Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pit

Finally getting around to posting a BBQ review. Since launching this blog, I've been incredibly slack about getting my fill of sweet, smoky pork goodness.  Fortunately, that drought has come to an end.

Last Saturday, we ventured to The Pit, arguably one of Raleigh's best places to get your fill of awesome barbecue while washing it down with one of the great brews they have on tap. In other words, my kind of place.

Located in an otherwise unassuming brick building at 328 W. Davie Street, The Pit is just a few blocks west of downtown Raleigh's core. Even though it's nestled among several other brick, former warehouses, it's still easy to find; just look for the NC flag and the crowd of people on the corner. The Pit offers valet parking, which stubborn me should take advantage of. Parking on the surrounding streets can be hard to find, especially if you get there when it's busy. Speaking of busy, make reservations if you don't want to wait. Of course, if you don't mind waiting (I think ours was 30 minutes during Saturday dinner), the time passes quickly at the bar.

Inside, The Pit is anything but your traditional Southern BBQ joint. White tablecloths, dim lighting, plush booth seating and a wall of wine bottles will make do a double-take. Don't worry, you're not the only one who's under-dressed. The atmosphere is very welcoming, and when we were there, everyone seemed to be having a great time.

The food, on the other hand, is as traditional and Southern as it gets.  Pitmaster (emphasis on pit, emphasis on master) Ed Mitchell has become somewhat of a legend, attracting national attention. Bobby Flay even stopped by earlier this year to challenge him to a rib Throwdown. Ed handily won.

For our most recent visit, I went with the double combo, paying extra to substitute ribs to accompany pulled pork, with fried okra and mashed potatoes on the side. I washed the whole thing down with a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which we'll talk about later.  The Pit isn't cheap, but well worth the price.

The pulled pork was very good. It was juicy and tender, with just a subtle hint of smoke. I lightly doused mine with the The Pit's western NC-style sauce, giving it a rich, peppery, smoky flavor. The thing I appreciated most was the fact that it was really pulled pork. Big, meaty chunks. I'm often disappointed at how finely chopped many places tend to serve theirs.

The ribs were excellent. I thought I ordered baby back, but these seemed to be the Carolina-style. I wasn't complaining, though; I love the The Pit's ribs. They're always thick, meaty and juicy, with a smokiness that penetrates deep into the meat, making them fall-off-the-bone tender.

With so much attention put into tending to the meats slowly smoking in the pit, it would be easy to overlook the sides. However, that wasn't the case. The okra was perfect... fried just enough to crisp the breading while leaving just enough firmness to the veggie inside. The mashed potatoes were light and creamy, and served with a generous puddle of rich, brown gravy.

Despite the bar and restaurant both being packed, the big guy himself ventured out into the dining room a few times to greet guests. At one point, I made a wrong turn heading to the restroom and stumbled upon Ed serenading someone who was celebrating their birthday.

Overall, I'd suggest putting The Pit into your regular restaurant rotation. The food, drinks and atmosphere combine to provide a wonderful dining experience.

No comments: