3 Pigs BBQ
1044 116th Ave NE
Bellevue WA 98004
Award Winning, Perhaps, But Something is Missing
By: Steve G
Located in Bellevue across the street from Overlake Hospital in the Design Center Strip Mall, there's a hidden joint called 3 Pigs BBQ that serves up barbeque to the people of the Eastside. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but there's a long-standing history to the place making it an institution of BBQ. Started by the Harrell Brothers, John and Todd, Three Pigs BBQ has been operating in Bellevue for over twenty-two years. While the Northwest is not renowned for its barbeque, the Harrell Brothers have had a lot of BBQ experience. John has spent years competing in BBQ competitions around the country and has made quite a name for the business with his special BBQ sauce. In fact, he has been so successful that the sauce is currently featured in many supermarkets.
As you walk into 3 Pigs BBQ, there's a very apparent "mom and pop" look to the place. With some generic booths and tables, the place is about as typical as you can get. For those of you who are sports fanatics, take a gander at all of the frames and cases, each showcasing memorabilia from Northwest sports. Our favorite throwback piece is the pair of Derrick McKey signed shoes. For your viewing pleasure, a couple of flat screen TVs are hanging on the wall, usually tuned into Fox Northwest or ESPN and showing the hometown games.
Strangely enough, 3 Pigs BBQ has two other competitors within close proximity: Dixie's and Milt's BBQ. What's the difference between 3 Pigs BBQ and its competition? The Harrell brothers don't believe in cooking their meats in sauces, but rather cook them whole. This means that the meat isn't cut before ordering, which preserves a lot of moisture, resulting in some good barbeque. After hearing about this, we had some high expectations for the barbeque and while it was decent, there were a few issues that made it come up a little short.
3 Pigs BBQ has a wide variety of food, from sandwiches and rib platters to whole roasted chicken and pig. There's easily enough to satisfy all of the cravings of any true carnivore. We ordered the Turkey Sandwich with a Mac Salad and Corn Bread and the BBQ Beef Sandwich with a side of Cole Slaw. It was a little on the light side given the range of menu offerings, but we weren't feeling especially carnivorous at the time.
The Turkey Sandwich featured some marinated meat which was excessively drenched in the sweet barbeque sauce. After a few bites, it was clear that the sandwich relied a little too much on the sauce for flavor. By itself, the turkey was rather bland and dull. In contrast, the rich and tasty mac salad was a great side and one of the best parts of the meal.
Once again featuring the signature 3 Pigs BBQ Sauce, the BBQ beef sandwich was decent affair. The beef had a strong hickory smoke flavor to it, while the sauce injected a sweet and tangy flavor. Just like the turkey sandwich, the meat was just slathered in sauce. A lot of it soaked into the bun, causing the bread to slowly break apart and leading to a really messy meal. With its thick, clumsy pieces of chopped cabbage, the coleslaw wasn't too impressive. And while at first glance the sandwich looked a little diminutive, it ended up being a very filing meal and a decent value.
Good barbeque is hard to find in Seattle, and while the food was ok, it all seemed a little bland. We were impressed by the overall preparation of the meat, but it built up such a high expectation that ended up falling flat once we took a bite. Compared to other places, Three Pigs prices are a little under or just up to par with what you would find at other BBQ places. But with other options like Dixie's and Milt's in the area, it seems like the only advantage here is the price.