The Ginos thought they were saving money on tickets into a music festival, but it turns out they were opening a tasty BBQ restaurant in Vista Village.
Granted, the entire process took over a decade. To begin with, North County couple Dale and Tammy Ginos wanted to attend the Stagecoach Festival, the country music version of Coachella, held at the Empire Polo Club outside Palm Springs. They probably would have skipped the pricey event, but Dale learned you could score discounted tickets by competing in the festival’s BBQ competition.
First, he had to learn how to use a smoker.
Fast forward ten years, and the Ginos boasted award-winning brisket and a BBQ counter serving it out of the Vista gas station they own. They took the name, When Pigs Fly, because that’s how likely Tammy thought it was any of this would happen.
Winged swine must be a common sight in Vista’s historic downtown district this year, because this winter the Ginos opened a full restaurant, to bring their winning takes on brisket and other Texas BBQ staples to a broader audience.
Not to be confused with the nearby Flying Pig gastropub, When Pigs Fly sits on Main Street, at the site of a former winery. The space has been revamped with a patchwork of unfinished planks and corrugated metal walls, the dining room framed in a pergola-like structure of wood beams and rails. Counter seats look out large cutout windows over a sidewalk furnished with a few outdoor tables.
It’s a big step up from a Chevron mini-mart or music festival booth, though it sticks with a service counter, where I found a line forming as Saturday dinnertime approached. I might have held up that line with an inability to choose were it not for the “barnyard” option: a combo plate featuring three types of meat and two sides. Even with that offering, I had to skip spare ribs, tri-tip, and dark meat chicken so I could try that brisket, the recommended pork shoulder, and a house-made Texas hot link.
Ordering sides proved no less challenging, and I had to bypass good ol’ coleslaw and saucy beans to dig on two smoked sides: mac and cheese, and corn. The smoked mac proved more cheesy than smoky, though I’m hard pressed to complain about either attribute. I liked the corn, but next time I’d probably aim for garlicky mashed potatoes.
The brisket won me over, and though the sausage was almost too finely minced, I had no problem digging through the two, appropriately spicy links and letting the skin provide all the chew. The pulled pork had more toothsome appeal, and while I chewed, Tammy approached my table to remind me they offer three kinds of house BBQ sauce, ranging from sweet to spicy. Every bite of meat was flavorful enough it didn’t need dressing, but I’m glad she said something, because theirs is the most satisfying sauce I’ve tried locally outside of Phil’s.