Meat + Three
Written by Abby Jeffers / Photography by Julia Jeffers and RayRay’s
RayRay’s Hog Pit’s Granville location, Meat + Three, sits just five minutes from founder James Anderson’s farm, where he raises his own pigs. Its name, Meat + Three, stems from a barbeque tradition of building a plate with one meat and three sides, though patrons can also choose from mouthwatering sandwich or rib offerings. Anderson also offers a sampler platter aptly titled “The Meat Sweats” that combines brisket, turkey, pork belly, sausage, cauliflower wings, and jerk chicken, and he also creates a different style of sausage each week. His favorite is the cotija cheese, corn, lime, and cilantro sausage with lime crema dip, though the cheddar jalapeno is just as incredible.
RayRay’s also features a somewhat unique take on the meat: rather than choosing pork from specific parts of the pig, Anderson opts to use as much of the hog as possible in creating the “Chopped Whole Hawg” style of meat, a wholehog experience.
Though his personal favorite sauce, brisket, and ribs come from Texas –– specifically the no-frills, meat-focused technique of Lockhard, Texas –– Anderson cooks his barbecue in a blend of EastWest North Carolina style, which uses a vinegar-based sauce but focuses on the meat as the centerpiece of a dish, topping the plate with homemade chow-chow and crispy skins. He sees Meat + Three as a place where he can experiment with food, and he develops the menu in its entirety.
Despite frequent experimentation (and maybe as a result of), everything about RayRay’s Hog Pit –– including the menu –– is created with intention, passion, and the consumer in mind.
Anderson is self-taught and studied through travel and relationships with barbeque owners and pit bosses. He takes no satisfaction from selling products on a shelf, instead opting to build an experience and serve delicious, fresh meals for guests. He has changed his technique based on experience, including learning to appreciate the whole-hog approach.
The food especially is made slowly and mindfully. RayRay’s website argues that “you can’t rush barbeque,” boasting select cuts that are then dry-rubbed and cooked on low in a hardwood smoker for 12-16 hours, and the outcome is a selection of meats that is rich and buttery with complex and layered flavors. The sides are equally enticing; the cornbread joins sweet with savory, and the coleslaw is tart and delicious. The Meat Sweats platter is delicious, putting sides in the backseat as the meats take center stage.
Anderson also raises his pigs with the same level of care as he makes his food, testing breeds for seven years and through more than 12 breeds of pig to find the perfect mix, which currently has the Idaho Pasture Pig at the core of five breeds. He also raises the hogs longer than most in the industry; commercial hogs are slaughtered at six months old to meet the constant supply of meat, but Anderson raises his pigs to be two years old before processing. His technique takes four times as long but results in juicer, fattier, tastier meat.
Anderson draws inspiration in part from family trips where he piles his family (including seven kids) into a camper and they create an itinerary focusing on food with activities to appease the children along the way. As a self-taught chef, Anderson learned much of his craft from traveling and studying, like going out with the owners and pit bosses of barbeque places to learn the culture of barbeque.
In fact, his family motivates much of his work. Anderson grew up watching his dad and relatives grill and smoke meat in the backyard, and though his dad never taught him to cook the meat, his family line is rich with cooks and food. When his dad died in a car accident when Anderson was 20 years old, his mom encouraged him to walk his own path. Anderson started as a self-taught chef with a food truck and grew RayRay’s Hog Pit to its current status as a central Ohio barbeque staple featured in outlets like USA Today, Food Network, and Southern Living. RayRay’s also ranked 21 in Business Insider’s top 50 barbeque joints in the nation in 2016.
Even today, Anderson’s family is involved. One of his daughters, Mimi, age 14, aspires to be a pastry chef and makes desserts for Meat + Three. Like her father, Mimi also experiments with food, including a decadent, generously-sized chocolate cake that includes zucchini and marks the perfect end to the meal. She shares her father’s passion for food, and Anderson admits that she is likely the future of RayRay’s Hog Pit, saying that Mimi is “addicted to it like me.”
That passion for food comes through in every detail at RayRay’s Hog Pit, including the kitchen at Meat + Three. The kitchen was mindfully designed by Chris Kay, a friend of Anderson, and Anderson says that it is his dream kitchen. Every nail and screw is where he wanted it to go, and he put his heart and soul into creating a space where he can experiment and build menus.
In fact, the very location of Meat + Three was a result of Goldilocks conditions, a set of perfectly-aligned opportunities including the sale of a building five minutes from Anderson’s farm and home as well as the closure of a friend’s barbeque in Granville, with which Anderson would have never competed.
Outside of Granville, visit RayRay’s Hog Pit at one of four locations in Columbus: a food truck at Land-Grant Brewing Company in Franklinton, a food truck at Ace of Cups in Clintonville, a walk-up window and drive-thru in Westerville, and a food truck at Nocterra Brewing in Powell. Whether in Columbus or just a short distance over at Meat + Three, visit RayRay’s Hog Pit this summer for the barbeque experience of the year.