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Friday, April 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Barbecue joint's heaping helpings bring on squeals of delight

Special to The Seattle Times

Pig Iron Bar-B-Q


5602 First Ave. S., Seattle; 206-768-1009

Barbecue

$

Hours: 11 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

Beer and soft drinks / credit cards: MC, V / no smoking / one step up to enter.

Rating: recommended.

I first heard about the Pig Iron from someone who now makes it a point to drive through Georgetown on her way everywhere. Mind you, she lives in Madrona. "I really love the place," she told me sheepishly. As if she needed to.

And now I'm right there with her, bending myself into a pretzel to make the 56th block of First Avenue South a casual part of my regular orbit.

What is it that attracts? The funky two-room storefront, so cheerfully decorated with vintage photos and Hells Angels posters it looks like it's been there for 40 years? (It's been there one.) The helpful tattooed waitresses? The comfy banquettes; nostalgic tin plates? The enthusiasm of fellow diners, some just as deep into the Cult of the Pig Iron as my informant? ("Order a plate — the plates are bigger than the sandwiches," one could be heard coaching his dining companion, a clear devotee-in-the-making.)

All of these attributes add up to a joint loaded with quirky charm. But all the quirky charm in the world won't fill an empty belly or please a discriminating palate. A mess of Pig Iron's baby-back ribs, however, will do both and then some. The ribs are slathered in mellow sauce and surrender the bone at your merest suggestion.

Pig Iron features seven barbecued meats, including catfish fillet, sliced brisket, smoked sausage with sweet peppers, sliced turkey and pulled pork. They are served in sandwich form (with potato salad or coleslaw) or on a plate (with bread and a choice of two sides), along with three barbecue sauces at the table for doctoring. (Try the Carolina mustard sauce — I myself could slurp this stuff with a straw.)

I'm with the gentleman at the table next to mine: Order your meat by the plate, as you get to choose from the sides, which are even better than the meats. Standouts include the cornbread dressing, sweet-potato fries and piquant mashed-potato salad, although the coleslaw and mashers with gravy are unassailable. (The smoky beans tasted more burnt than smoky.)

I admit I haven't sampled the jalapeño spinach casserole or the greens. Yet.

Check please:

Bar-B-Q catfish fillet sandwich: Hallelujah, this sandwich rocks. The kaiser roll isn't the reason; it's room temperature and altogether unequal to the task of holding the whole mess together. Somehow, though, it tastes great with the catfish nuggets, which are seasoned briskly, fired to a turn and all sauced up with a remoulade they call slather. The sandwich comes with onions and tomatoes for decorating, along with your choice of coleslaw or potato salad. You can get the former if you must — it's just fine — but you'll be missing a wahoo version of potato salad crafted of all sorts of minced goodies and poured over with Carolina mustard sauce.

Sliced brisket plate: Moist and delectable brisket, sliced a little thicker than most, is served in a huge heap with Pig Iron's admirable house (or chipotle) barbecue sauce. With it you get a thick slice of white bread (ah, tradition!) and your choice of two sides. Try (Atkins be damned!) the sweet-potato fries and the cornbread dressing. The fries are terrific, salty-sweet and utterly addictive; the dressing a sweet- savory fantasy embodying the ultimate raison d'être of humble cornmeal.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Bar-B-Q catfish fillet sandwich $6.95

Sliced brisket plate $9.75

Tax $1.46

Total $18.16

Kathryn Robinson: kathrynrobinson@speakeasy.net

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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