OTTAWA — There’s always a twinge of danger when you try to change an icon. Even if it’s the “Pig.”
The new owners of the Red Pig Inn, a Putnam County restaurant known for its pig decor and its tasty sauced meats, tried to build on its tradition while renovating it. They unveiled the next version of the business during an open house Thursday afternoon and a grand re-opening with the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce.
With a wall down between the former bar area and a previous meeting room, the result is a brighter, more open place for people to enjoy a brew and barbecue at 1470 N. Perry St., Ottawa.
“We knew when we bought it it needed a little bit of a renovation and a little bit of updating,” said Randy Verhoff, one of the new owners and the accountant for the previous owners for 10 years. “It opened up quite well, and now it’s more of a sports pub that’s so popular around here.”
They raised the bar, or at least lengthened it, with more seating around the 12 beer taps. The old setup only had four taps, and the expansion gives the restaurant an opportunity to feature craft beers from Moeller Brew Barn in Maria Stein and, once it’s ready, 1820 BrewWerks in Kalida.
Crews installed six new 65-inch televisions, doubling the number of screens in the bar area. They even added outlets so customers could charge their phones.
The food mostly remains the same, although they did add smoked chicken wings to the chefs’ repertoire.
The previous owners, Dick and Paulette Schnipke, were impressed with the renovations. They joked it was like seeing what a new owner had done to their home after running the restaurant for 45 years.
“They’ve done a really good job,” Dick Schnipke said. “We wish them a lot of luck. I hope they can keep it going another 45 years.”
The coronavirus pandemic wasn’t altogether bad for the business, as it was able to close its dining areas to work on the renovation, Verhoff said. He expressed the owners’ gratitude for the community support when restaurants were closed to dining in, as customers aided the business with their pick-up purchases and buying during outdoor barbecues on Sundays.
It also gave the owners a chance to refocus on what made the “Pig,” as they call it, special.
They brought back some popular cocktails from the restaurant’s past, such as the Gentle Pig (vodka, gin, tequila and fruit juice), the Big Red (rum, mango rum, orange juice and grenadine), the Oink (whiskey sour) and the Squealer (a Long Island iced tea).
They also borrowed from the restaurant’s past, finding beer barrel saloon tables. Those are intermixed with new high tables and chairs in the bar area. The traditional dining area of the restaurant remains open on Fridays and Saturdays, and it’s available for rentals, such as small wedding parties.
“It’s kind of the best of all that makes the ‘Pig’ special,” Verhoff said. “Dick and Paulette did such a great job establishing this. Everything we’re doing is an extension of them.”