The Pit might be the area’s most famous barbeque place. The chef, Ed Mitchell, is an ambassador for this southern food specialty with appearances on the Bobby Flay’s Throwdown (he won), the Today show and numerous articles in the likes of the New York Times and Gourmet. He is also an advocate for traditional methods and process with his work through the Southern Foodways Alliance. As is often the case with celebrity chefs, there is disagreement on how good the food is. Some argue that The Pit is the best barbeque in the area. Others argue that it is not authentic and too catered to the tourist. With all of this controversy and press we just had to try it.
G’s family was in town a couple of weekends ago and we decided to take them. The restaurant is right in downtown Raleigh and they offer complimentary valet. The restaurant itself is huge! It is divided into several smaller spaces but still each was quite big. People seem to come in large groups as most of the tables were set for more than four people. The décor is simple, with lots of exposed brick and fun pig themed art. They restaurant also has a large bar area and they offer a nice variety of beers including several local microbrews.
We started with the Jalapeno and Cheddar Cheese Skillet Cornbread and the Mini PBLT. The cornbread was delicious with a nice spiciness throughout and a lovely layer of melted cheese. I just had to try the Mini PBLT, homemade biscuits with pimento cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. This was a fun and tasty appetizer but the biscuits themselves were cold and not as buttery and crumbly as I would have expected. We tried both the Baby Back Ribs and the Carolina Style Ribs as well as the Fried Chicken. The baby bas ribs were very tasty with a nice dry rub. However, the Carolina style ribs were delicious! The fell off of the bone and melted in your mouth. We were served two different barbeque sauces one was a sweet molasses based sauce and the other a vinegar based sauce. In general I tend to gravitate to the vinegar or mustard based barbeque sauces as I find the others too sweet. To be honest, neither of these was impressive. I was expecting more complex flavor with undertones of spice. In fact, the vinegar based sauce was too strong. The fried chicken was excellent! It had a perfect crispy skin with moist, juicy meat. We also tried a few side dishes, the black eyed peas, the seasoned vegetables, the mac and cheese, the fried okra, and the BBQ baked beans. Again, all were very good but nothing stood out.
Overall, The Pit is a great space to come and enjoy and cold beer and some well prepared barbeque. The ribs were indeed the highlight of the evening as they should be at a barbeque place! But, I can understand the controversy. While I am by no means a connoisseur of barbeque, I do expect that the flavors in the sauces and rubs should be more complex and interesting.
328 W. Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27603