August 2013 - The Pit, Raleigh This review is slightly out of order. We dined at The Pit on Sunday, but still have two other reviews from Saturday to write.
We knew we were in for something different when we pulled up to a valet parking station at The Pit
. This is another choice from Our State
, and definitely not a Roadfood type establishment. It is more like barbecue fine dining than anything else we’ve tried. The Pit has been featured on TV, including Throwdown! with Bobby Flay
The scent of smoke was stunningly strong when we first stepped into The Pit. The restaurant was set up in a manner that approximates many modern restaurants – Reservations accepted; a centrally located hostess station; electronic buzzers for those having to wait for a table; and a team waitstaff sharing service for each table. The Pit also offers nearly every style of barbecue
: Eastern and Western NC styles; KC ribs; and Texas brisket.
We chose The Pit because it was part of Downtown Raleigh Dining Week and offered a special discounted three course meal. The deal included appetizers (barbecue pork nachos for me, smoked mozzarella salad for Pie Diva) which were a diversion from our usual barbecue choices and were really too filling considering the plate of barbecue that was coming.
The hush puppies were on the sweet side, but I noticed a fishy flavor on my first bite, possibly from common use of the fryers for catfish. That was a turn-off for me. Pie Diva didn’t notice the fishy taste. The biscuits and honey butter were a tasty start.
The Brunswick Stew was a bit soupy, but we both liked it. There was just enough tomato, but not enough to overwhelm the other flavors. I’m beginning to learn that Brunswick Stew styles vary greatly, and everyone has their personal favorite style.
We each ordered the 3-way pork special. It included chopped dark meat, pulled white meat (the menu said shoulder), and a pair of Kansas City style spare ribs. The Pit’s website says they cook their pork whole-hog, which may account for pork tasting only lightly smoked. They offer both Eastern-style and Piedmont-style sauces. I preferred the chopped pork with Eastern sauce, while Pie Diva loved the pulled-pork, both with and without the Piedmont sauce.
The ribs had good flavor, but we each marked them down on texture. The ribs truly were “falling off the bone” and mushy, which is a no-no for good barbecue. Anytime I am served ribs like that, I suspect some shortcuts were taken during preparation (maybe even the dreaded B-word!). The fat had not fully rendered, so parts of the ribs were not entirely edible. I tried warning them up again tonight and tossed them out. The texture of these ribs was disgusting.
The coleslaw was creamy and coarsely chopped, unlike anything we’ve been served at a classic BBQ joint yet. I guess I'd call it "Yankee-style." The Pit’s mac & cheese was particularly good, it had cheesy sauce with more cheese on top.
Our Peach & Raspberry Cobblers were good, nothing exceptional. The ice cream seemed house-made, but was grainy.
Bottom line - The Pit is a good introduction to NC barbecue for Raleigh hipsters who don't have the courage to leave the city. For those of us willing to drive past the suburbs and out into the wilds of rural North Carolina, there are better choices available.
Camera note - I went with the cellphone camera last night with poor results.
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