Fed Man 55: Three Little Pigs (54)

 
 
Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
 
No. 54: Three Little Pigs
1209 Rosewood Ave. 512-653-5088, www.3littlepigsaustin.com.
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 08.17.12
 
On further consideration of Three Little Pigs, a Lord Byron poem comes to mind: “She walks in beauty, like the night.” Or is it Mickey Gilley? “The girls all get prettier at closing time.”  Either way, I’ve spent most of my time at Raymond Tatum’s plain white trailer in the dusky twilight or darkness broken only by the pool of a halogen spot and a few strings of Christmas lights. Pork meatloaf wrapped in bacon with gravy over cheese grits and collard greens isn’t pretty food by the light of day, but it glows in the moonlight, the best $7 dish you can eat outdoors in a paper boat.
 
This is the first of three trailers in this list of Austin’s 55 Best Restaurants, because good food is where you find it, even if it has to find you.
 
Three Little Pigs is tucked under a tree outside East End Wines, where Tatum has made a stand, working for himself after 30-plus years of cooking for other people’s restaurants: Jean-Pierre’s, Jeffrey’s, Brio Vista, the Backstage Steakhouse and others. I ran the fryers for him the last night at the Backstage, and its closing transformed Tatum’s gauzy notion of opening what he called a “pig trailer” into an eight-month Sisyphean gantlet of floor-plate welding, cell-phone sticker shock, frozen pipes, broken fryers and permits in no particular hurry. I drove with him to a farm in Thorndale for a Statesman story and came back reeking like pigs--t and weed. But once he got the rock rolled up the hill to stay, Tatum began turning out pork belly sliders with green apple, Asian fried chicken with sweet chile sauce, even ceviche-style pork and a country-style pate that could stand with any high-end shop in town. All of it for $7.
 
The dish that propelled my regard for Three Little Pigs beyond sentimentality still carried the embers of that sentiment: A collection of vinegary black-eyed pea salad, gorgonzola cheese and red beets over slices of pork smoked to a pitmaster’s standards. The pork came from a barbecue pit beside the trailer, a rig passed along to Tatum when Backstage owner Kent Hayner died earlier this year. Three Little Pigs is just a trailer, but it’s hitched to a lifetime of restaurants.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants