The Pit
 Raleigh, North Carolina  Date of Visit  07/23/11

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?



Pumpkin Cornbread with Maple Butter

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 exceptional.


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!!!



What's Best

What's Worst

  A A A A+ B+ A  
        Q Mac and Cheese    
All Restaurants By Ranking Restaurants By Date These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things Steph's Favorite Things
Home List of Restaurants by City The Ratings What's Rated Random Thoughts