Three Little Pigs Restaurant
(Editor’s note: This restaurant is no longer open, but we loved the review so much, we’re leaving it up).
Yep… Sarona, Wisconsin. A dip in the road right off of US 53, about 10 miles (as the pig flies) south/southeast of Spooner in Washburn County; and at the south end of Sarona’s Long Lake at the junction of County M & D is a real “happening.” I mean, as in “worth-the-drive.”
The Three Little Pigs Restaurant and Swine & Dine Saloon. How’s that for a moniker?
But if the name brings you a chuckle, the people who run the place and the food will bring you a series of smiles, happy burps and pleasant memories. This is one great restaurant!
Run by a California transplant named Judy Goodenough, who married a local, Dale, in 1978, the Three Little Pigs has garnered awards for years, and for a truly out-of-the-way place is pretty well known; particularly among the quiche-BMW-white-wine-yuppie-wannabe set from the “Cities” (Minneapolis/St. Paul to you extranjeros), who long to wear a bib, tear apart a couple of racks of mouth watering barbequed Iowa pork ribs, and lick their fingers in public without being seen.
The restaurant is cozy and small. Half a dozen or so tables, replete with fresh flowers, and one of the most fantastic collections of nouveau/art deco wall-hangings, artifacts, and art I’ve ever seen… particularly the pig memorabilia.
There’s a bar (as in “Swine & Dine Saloon”) where food is also served, and where most of the locals eat, happily gawking at the outsiders who flock by them to the main restaurant. One of the Saturday evenings I was there, I was dressed nouveau-grungy and smelled like Cujo, and stood around the bar gawking, too. Here walks in a couple of blowed-dried, finger manicured, dressed-to-the-nines-in-custom-leather-biker-clothes city-slicker couples. They marched right by us to the main restaurant, semi-holding their noses, and we all quickly looked outside: Sure enough. . .two custom Harleys, with sissy seats, and enough chrome to blind the eyes. Real bikers these people. . .
I like Judy and her “old-man,” because they’re hard workers, outspoken in a very pleasant way, and he’s the only local I’ve ever seen, besides me, and the Native Americans, who wears his hair in a pony tail. And do they turn out food!
The restaurant won a recent Wisconsin “Beef Backer” award for excellence, as well as first runner-up in Wisconsin’s “Dairy Best” restaurant competition. Both highly deserved.
The place features wood roasted, Iowa pork loin back ribs and chicken roasted naturally without any chemicals. Judy’s BBQ sauce is memorable. She’ll douse it over anything you want — and it’s good over anything you want!
Judy’s own garden supplies most of the veggies and herbs for the superlative salad bar (lots of unusual fresh goodies like pasta salads, sweet and sour fixins’ and the like) and homemade-from-scratch soups. The garden also supplies the rhubarb and strawberries used in the homemade pies, and the flowers for the tables. Judy uses only the finest ingredients, serving generous portions, and always real Wisconsin dairy products in everything she prepares.
There’s an unbelievable selection of Italian specialties such as shrimp agnolotti, breast of chicken Cicero, cheese ravioli, florentine shells and five cheese lasagna. Daily specials run the gamut from a full rack of ribs, to hand-cut, fresh eye of prime rib. The steaks are all handcut and legendary for their flavor and tenderness. Dinners include baby red potatoes or saffron rice, soup du jour, homemade rolls and breads, and the salad bar, which includes homemade French and blue cheese dressings.
And if you don’t want fresh pie for dessert try the fantastic scratch three layer carrot cake or three layer German chocolate cake.
One thing that Judy doesn’t crow about, but should, is her homemade jalapeno creamy cheese appetizer, which is served with every dinner. I want to tell you, after the dip, some crackers and soup, I was full before I even went to the salad bar. And of course, if you want more of this or that, just ask. Judy obliges with a smile.
The last time we were there, my wife had the barbequed chicken and I opted for the large barbequed rib dinner. Our guests each enjoyed a wonderful grilled ribeye. The soup we had that evening was a superlative, very lightly brothed minestrone. Superb.
Like fish instead? How about mild or fiery cajun catfish or walleye, or maybe shrimp scampi? And if you’re really not that hungry try one of the 15 or so different sandwiches from what is euphemistically called the “bar menu,” which includes a burrito grande, grilled fresh tuna steak, Santa Fe chicken breast, and what seems about three hundred different kinds of hamburgers, including guacamole and BBQ, and of course real Texas chili. You can nosh on things like battered cheese curds, beer battered onion rings, or nachos.
If you can’t find something to eat at the Three Little Pigs, then you should stick with an Ultra SlimFast diet drink.
The Three Little Pigs Restaurant is open from about Memorial day to the end of October. Prices range from a $3.95 hamburger to a range of from about $10-$19.00 for a dinner. The main dining room is smoke free, but forget about non-smoking in the bar. This is northern Wisconsin!).
Try this place. It really is a very memorable and most pleasant experience for all reasons, in all seasons, and the owners are really exceptional folks.
[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user preppiecurler]