Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Longtime Favorite - Three Little Pigs

I mentioned in a post on Moma's Pit B-B-Q earlier this week that the Three Little Pigs Bar-B-Q at the corner of Quince and White Station was a regular breakfast stop back in the 90s when I was a high school student working on a lawn crew every summer. The East Memphis restaurant, located in the same parking lot as the Billy Hardwicks All-Star Lanes bowling alley, was also a standard lunchtime barbecue stop for us back then, along with the Germantown Commissary. Of all the places we used to stop, the Three Little Pigs was my hands-down favorite for pulled pork.

A decade later, my wife and I spent the first couple years of our marriage living a few blocks from the restaurant in the Colonial Acres neighborhood. Being so good and so close, it was my automatic destination when I wanted barbecue back then, the same way the Tops on Jackson Avenue is now. And as much as I love my neighborhood Tops, its pulled pork can't compete with the Three Little Pigs'.

Back in the 90s, the restaurant had plate glass exterior walls surrounding the dining room. They were later replaced with solid walls to give the air conditioner a fighting chance in the summertime, since the building is surrounded by a giant blacktop parking lot. The brutal heat of Memphis in the summertime would also cause me to order the restaurant's excellent cheeseburgers instead of barbecue when temperatures reached the 90s and above. Eating a large pile of pulled pork loses some of its appeal when you know you're going back out in 100 degree weather to cut grass for several hours. I've been self-employed in the automotive field for the last seven years with a job that also keeps me outside for large portions of the day. So thinking back on those days, and knowing how much my appetite drops working in the extreme heat, has made me realize that I will probably be blogging a lot less during the worst of the summer.

The Three Little Pigs doesn't just serve great food. It serves it incredibly cheap. I got a jumbo pulled pork dinner with three sides for $6.79. The big double cheeseburgers I remember so fondly from my teenage years are only $4.99. If you come by for breakfast, that $4.99 gets you three eggs with three pieces of either bacon or sausage, grits or gravy, and biscuits or toast. And if you are you are having company and want to make sure no one goes hungry, a dinner pack with enough buns and meat for 16 sandwiches plus a quart each of beans and slaw is only $25.89.

The dinner usually comes with beans, slaw and fries. Since they don't offer potato salad, I subbed onion rings for the fries since I remembered how good they were. The lady who prepared my order messed up and gave me two orders of beans instead of beans and slaw. When I pointed it out she laughed, apologized and gave me a container of slaw to go with my double order of beans. I've been getting tired of baked beans, since I've encountered a lot of them straight from a can lately. But these reminded me of how good baked beans can be. The tasty house sauce had been simmered down to a nice, thick consistency and there was plenty of charred barbecue in them. In other words, I think they were actually baked.

The sauce at Three Little Pigs is a big part of what makes it so special. It's a mild sauce that is heavily infused with herb flavors and works perfectly with the smoky, delicious pork. The restaurant doesn't sell ribs. Pulled pork is the only barbecue on the menu, but I applaud that restraint since I'd much rather eat at a place that does one thing perfectly than somewhere offering multiple varieties of mediocre que. The slaw has a great combination of mustard and vinegary pickle relish flavors. I didn't eat the yeast roll included with the dinner, although my wife was always a big fan of them. I did eat all of the pork, slaw and onion rings and about three-fourths of the double order of beans.  I checked my blood sugar an hour after the meal to see how bad of an effect the battered onion rings and giant portion of beans had. I was happy to see that it was only 129 despite the gluttonous meal. The restaurant's devotion to using real seasonings instead of just piling on sugar pays off in more ways than just flavor.

Nearly every available inch of wall space in the Three Little Pigs restaurant is devoted to pig images, statues and figurines. In an era when so many places try to avoid reminding people where meat comes from, and just treat it as a commercial product that shows up at the grocery store as individual cuts wrapped in plastic, it is fun to see a barbecue joint fully embrace the magical animal that drives its business.

NOTE: Since posting this review I've been having lunch at Three Little Pigs almost every Friday since the pulled pork plate there is such an incredible value. I recently discovered that they offer a spicy sauce, which is basically the regular sauce with crushed red pepper added to it. It makes the sauce I already loved even better.

Three Little Pigs on Urbanspoon


  1. I only wish that I lived close to places that you talk about! I love my BBQ. BBQ and sweet tea...pure Heaven!

  2. Three Little Pigs now serves ribs with an excellent dry rub and sauce on the side. Worth a visit, these are some of the finest ribs in the city.

    1. I ran across them a few months ago and they were really good. Meant to come back and add a little update to this post. Thanks for the reminder.