We’re starting our New Year’s resolutions off early. One is to get out and taste more BBQ. Our little road trip to welcome in the New Year should help get us well on the way.
First stop: Raleigh, North Carolina at The Pit.
Before we provide a glimpse into the restaurant I should note it has been a long time since we’ve done one of these. We’re a little rusty. Never the less we’re confident it will come back to us. By 2013 the reviews should flow like cider vinegar over hot steamy pork butt.
Always with us is our 18 years of professional experience in marketing. Who falls for good marketing more than anyone? Marketers.
When planning our trip to North Carolina I conducted various searches for BBQ in the Raleigh area. The Pit’s website came up within top results almost every time. Positive reviews also popped in search results from Yelp and TripAdvisor. Their web site is well designed, written, and awfully pretty. I didn’t hesitate to plan this as our first stop and introduction into NC BBQ.
(Note to new readers, I’ve started by complimenting them on marketing.)
Know this before visiting The Pit: It’s a place to drink. The cocktail and brew menu would make any New York restauranteur envious. There is a great selection of bourbon. Craft brews both local and regional are featured too. The dim lighting is perfect for blind dating. The bar staff will gladly serve your meal where you park your rear.
We parked on the street after a few hours of driving from Richmond and opted out of the valet parking. Yes, valet. I dunno, maybe it’s a rough neighborhood? It is my first time ever seeing valet parking at a BBQ place. It was also my first time at a barbecue place not to smell smoke. Where’s Arsenio Hall?!
It became obvious to us this wasn’t a BBQ “joint”. There was a hostess stand inside proclaiming a 30 minute wait. We headed to the bar area where we scored a couple of seats at a communal table = no wait.
The bar area servers moved quickly to help us. We decided to order everything, that is to sample all the protein we could with the Big Boy Combo Platter. The “famous plate” contained Carolina ribs, baby back ribs, chopped pork, beef brisket, and BBQ chicken with sides. For sides we selected fried okra, mashed potatoes and BBQ beans.
Biscuits and hush puppies were served while we waited for our meal. The biscuits tasted the part – light and airy with a hint of buttermilk. The hush puppies were delicious, melting away as soon as they hit my mouth. Dipping butter was served with the bread which made the hush puppies completely sinful.
Unfortunately the hush puppies were the highlight. The protein was absolutely disappointing. Although the beans were flavorful, the side items were average. Desert had a good “wow” effect but was average in flavor.
On the protein, the ribs and chicken were served with sauce applied. The chopped pork was dry. I don’t know if sauce was intended for the brisket but it looked as though it went half and half.
All meats were overcooked and dry. The chicken was half a breast with wing and was hardly edible due to its dryness. The brisket was probably the most overcooked brisket I’ve had – flaky, dry, chewy, and lacking flavor. The chopped pork had absolutely no moisture. A cider vinegar sauce on the table was required to perk it up.
Although substantially overcooked the ribs were the better of all the proteins. Perhaps it was due to the fat content of the Carolina ribs but there was more moisture and flavor. Parts of the baby back ribs were hard, tough, and rubbery. The Carolina rib meat literally fell apart from itself with just a touch of the fork.
The side items could have easily been discovered at any road side diner. The okra tasted plain as if it were frozen. Although the BBQ beans sparkled with flavor the beans themselves were slightly undercooked. I like my beans at home “just done” but it’s not normally how one would experience them with barbecue.
Of course a BBQ experience wouldn’t be complete without a heritage desert! We tried the banana pudding. The lady next to me literally thought it was baked Alaska when it hit our table. It was quite a sight, served chilled under tall peaks of meringue. The flavor was good but not Andrew Zimmern roll-your-eyes good. Bummer.
And that’s how we would sum up The Pit Authentic Barbecue: “Bummer”. I’m sure locals dig this place because its different. It’s dressy. The alcohol rocks. It’s downtown. And those freakin’ hush puppies are butter!
For us outsiders though, don’t call it “authentic heritage” Q. That’s just wrong. Frankly one can get better ribs at a chain restaurant. Retirees get better chicken on bingo night. I can make fried okra better at home with frozen okra from the market and corn meal.
But give your marketing guys a raise. They have done a great job working you into searches. Can I have their number?
BTW total bill cost with no alcohol was $41: One $29 entree and desert + tax.
The LAN rating: 1 Butt
Note to self: Don’t use Google to find BBQ places.