Hungry Diners Go ‘Hog Wild’ for Barbeque at 3 Hogs BBQ
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
Take a trip off the beaten path to 3 Hogs BBQ in Hanover and you’ll feel as though you’re discovering the South’s best-kept secret. And we’re not talking “south” as in South Central Pennsylvania; you might actually feel like you’ve been transported somewhere south of Memphis.
Hanover’s Forney Avenue is lined with industrial buildings and warehouses including Winebrenner’s Motor Services. Look for the 3 Hogs BBQ sign near Winebrenner’s, turn and follow the arrows down a narrow lane, and lo and behold, you’ll find a red shed marked “BBQ.” Chances are, you’ll catch a smoky whiff in the air that confirms you’re in the right place at the right time.
Three friends—Allen Kuhn, Matt Albright, and Ed Hershey—met on the job, at an area restaurant, nearly 10 years ago. They entered the Hanover Chili Cook Off as “3 Hogs Chili,” and took their hobby to the next level by smoking the ground beef, says Kuhn.
Weekend catering jobs took over their “free time,” and in August 2014, 3 Hogs BBQ opened in Hanover. By June 2017, 3 Hogs BBQ opened a second, family-style location in Spring Grove’s former Papertown Inn. The two restaurants are co-owned by Kuhn and Albright.
Step inside Hanover’s red shed, and you’ll see the 3 Hogs BBQ logo emblazoned on the front counter, splashed across T-shirts, and wrapped around bottles of barbeque sauce. The flaming “3” and villainous-looking pig speak to the restaurant’s beginnings on the chili and barbeque circuit, where homegrown competition logos are filled with fierce pride and personality.
“We do barbeque, but we do a lot of crazy stuff as well,” says Albright. “We offer a lot of our personality on the menu—if you come here and can’t find something you enjoy, you’re crazy,” he says with a laugh.
Nearly 20 sandwiches are on the menu—with colorful names such as The Bull Hog, El Guapo Sloppo Burrito, Memphis Whiskey Burger, and Brisket Mac and Cheese Grilled Cheese, which Kuhn says is their No. 1 sandwich. “It’s a grilled cheese made with American cheese, layered with brisket, mac and cheese, and barbeque sauce.” If you think it sounds like a mouthful, you’re right.
Kuhn’s personal favorite is the Hog Dog—a hot dog wrapped in a quarter pound of bacon, topped with pulled pork, cheddar cheese, and 3 Hogs Memphis BBQ sauce—his favorite sauce. “It’s sweet and tangy with a little spice,” he says.
Side dishes include another 20 choices, including traditional barbeque accompaniments like baked beans and coleslaw, along with unique, smoke-infused sides like Smoked Brussels Sprouts. Kuhn, who attended The Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts, says Brussels sprouts don’t deserve a bad rap. “We’re bringing Brussels sprouts back,” he says with a grin. “If people try them at least once, they keep coming back for them.”
Albright adds, “We go through 150 pounds of sprouts a week, in the summer.”
Entrees include Island Chicken, Memphis Steak Bowl, Smokehouse Chef Salad—a chef salad featuring barbeque —and more.
Why does barbeque have such a loyal following? “People love barbeque because they can do it themselves in their backyards,” says Albright. “That smoky flavor is appealing; something clicks in their brains and reminds them of bacon.”
Kuhn says barbeque is “an art.” 3 Hogs BBQ’s brisket spends 10 to 12 hours in the smokers; pork is pulled after eight to 10 hours.
For many fans, it’s the low and slow cooking process, tender meat falling off the bone, combined with creative barbeque sauces bringing just the right amount of heat or sweet.
Kuhn says all 3 Hogs BBQ sauces are made in-house. “We’re up to 12 sauces now—our mildest one is Kansas City, our hottest is Satan’s Spit, and we have everything in between—a pineapple one, Smoked Apple, Carolina Red and Gold.”
Baird McIlvain works near 3 Hogs BBQ in Hanover; he’s been a “regular” for several years. “It’s fantastic food, fresh, with good helpings—it’s a treat,” he says. His favorites? The Champ Burger and Carolina Gold sauce.
“It’s very rewarding when customers say, ‘It reminds me of what I’d find in Texas or Tennessee,’” says Kuhn.
And just in case you’re wondering, 3 Hogs BBQ still enters the Hanover Chili Cook Off—they won the coveted People’s Choice Award in 2017. Baseball field Good Field, site of the cook off, is coincidentally located right behind the Hanover restaurant—perhaps it’s a case of “home field advantage.”
Baked Beans: A Signature Side from 3 Hogs BBQ
1 #10 can pork & beans (7 lbs., 4 oz.)
½ c. brown sugar
¼ c. King syrup
2 c. 3 Hogs Memphis BBQ Sauce
½ c. 3 Hogs Chub Rub
6 oz. brisket burnt ends or 3 Hogs pulled pork
Mix all ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, in crock-pot, on stovetop, or in oven until ready to serve.
3 Hogs BBQ
50 N. Forney Ave., Hanover
4 S. Water St., Spring Grove