on a Paddy Wagon favorite with chopped brisket, onion strings and smoked gouda. James says the menu will be decadent without being super greasy and over the top.

“That’s the one thing we wanted to do with this – not try to mimic something or have these massive man versus food sandwiches,” James says. “We wanted something that is approachable, unique and just super, super rich and flavorful.”

Punk Pigs will have a well-rounded menu, too, with vegan options, like the Headbangers Balls, house-made vegan sauerkraut balls, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, a variety of protein options.

When it opens, Punk Pigs will largely focus on carryout. They won’t prohibit folks from dining in at the few seats available, but encourage diners to take their eats to go and explore the neighborhood while it’s still nice out.

Punk Pigs will also be available through third-party delivery services, but James says they’ll aim to launch their own internal delivery service as soon as possible.

Just because he has a new brick and mortar doesn’t mean it’s the end for Paddy Wagon.

“Once a sheriff, always a sheriff,” James says.

He describes the food truck he’s helmed for the last 10 years as the love of his life. Hanging up the keys for good is not in the plans, but there’s no set timeline of when the truck will reappear.

For more information, visit facebook.com/punkpigs.

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