By Patrick Alexander

Oregon Coast TODAY

Sometimes, all it takes to inspire a chef is one truly magnificent meal. Other times, it takes a hundred so-so ones.

It was the latter that finally persuaded Twisted Snout Brewery owner Stu Miller to finally add the dish that has become the restaurant’s runaway bestseller — smoked brisket.

The moment of revelation came when Stu and his wife, Becky Miller traveled to Texas to attend their son Rob’s graduation from Air Force boot camp.

“We were driving around Texas and trying everyone’s brisket; I just wasn’t that impressed,” Stu said. “The Salt Lick [just outside Austin] was really good; most of the other ones, not so much.”

So, when the couple got back to the coast, Stu set about showing Texas how it’s done, creating a brisket that is perfectly seasoned, smoked, and slow-cooked all night long for a melt-in-the-mouth experience.

“It’s been selling out every single day since he started,” Becky said. “We’re hearing from everyone that it’s the best brisket they have ever tasted.”

Served every day from Thursday through Sunday, the mouthwatering meat is available either as a chopped brisket sandwich or as a half-pound platter served with fries, coleslaw and a side of Pig Feathers BBQ sauce for $12.

Stu’s new masterpiece has been so successful that it completely eliminated demand for the restaurant’s previous Rolls Royce barbecue items, the sirloin sandwich and the French dip — a fact that made the couple grateful for their new chalkboard system, which allows them to change up the menu from day to day.

The chalkboard menu and revamped kitchen offerings are all part of a re-branding that has seen the couple expand the Twisted Snout name to cover both the brewery and what used to Pig Feathers BBQ restaurant next door.

The move is similar to that recently undertaken by Rusty Truck Brewing in Lincoln City, which expanded its brewery name to cover the Roadhouse 101 restaurant.

“Most breweries around Oregon don’t have a different name on their restaurant,” Becky said. “We wanted to emphasize the brewery and the award-winning ales that are brewed onsite.”

And the restaurant is still home to the award-winning Pig Feathers BBQ rubs and sauces, as well as longtime menu favorites such as pulled pork sandwiches and baby back ribs.

Smoked chicken thighs also remain on the bestseller list, at $8 for two, served with fries and coleslaw.

Among the new menu offerings is the Belly Burger, a hamburger made from house-cured and smoked pork belly ground together with tri-tip to make a burger that tastes like bacon, served with the option of a fried egg on top for an extra-decadent meal.

Another new item that has proved an instant hit is the pork belly sandwich, served on a ciabatta bun with cucumber, house-made honey mustard and red onion.

“I cure the pork belly for two weeks, then put it in a sugar wash bath for a couple of days before smoking it over hickory — so you get the salty, sweet and smoke flavors with a hint of bay leaf,” Stu said. “It’s not braised like a lot of places; it’s cured and smoked.”

“Just like everything Stu does, it’s really a work of art,” Becky said. “Delicious, complex flavors that are amazing.”

A refreshed paint job of gold and green brings the brewery colors across to the restaurant and serves as an ideal background for Becky’s photo-realistic oil paintings of kelp that adorn the walls.

“It feels more relaxing in here, more comfortable,” she said. “It’s been fascinating to watch people from the counter; children behave better, and people seem to linger more to visit and enjoy themselves.”

Meanwhile, the switch to counter service has allowed the couple to streamline their operation, with Becky taking and delivering all the orders while Stu works his magic in the kitchen.

“Every plate put in front of you is cooked by the owner,” Becky said. “And the person waiting on you is the owner. If you have a problem, you are talking to the right person, right now.”

Having the owners in such hands-on roles also means diners can get instant answers on which items are suitable for vegans, vegetarians and people on gluten-free diets. The Millers are especially proud of their extensive gluten-free menu.

Stu takes orders from the regular menu right up until 7 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and until 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. On Thursdays-Saturdays, once the main restaurant closes, the kitchen switches over to a special After Hours Menu, available on the brewery side to guests aged 21 and over for at least two more hours.

The After Hours Menu features shareable dishes such as pulled pork tacos, shrimp tacos, pulled pork nachos, pot stickers, and beer battered Polish sausage corn dogs, with the option of Twisted Snout ales at happy hour prices.

The latest seasonal ale offerings include the Tail Curler IX, a crisp, single-hop pale ale made with Simcoe hops; and the ever popular seasonal Spruce Hog, made with spruce tips hand-picked by Stu and Becky on the Oregon Coast.

Twisted Snout Brewery is located at the south end of Main Street, Toledo. See updated menu and hours any time at www.twistedsnout.com.

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