IN THE BEST-KNOWN (and more violent) version of the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf dines everywhere but the third pig's little brick bungalow. Maybe it's the lack of stick-and-straw storefronts, or maybe it's just that Three Pigs is making some of the best pork-based sandwiches in town; either way, I suspect that a lack of ravenous patrons won't be a problem for the new deli tucked in on the ground floor of one West Burnside's old brick apartment buildings. Ralph Capalupo—formerly of Southpark, Noble Rot, and, most recently, the sous chef at Urban Farmer—has created a sandwich shop that only looks humble.
The space is about the size of a small bedroom, the menu is a not particularly tidy chalkboard, and the only seating is a row of stools facing the window and a couple patio chairs outside. But don't be fooled: Three Pigs is deceptively gourmand, and nothing I've tried has been short of excellent. Capalupo knows how to let quality ingredients take center stage, and he knows how to ensure the quality of those ingredients—primarily by doing the butchering himself. With the exception of a (small) handful of permanent items, the menu revolves around what Capalupo can buy fresh from the markets and from his farmers.
As the name might suggest, Three Pigs is pork heavy. Even the few non-pig items beckon you to add bacon. The Cubano's ($8) sliced ham is some of the most succulent I've ever tasted, and it is complemented by Gruyère cheese and sweet housemade pickles. The ratio is perfect—no one item overwhelms. The sandwich is served on grilled como bread from Grand Central Bakery. The meatball sandwich ($8) isn't what you might expect, but it's far from a disappointment. Instead of a stuffing a French roll, Capalupo crushes the meatballs into a panini-friendly layer, and the bread is dotted with a melted hard cheese.
While it might not be the ideal pasture for vegetarians to graze in, Three Pigs has at least one excellent meat-free sandwich. I ordered the grilled broccoli and ricotta sandwich ($8), and even resisted the urge to add bacon...FOR YOU, herbivores. The broccoli was cooked to a perfect texture; never did it crumble, and never did it verge on too crisp. The cheese was slathered on generously, and was full of mixed herbs. I did have some meat with this particular lunch, a pleasantly surprising bacon-and-bean soup ($4). The house-cured bacon was transcendent, and for such a light broth, it had tremendous flavor.
So long as you don't wake up too early (for the time being, they don't open until 10:30), you oughtn't miss the breakfast sandwich either. It looks something like an omelet stuffed between slices of grilled Grand Central brioche. The egg envelops melted slices of aged cheddar, and is dressed with grain mustard. That house-cured bacon doesn't come standard, but it's worth springing for.
For now, your best bet is to call ahead and take your lunch back to your desk (if you find yourself driving around the block, you're free to park in the gravel lot across the street while you pick up your order—I hope NW Auto Spa is getting free sandwiches out of the deal), but I won't be surprised if Three Pigs expands beyond these unassuming beginnings. There's plenty to huff and puff about.
You Get A Line: Po'Shines, North Portland's non-profit soul food cafe, is hosting their annual crawfish feed, with proceeds going to their culinary training program for at-risk young adults. Po'Shines serves great food, and does important work for the community, you know, in case crawfish étouffée, cakes, and chowder aren't their own reward. 8139 N Denver, Fri Sept 30-Sat Oct 1
For Sake's Sake: Wafu, SE Division's new izakaya, is celebrating International Sake Day with an eight-course dinner. Chef Trent Pierce will pair a seafood-heavy prix-fixe menu with nine varieties of sake. There will be two seatings, and reservations are $150 a head (all inclusive). Email email@example.com. 3113 SE Division, Sat Oct 1, seatings at 5 & 8:30 pm
Wetlands and Wellies: A handful of distinguished Portland chefs are heading down to Tualatin for dinner benefiting the Wetland Conservancy. Cathy Whims, Dustin Clark, and Broc Willis, among others, will cook a four-course meal at the Hedges Creek Marsh. Tickets are $125 (alcohol pairings included). Sun Oct 2, 3 pm, tickets available at wetlandsandwellies.eventbrite.com
Happy Anniversary: Throughout October, New Orleans-style bistro Acadia celebrates its 10th year of business. All month long, chef/owner Adam Higgs is offering $10 entrees, including chicken maque choux, smoked duck étouffée with Cajun popcorn rice, and Gulf shrimp with house bacon and white grits. 1303 NE Fremont, Oct 1-31