News

The Humble Hog

How does a fine dining chef with culinary training and experience on the east coast and in Europe end up opening a barbecue restaurant in Paxton, population 4,220? It all circles back to his roots.

 

Benjamin Grice grew up in Paxton, went to North Central College in Naperville and on to Arizona for chef’s training. While in Boston, he and his wife were expecting their first child and decided to move closer to his parents in Paxton.

 

Ben had always tinkered with barbecue, had a small smoker and while in Boston would cook for the restaurant’s crew. He began creating different barbecue sauces and says that’s how his barbecue philosophy started.

 

After returning to Paxton, he had the opportunity to compete on Chris Engelbrecht’s barbecue team. Engelbrecht builds smokers at his Paxton-based company and Ben says competing with Engelbrecht opened his eyes to the Kansas City Barbecue Society circuit. He discovered a love for the challenge of live fire cooking.

 

“There are so many factors,” he says. “It’s the size and age of the log, humidity, wind speed and other factors that contribute to the final product. At the end of the day, you need your product to be the same every time. The people that are good at it can figure out how to manage all those variables and I never get bored, whether at work or home.” He was hooked.

 

Ben never expected to get into casual dining. “With my background, I figured I would continue with a fine dining approach, but when we moved to central Illinois, there really wasn’t a place where I wanted to pursue that,” he says.

 

He realized he wanted to do something to help downtown Paxton and create local jobs. He tested ideas and created the Paxton Swine and Dine Festival, which grew rapidly. He had ideas about how he wanted to do barbecue, make sauces and how fresh he wanted his ingredients. It was the impetus for him to purchase an existing restaurant.

 

It was a good-sized gamble for a town the size of Paxton. “I had a lot of friends and family ask why I didn’t open in Champaign since I could have made a lot more money,” Ben explains. “But that wasn’t the point of the project. I wanted to bring in local jobs and grow a business from the small town I grew up in. I’m very proud of that.”

 

Humble Hog sources everything it can locally. The tables are made from the original wood from the Paxton bowling alley and the chairs are mismatched because they were purchased from local antique shops. “When you talk about supporting local, I took it to every level I could,” Ben says. “Everything on the walls, the old church pews for seating, everything was purchased here. I think a lot of local business owners support each other. If small towns aren’t supporting themselves, that’s a tough road. For me, it was never about the size of the crowd. I wanted to do something in my hometown before I did it anywhere else. This will always be my baby – the original.”

 

 

 

Humble Hog serves a variety of items, all homemade. Most popular are the pulled pork and brisket. Ben says he always judges other barbecue places based on how well they do pulled pork, so he wanted to make sure he had it right. The pulled pork can be found on the Pig Pile, a plate covered with shoestring fries sprinkled with Humble Hog rub, homemade cheese sauce, pulled pork, barbecue sauce and topped with sliced jalapenos. It’s one of their best sellers.

 

The Pig Mac is huge in size and popularity. Hungry one day, Ben made it as a joke and loved it. It’s a pulled pork sandwich with mac and cheese, slices of bacon and jalapenos. “It’s a whole lot of food,” laughs Ben. “If you use the paper wrapper, you have a chance of picking it up and eating it. It’s almost a bragging rights sandwich – it’s just so big.”

 

Besides pork and brisket, you can order turkey, rib tips and smoked sausage. Specials change daily. One of the most popular is smoked wings. Ben says that one time between online orders and people waiting in line, they sold 1,000 wings in 8 minutes! However, due to the case cost of wings quadrupling due to COVID-19, they are currently paused.

 

Sides include shoestring fries or sweet potato fries, fried okra, fried pickles, coleslaw, pit beans, mac and cheese, green beans and corn muffins. All are made in house and buns are sourced from a local bakery. Humble Hog also offers a variety of Illinois beer on tap.

 

All service ware is compostable including cups, plates and eating utensils. Ben explains that as they planned for more takeout during pandemic shutdowns, they had to make a tough decision. Earth-friendly items are more expensive, but they didn’t want to buy the cheaper Styrofoam containers. All plates and bowls are made from wheat and the cups from corn. According to Ben, the cups will “turn to dirt” in 90 days.

 

Just released, Humble Hog sauces, rub and spicy pickles can be purchased online. Customers would ask to buy cups of the sauce or rub and now they can. They will also be available in local grocery stores.

 

The business keeps evolving and Ben recently purchased a building in Knoxville, Tenn., which will house a much larger Humble Hog. He hopes that location will be one of many more in the future.

 

“When we opened, I wanted it to be like grandma’s house where everyone is welcome,” he says. “I didn’t want a hostess or reservations. We are sitting on a church pew with a bowling alley table, that’s about as comfortable as it gets. The vibe is laid back with old school blues music and dim lighting. It’s very relaxed. I always tell people to make themselves at home.”

Fish on Friday!!

Fish is always fun on a Friday! But our new Catfish Po'Boy is sooo tasty we'll be serving this every day!!  Stacked high on a fresh brioche bun with our special HH Sauce, you'll need to try this one! #catfish #PoBoy #bbq #wow #PaxtonProud

Oktoberfest!

Just stepping into the end of summer here, so we're happy to announce that we're tapping into a beautiful Oktoberfest from our good friends at The Blind Pig Brewery!! Absolutely wonderful with a clean, dry finish and stellar with our BBQ! #BlindPigBrewery #drinkLOCAL #eatLOCAL #bbq #Oktoberfest #PaxtonProud 

Wingin It!

Every Wednesday we feature our smoked, local wings with our housemade bbq sauces! They sell out quickly, so stop by or order online at humblehogbbq.com! They're GREAT with a Paxton Punch!! #keepitLOCAL #wings #WednesdayWingNight #bbq #PaxtonProud

Rendleman Orchard Peach Wings!

Sometimes you just luck out and an idea comes together and tastes so ridiculously delicious you just have to share it! We scored some AMAZING fresh peaches from Rendleman Orchards and cooked them down and made a new sauce just to pair with these smoked wings!!! Limited supply, so get some while you can! We’ll be selling them by the dozen starting Friday night!! #millionsofpeaches #peachesforme #andyou #wings #smoke #bbq #humblehogbbq #RendlemanOrchards #PaxtonProud

SaveRestaurants.com

Hard work and hope continue to propel our team forward. However, up to 85% of independent restaurants could permanently close due to the pandemic. Restaurants are so much more than just food, we're the lifeblood of our communities and local economies, and right now it's time for Congress to save millions of jobs and pass the Restaurant Act. Keep our local and national economy moving forward. Take action now at SaveRestaurants.com. #SaveRestaurants #SpendItLocally #PaxtonProud

We're glad to be OPEN!!

It’s been GREAT to see families coming out to eat again! We’re open and happy to have you dine indoors, outdoors, or you can even order online for takeout at humblehogbbq.com! #humblehogbbq #PaxtonProud

Safety First!

As we’ve all begun emerging from our homes to get our lives back to “normal”, there are so many new things to consider when making our day to day choices, safety being one of the biggest. During the height of the pandemic, we took the opportunity to remodel and created a contact-free service environment. As our guest, you can safely order in person, or online, and you can enjoy your favorite bbq in our dining room, or our outdoor seating, or schedule a preferred time for take out at humblehogbbq.com. We’ve also expanded our seating for social distancing, and today we added plexiglass dividers for guests to safely enjoy our Live Gaming machines! We’re proactively making your visits as safe and comfortable as possible and we’re super thankful to see such support from Paxton and our surrounding communities! #itsbbqtime #livegaming #winnerwinnerchickendinner #PaxtonProud 

Cheers!!!

Cheers!!!! It’s finally time to REOPEN our dining room!! We’ve been so thankful for all the online to go orders, and we will continue to offer online ordering, but starting tomorrow, Friday June 26, we can legally seat guests inside our dining room again. Sure, there will be some changes here and there to accommodate the current rules, but we’ve embraced change and remodeled as well as changing all of our serving ware to compostable disposables, even the “plastic” cups! We’re ready to serve you and glad to get things back to normal!! Here’s to a GREAT weekend!!!!! #PaxtonProud #newnormal #insidedining #downtownmomentum 

Growlers!!!

Get ready for a beautiful weekend and pickup some Growlers of local beer for Father’s Day!! Right now we’re pouring Riggs Hefeweizen, Finch TacoCat Sour, Blind Pig U of IPA, Riggs Red Lager, and BuckleDown’s Shady Aftermath! #LocalGrowlers #FathersDay #PaxtonProud #humblehogbbq

Auggie's Donut Bites!!

Checkout our newest addition to the menu, Auggie’s Donut Bites!! Fried fresh to order, they’ll definitely satisfy your sweet tooth!! #deliciousness #bbq #donuts #AuggiesFamousNow #humblehogbbq #PaxtonProud

All NEW! Introducing The Foghorn!

Checkout our all NEW special tonight! We’re calling it The Foghorn! Local chicken, smoked and pulled on fresh, local brioche with crisp pickles, ripe tomatoes, and our housemade pimiento cheese! You can order in person, or online at humblehogbbq.com! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!! #TheFoghorn #bigappetite #bbq #sandwich #chicken #humblehogbbq #localingredients #PaxtonProud

Congrats to our Grads!!

Each year we’ve been lucky to experience high school seniors learning new job skills on our team, and this year we have 5 that are graduating! These unique teammates all have the same thing in common, big accomplishments behind them and HUGE goals ahead with service, college, and beyond! Enjoy graduation, and CONGRATULATIONS!!!! #2020Grads #Congrats #Goals #BBQ #PaxtonProud

Gift Card Giveaway

Check this out!!!! Paxton has a new program that is just starting to GIVE AWAY $20,000 in gift cards to LOCAL BUSINESSES!!!! This is HUGE, and much needed during these times!! Thank you to The Frederick Community Bank and @Hudson’s Drug & Hallmark Shop for sponsoring such a forward thinking program!!! Here’s the deal: Stop by a participating Paxton business and purchase a gift card, minimum of $25 and max of $100. Then post a pic of it with the receipt to the Paxton Chamber of Commerce fb page and they will MATCH your purchase! Limit of $250 matching funds per family. And if you’re buying a Humble Hog gift card, we were just surprised with even more donors that would like to sweeten the deal further!! So, just imagine turning a $100 gift card of bbq into $200 of bbq!! Absolutely AMAZING!!! Get stocked up for Father’s Day or just surprise a neighbor with a gift card! Let’s get out there and SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES!!! The time is NOW, every single purchase, hand shake, and thank you matters more than you know! We have to keep our town moving forward!!!

Weekend Grub

Here comes the weekend!!! Stop by for some of this mouth watering local chicken! Smoked low and slow! We’ll also have baby backs tonight, and rib tips too!! It’s been great to be open again, awesome to see everyone again! We’ll have outdoor dining, and for pickup feel free to order online at humblehogbbq.com!

A New Normal

A new “normal”... what does that even mean? Well, for right now, it means the supply lines are crazy, so our menu will change daily for now and it will grow and change as supply becomes more readily available. Rather than meat supply, what really matters to us is seeing our guests laughing and toasting each other and enjoying great bbq! So stop in to place an order, or order online at humblehogbbq.com! We’ll be open for dinner only, Tues - Sat, ordering begins at 4:30pm. Thanks so much for the support!!

Open For Business

What a whirlwind of a day!!! We are officially OPEN!! To place an order, go to humblehogbbq.com or just come on in!!!!

Grilling At Home

Grilling at home today for my family, and the church across the street has it’s bells playing the Star Spangled Banner while I’m watching the flag waive in the breeze. Our freedom is an amazing thing indeed. Memorial Day weekend is a great time to remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, and also to reflect upon our own freedoms. This leaves me contemplating Illinois’ recent executive orders and fairly arbitrary regulations allowing big box stores to operate at full steam while small businesses and churches have suffered running at a fraction of their normal volume or closed all together. Our restaurant has been closed now for two months as we’ve waited out these “uncertain times” in the interest of keeping our team and the public safe. We’ve used the time wisely to remodel our kitchen and have updated our dining room for a contact free guest experience along with new online ordering. And now, friends, we’re going to exercise our freedoms and open to serve you the best bbq we can possibly make. Sure, we’ve always maintained high standards of sanitation and safety, and we will continue to be vigilant. We’ll plan to be open at 4:30pm Wednesday, May 27th, and yes, our wings will be ready, along with your favorite Paxton Punch! We appreciate how Illinois as a whole has been creative with finding ways to support restaurants, and we will continue to keep supporting our local farms and breweries. We’re proud to help propel our local economy, and we feel comfortable opening with safety in mind along with our liberty and freedom.

Remodal Update

Today we’re wearing masks, but for mortar dust! Ha! Just about done with the remodel here, we’ve begun moving back into the kitchen, and now we’re working on finishing the dining room. Still thinking positive and pushing forward! Today we’re taking out an old air conditioner and repairing some mortar, looking forward to firing up the smoker again soon!! We’ll make an announcement this coming week with what service hours will look like for the reopen, can’t wait to see everyone!!!!

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays!! We’re giving our team a few extra days to celebrate the holidays this year. Normally, we’d close on the 24th and 25th, but this year we’re taking the rest of the week as well. So, we will be open Saturday 12/21, and then closed until we reopen on 12/31 for New Year’s Eve. Thank you for a great 2019!!! Our sister restaurant across the street, Harvest Ale House will be open for bar specials on 12/24 at 5:00pm, and will also be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Have a very Merry Christmas! #PaxtonProud

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays! We’ll be closed for dinner service Thursday 12/19/19 for a private Christmas party. Our restaurant across the street, Harvest Ale House, will be open and ready with some great food and drinks, thanks! #TisTheSeason #PaxtonProud

The Humble Hog's 5th Anniversary!

Boy oh boy, we just turned 5 years old!!!! How crazy is that?! Checkout these old pictures from opening day from The Ford County record, thanks Will! Our kids were so little and our smiles so big! Now the kids are much, much bigger and the smiles are still growing too! We took a big roll of the dice 5 years ago, and we couldn’t have made it this far without the help of our community, friends, and family. Thank you to our team, both past and present, and to the business community as a whole. We’re proud to be a part of Paxton’s success and we look forward to many more smiles for many more years!! #PaxtonProud #beatingtheodds #community #support #smallbizbigdreams #local #bbq #hh

Black Friday Gift Cards

Just in time for your Black Friday to do lists!! Our new Gift Cards have arrived and they’re ready to load up! Stock up and grab a new hh shirt or hat while you’re at it! #giftcards #PaxtonProud

Happy Halloween!

Go get your candy and then have some fun downtown! Looking forward to seeing the costumes!!