I have always been more of a Memphis or St. Louis kinda guy when it
comes to BBQ. Our one previous stop in Eastern Carolina, to a tiny
shop with smoke billowing out turned out to be a tremendous
disappointment and I sort of wrote the Carolina style off. But we’re
here again…and this place has been on every food show that
restaurants show up on. If Carolina is going to get redemption, it
will be here. Over the past year and a half we have learned that
being on the idiot box (tv) means nothing. Some places have lived up
to the hype while others market much better than they cook. The Pit?
Well, the Pit simply put is the best BBQ I have ever had to this
point. Matter of factly, The Pit is Valhalla and Ed Mitchell, their
pit master, is Odin sitting atop the throne and commanding the
universe around him. If Zeus used lightning bolts this deity
controls smoke…which might not sound that awesome a superpower…until
of course you taste how he uses it.
When we arrived a few minutes before they open there was already a line of people standing on the sidewalk. The place itself is completely different than I had imagined it. An obviously older building has been given quite the trendy makeover while still allowing some of its history to pierce through. Comfortable seats and comfortable jazz accompany each dish. Our server was stupendous. Laid back, friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient and went out of his way several times to create more work for himself to make our experience a step better each time. At this point I didn’t believe it would be possible that the food was any good…there has to be a letdown somewhere. I love being wrong.
Fried Pimento Cheese with Spicy Pepper Jelly!!!
The Chop Combo Plate
We started with a couple of appetizers, a Pumpkin Skillet Cornbread and Fried Pimento Cheese. The cornbread was perfect and topped with a maple butter that oozed down into the firm cake giving it just the right texture and moistness. There was no way I was going without the fried cheese, we don’t get pimento cheese up here in the North and a friend from my cohort at Kent once told me to get a jar of spicy pepper jelly in NC, which turned out to be fabulous. Thanks again Claire. The plate arrived with crusty rounds of cheese awash in puddle of the jelly. The crunch, the hot ooze of tangy melted cheese and the wonderful sweet and heat mix of the preserve; here’s to trying new things, you are often rewarded.
While the pit is renowned for whole hog bbq they smoke just about
anything. The menu includes ribs, chicken, turkey and even tofu.?. I
wasn’t feeling quite that adventurous but we both ordered combo
plates to get a taste of as much as we could possibly consume. Steph
had the chopped bbq (pork) and the chopped bbq turkey along with mac
and cheese and bbq baked beans. I ordered the baby back ribs and the
southern fried chicken along with cole slaw, fried okra, and
everything in Eastern North Carolina comes with hush puppies and a
biscuit. The only disappointment in the entire experience was the
mac and cheese. It’s a really good mac and cheese, it just couldn’t
compare with the level of awesome that everything else brought to
the event. It’s like a really good high school symphonic band
competing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from Amsterdam.
Alone you would be pleased. Comparatively, no chance.
Seriously, It's Turkey...No I Know...But it IS Turkey
East and West NC on the Same Table
The beans were of the tri color variety and were residing in a thin
sauce that was more reminiscent of West NC Q, with strong additions
of tomato and molasses to the vinegary base. The biscuit was tender
and flaky with pea sized discolorations of buttery goodness
throughout. The hush puppies were crispy and tender with a strong
oniony tone. I was surprised by the slaw. Since all of the Q in the
area starts with the vinegar I expected the slaw to be vinegar
based. Instead the slaw was dairy based with a sweet tang, a really
nice contradiction to the remainder of the vinegary goodness. Being
a Northerner I originally only knew okra as a vegetable that comes
with it’s own snot. Not kidding or just being gross…if you’ve ever
worked with the stuff you know what I am talking about. It wasn’t
until I travelled to the south or sat at a table with some southern
folk that I found the wonders of fried okra. Instead of mushy green
lumps sweating out viscous yuck that often helps thicken gumbo you
get a cornmeal breaded veggies that lands somewhere between eggplant
and asparagus, so good.
The smoked meat…beyond exquisite. First the
chopped Qs. The pork is unbelievable with serious layers of flavors
both on the tongue and visually amongst the meat. The turkey is
nearly indistinguishable from the pork. If we had known it we might
have gone a different direction but the magic they work with the
typically dry bird is worth noting. At one point I noticed a woman
hailing her server at a table just across from us. She told the
server she had ordered turkey and this obviously wasn’t it. The
server told her she was pretty sure it was turkey but she would
check with the kitchen. She returned in short order to ensure the
customer had gotten the turkey and get this…the executive chef
followed quickly on her heals and spent about three minutes
explaining to the woman exactly how they prepare the turkey. The
woman thanked him and the scarfed the turkey down like she hadn’t
seen food for years. Again the customer service of this Q joint is
Ribs and Fried Chicken Combo
Crispy Fried Okra, Never in Ohio
Enter the Halls of Valhala
Seriously, Look at The Smoke Ring, Magic with Perfect Addition of Flavor
The fried chicken was our only departure from
the smoker and while it wasn’t as juicy as some others the flavor
was essentially perfect. The ribs…oh friends the ribs. There are two
sauces on the table. One is a slap yo mama intense vinegar juice
that is really really good. A little better for me was the darker
bottle that added the acidity of tomato and the sweetness of
molasses to the vinegar base. Both were exceptional. If you remember
from previous scribbling…my brother refers to me as the goop meister.
I like sauces and lots of em. I tried both of the sauces on the ribs
and they were superior. Then I never picked up another bottle. The
real definition of Q is cooking with smoke. I have tasted a lot of Q
and with varying levels of smokiness but I have never realized how
perfect the smoke can be as a flavoring ingredient. Perfect against
the fattiness of the pork ribs it would have been a crime to use the
sauces, as good as they are. Many religions encourage a pilgrimage
to a holy place in which special things related to their beliefs
occur. If you are a fan of Q a pilgrimage to The Pit is mandatory. A
little taste of heaven in your everyday walking around kinda
life…smoke and all.
The Pit is Why We Do This!!!