Your whole roast pig options in L.A. (fresh and pre-roasted included)
I've been going through a process of trying to figure out how to host a roast pig party and wanted to create a dedicated thread to consolidate information taken from various other CH posts.
As I quickly learned, in L.A. your options are quite good for roasting a whole pig, whether you want to do it yourself or purchase a pre-roasted pig. Just keep in mind that most of these places require at least 4-5 days lead time.
Roasting at home is obviously more of a logistical challenge but can be very rewarding if you're willing to put in the effort. It is NOT, however, more cost-effective, especially when you budget in time. If you do plan to go this route, I highly recommend this guide: http://www.cuban-christmas.com/pigroa... Otherwise, I wouldn't get into the actual cooking part (though folks can feel free to take up that discussion below).
Quick background: I need a pig big enough for 20-30 adults. From experience, we'd be talking about something in the 40-50 lb range (with a ton of leftovers). In fact, that may even be overkill but better to go bigger than smaller.
Notably, two of my local butchers really tried to dissuade me from trying to order a 40-50 lber . That includes the butcher at Fresco (Hermon) and Alexander Meats (Alhambra). Both really made it seem like it was a major hassle and/or expense but when I started calling around to other places, all of them said, "oh sure, not a problem." I don't quite understand why I met with reluctance from two sources but their concern was that, for smaller pigs, the price per pound goes up. That may be true but the prices I found were quite reasonable (I thought).
Note: the furthest "west" I called was mid-city. I live in the SGV and I didn't want to source a pig from the westside; there may very well be options out there.
BANG FOR THE BUCK: Broadleaf Game in Vernon. http://www.broadleafgame.com/
They could sell me a 45 lber for less than $3/lb. That was phenomenal; at least 30% less than any other source I found. The only catch is that, because they are a wholesaler, your pig arrives frozen. Some butchers will pre-thaw for you but not them. Therefore, you need to be prepared to thaw the pig (ideally, safely). I got the sense that, if the pig is in stock, you could buy it immediately but of course, you still need time to thaw and that's going to take a few days.
$130 or $2.75/lb
STILL REASONABLE: Harmony Farms in La Crescenta http://www.harmonyfarmsonline.com/
They get pig deliveries every Thursday and they will NOT be frozen (I asked). If I were to order, I'd lean towards them, mostly b/c they're not that far and their delivery schedule works with my dates.
$190 or $4.20/lb
Also: Cal Poly Pomona's Meat Lab http://www.csupomona.edu/~meatlab/
A bit off the beaten path but they will custom slaughter, clean and cut. You first have to buy a pig from their "swine unit" and then it's delivered to the meat lab where they will finish the cleaning and dressing. I didn't get a precise price here because I only spoke to the folks at the meat lab and not the swine unit (the names aren't exactly the greatest but hey) but they guessed the pig would run $80 and then the slaughtering/cleaning/dressing would be $100 (it's $20 less if you don't care to keep the head and feet; those are a pain to clean so they charge extra). They are the only source where everything is on location, unlike everywhere else where the pig is first ordered through a farm that then delivers it to the butcher. This may or may not matter to you.
$180 or $4/lb
Marconda's Meats (mid-city) http://www.marcondas.com/
They quoted me $4.49/lb. Obviously more than Broadleaf but not that much higher than Harmony or CPP. They also receive their deliveries on Thursday; I didn't ask if the pig was frozen or not or if they'd partially thaw on premise for me.
$200 or $4.49/lb
MOST EXPENSIVE: Lindy and Grundy (mid-city) http://lindyandgrundy.com/
Popular option for the organic, pastured, high-end meats crowd but you are definitely paying for what you get. They quoted me the final price but working backwards, the price per pound would be in the $7-8/lb range. They also receive their deliveries on Thursday; I didn't ask if the pig was frozen or not or if they'd partially thaw on premise for me.
$345 or $7.67/lb
There should be many other options to folks throughout the city; this just gives you a general range and a few places to consider.
I'm heavily leaning in this direction b/c home-roasting is a lot of work and as the date draws near, I'm feeling like I could use ONE less source of stress. And from a guest point of view, a roast pig is a roast pig, regardless of where it was cooked. Or so I think? Anyway...
These usually do not come by the lb but rather, by the size: small, medium, large, etc. For my purposes, a "medium" is what I needed, which, from what I could gauge, is probably good for 25-35 adults (ymmv). A small would be something like a suckling pig: 15-20 lber, good for a small dinner party of 20 or less. Except where noted, these are all places where you have to pick-up. I found one place that delivers but in general, I didn't seek out delivery as an option.
BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kim Tar BBQ (City of Industry) http://www.yelp.com/biz/kim-tar-bbq-r...
They may be out in the sticks for many, but Industry isn't really that far for anyone in the SGV.
$198 for a "medium" (they also had a small option but, interestingly, not a large one).
STILL REASONABLE: Sam Woo BBQ (Alhambra). http://www.yelp.com/biz/sam-woo-barbe...
They thought I would need a smaller pig for my party size, which presumes you can go at least two sizes up for bigger parites.
Eva's Lechon (Koreatown) http://www.evaslechon.com
This name came up a lot during my research though it sounds like you should never order around major holidays. The reviews of their customer service during heavy demand are scathing, to say the least. I didn't call them but their prices are listed. I needed something between 1/2 a pig and a medium but there's a weird price jump when you go between the two even though their own calculations suggests that a 1/2 can feed 25 whereas a medium is for 30, yet the price goes up $75!
Toto's Lechon Manok (Eagle Rock) http://totoslechon.com/
They have a few locations and I called the one in Eagle Rock b/c they're closest. For the size I needed, the cost was fairly high and I can't find enough reviews to vouch for the quality of the final product.
YOU WANT DELIVERY? Outback Catering (Van Nuys) http://www.outbackcatering.com/
Outback came recommended via a few CHers. You can do either pick-up or delivery though obviously, the latter costs more. They will also do on-site catering but I didn't ask about that. Their prices are about 10-15% more than more local options and for delivery (at least from Van Nuys to the SGV), it's an extra $50. Not cheap but not, in my opinion, unreasonable considering they will delivery, to your door, an entire roast pig.
There are, of course, a ton of other Chinese places I could have listed (CBS in Chinatown comes up a lot) but I'm assuming their costs would be about the same as Kim Tar and Sam Woo. For me, personally, I'd lean towards either Kim Tar or Sam Woo. The former b/c they're the cheapest, the latter b/c they would have a ton of experience doing this kind of thing. Eva's is tempting but I'm scared off by the reviews plus K-Town is a longer haul than Alhambra.
I would also add...one of the jokes I heard from the guy at Outback is that "if you can speak Mandarin, you'd have a lot of good options locally" but as I discovered, I definitely didn't need to draw on my basic Mandarin skills; the folks at Kim Tar and Sam Woo who handle these orders are completely fluent in English and you wouldn't need to stress any kind of language barrier.
One thing: someone on CH said that King's Hawaiian in Gardena/Torrance does whole roast pig but when I called their catering division, they said they did NOT provide this. Not sure if they changed their policies or I spoke to someone who didn't know what they were talking about (since I called during the dinner hour but they supposedly passed me onto their catering staff).
I originally was going to roast at home but as noted, you would be investing a fair amount of time, effort and (modest) costs to make that happen. The actually cooking part isn't very complicated at all. The hassle comes with prep, both for the pig (since you'd ideally want to thaw and/or marinate it in a safe way but most of us don't have a meat locker to store a pig in), and the roaster itself, which - while cheap in construction costs - is laborious for having to move around cinder blocks, ideally weld together some rebar and a bunch of other steps.
Having witnessed a whole pig roast before, it was really really cool and inspired me to want to do it. But as the person expected to actually carry out the roast? DAUNTING.
Pre-roasted is looking amazing attractive to me right now, ha!
Yesterday, I bought some pork at the new Altadena Farmers' Market from an operation called Jubilee Farms. They had signs identifying a couple of their clients, one of which was Lindy & Grundy. If they are willing to sell a pig directly to you, it might be less than L&G's price since you're eliminating the middle man.
re: Jack Flash
Jack: thanks for that info. I just tried to call them but couldn't get through. I did look at their website and found this passage:
"Jubilee Farms sells all of our Berkshire Pork at a flat $4 per lb. This includes cutting and wrapping (either paper or vacuum sealed). This price does not include delivery, curing or smoking. All are available at an additional price.
You have the following share options:
1/4 share = 43.75 lbs ($175)
1/2 share = 87.5 lbs ($350)
1 share = 175 lbs ($700)
It typically takes us 30-45 days from ordering to fulfill your order but we are working to shorten that timeframe as the year progresses."
This suggests cut/butchered meat rather than a whole pig and it definitely doesn't sound like you can easily order a pig in your desired weight class (but I'm not positive about that). $4/lb is quite reasonable though, as far as pasture-raised, Berkshire pork goes. I do wonder, however, how much delivery kicks up the cost. Some farms have CSA systems where it's delivered to farmer's markets but I don't know where the cost for that is absorbed.
Excellent post. thanks so much for compiling all of that information.
I will say that I have ordered from Eva's several times (including during major holidays) and honestly have never found them to be rude in any way. The lady that answers the phone and calls you back to confirm doesnt speak great english but I found that if you are polite to them they are generally very nice. They always have had the pig ready at the time that they quoted and were very helpful in getting it out to the car and loading it into the trunk. I have honestly had good experiences there many times.
Carln: Thanks for some personal input. The issues folks have raised isn't so much about rude customer service, rather it has to do with pick-up times that ran late, getting the wrong order, etc.
Still, this is what they specialize in so I assume they put out a pretty good product at the very least!