Bar 3 BBQ

Elizabeth Anderson


Find here the true makings of southern soul food with Big Sky country style

Bozemanites have known Bar 3 for nearly two decades, but the restaurant recently gained new ground right down the road off of East Main in Belgrade. There’s no doubt the scratch-crafted Southern-inspired comfort food and delicious local cold brews have continued to fuel the popularity and success of Bar 3. Catering service is also provided to meet the needs of parties or events with professionalism. Like true Southern hospitality, Bar 3 welcomes everyone with friendly attentive service and with reasonable costs to a great experience.

We got the opportunity to talk with the man behind the operations, owner and founder of Bar 3, Hunter Lacey.

Elizabeth Anderson: How was Bar 3 conceptualized?

Hunter Lacey: My good friend, Mike Cavanna and I wanted to open a restaurant in early 2000, and after kicking several ideas around, Bar 3 first opened in 2001 on Seventh Avenue in Bozeman. We both enjoyed barbeque, and I don’t remember exactly why we specifically chose it, but I do remember taking a trip to Kansas City and Memphis and eating a bunch of barbeque, and that’s how we developed our menu. We took things that we liked from different spots and I had spent time in Texas prior. Some of my favorite food, and I think, kind of an underrated regional food of the U.S., is really the Eastern Gulf Coast region. They have some incredible food down there that I don’t think gets as much attention as it should, and barbeque is kind of a part of that. Barbeque is “poor folk’s food.” It’s taking typically less popular and less expensive tough cuts of meat and cooking them for a really long time and then they turn out awesome. Making great food from challenging ingredients is always something I’ve been interested in.

EA: What makes Bar 3 unique in the Bozeman/Belgrade food scene or what do you do that other places don’t?

HL: Most of everything we make is from scratch, very little pre-made anything, which I think is definitely different. There are a lot of places that rely on food that is packaged and ready to go, but I know the challenges of scratch cooking. The labor and staffing can also be a big challenge, so it’s easy to fall into having products that are ready to go. We do a lot of our cooking from scratch. We don’t buy ground pepper, we buy a couple thousand pounds of whole peppercorns and other spices at a time. I think that’s one of the things that separates us from lots of other restaurants. Aside from the cooking, I think the uniqueness of Bar 3 from a customer’s standpoint is that there aren’t a whole lot of other restaurants that fill the niche of a popular priced, family friendly, non-chain type of establishment, and I think that’s where we fall. We’re not overly-expensive, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion to come in and eat. We’re kid friendly, and you can show up in your dirty construction clothes and we’ll welcome you. It’s a feel-good space and you’re going to get a good meal no matter what.

EA: What do you want people to experience when they walk through your doors?

HL: Friendly service, attention, and I want them to walk into a clean space. I want them to have a good experience. I think it’s not just about the taste of food, it’s the whole experience that’s important, and I just want them to walk out feeling like they got a good value for their money and enjoyed their time.

EA: What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Bozeman/Belgrade community?

HL: We’re really able to participate in the community. We’ve been able to have a close connection to the community. We participate with the Belgrade Panthers and Festival of Lights and other city events and community organizations. And that’s been really fun. We participate a lot with the Bozeman Hawks and other organizations in Bozeman as well. The support of the community has been awesome, and we’ve really enjoyed being able to participate back with the community. It’s really the involvement we enjoy. A restaurant by nature is a gathering place, and that’s what we are, a community gathering place. We get to see the city manager sitting down and enjoying a drink and really anyone can come in through the doors. We see a lot of people we recognize coming in more and more on a day-to-day basis, so really everyone feels like a regular here, which is really nice. 

EA: What is your most popular dish or what do your regulars keep coming back for?

HL: For the longest time, grits were something that we were pretty well known for, but we’ve had some new menu additions. Burnt ends are a constant for us. The fried chicken sandwich has become pretty popular, and our nachos are a big seller too.

EA: Do you have anything upcoming that you want readers to know about?

HL: We no longer close at 8 p.m. in Belgrade; we are now open until 9 p.m. We have a party room on our main floor. It’s a great room that’ll hold anywhere from maybe 30 people up to about 80 people. I know there aren’t a lot of options like that for a venue in Belgrade for holiday parties or whatever you want to do, so it’s a cool space to have here.  

Bar 3 can be found online at bar3bbq.com

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