The Bear Pit (long newbie review)
Hello there. Been lurking happily for weeks, but wife convinced me to finally post. I was reluctant for my first post to be a review, given the apparent recent presumptions by some as to the dubious intentions of newbie reviewers. Nevertheless, I'll give it a go. BTW, my chowhound 'credential': I enjoy cooking, but love eating more. I am a lifelong member of the clean-plate club. I cannot recall EVER leaving food on a plate unfinished. Some may consider this as gross evidence of an undiscerning palate; me, I just never let the difference between mediocre chow and exemplary chow stand in the way of my pleasure. OK, on to the review:
Visited The Bear Pit (in Mission Hills) for the first time on Sunday. It's bigger inside than one might think, and there was a large patio too (which was not in use due to the Valley heat and a congregation of gnats). The joint was filled and there was a waiting list, but the turn-over is so brisk that we were seated in 5 minutes. The female 'hostess' who seated us had a bit of attitude (actually more of a lack of detectable personality) and she led the way to the table with her pert rump so very high in the air as to give the impression that she doesn't use it to make poo-poo.
Our waitress, on the other hand, was friendly, attentive, and efficient, and though she carried considerably less jaunty rumpage, she displayed considerably more heart and warmth.
A plate of iced pickles and crudites are brought out immediately. The server takes your order immediately. And the beverages and chow arrive to the table in approximately 5 minutes.
I selected the 'Taster's Choice' sampler. This is a lot of food, friends. Consists of: 2 pieces of roasted (not barbecued?) chicken, 2 large spare ribs, 1 large beef rib, a large pile each of sliced pork and sliced beef, 3 small potatoes (lightly dredged in flour and fried whole), a slab of 'texas toast', a small bowl of baked beans and a small bowl of cole slaw. Beverage: good and tart lemonade with refills. Cost: $15.95 plus beverage.
Over all, the primary impression is that of good but dry meat. The chicken was tasty but did not seem to have been anywhere near smoke or open flame. The spare ribs and beef rib were also tasty and maybe too lean, but again, very little hint of barbecuing. Tasted baked. Two accompanying barbecue sauces (dark/sweet and vinegary) did much to remedy this. The two piles of pork and beef (brisket?) have good meat flavor, but were cut thin with a deli-slicer look to it, and were just plain dry. I was initially expecting the pork to be 'pulled-pork', but no such luck.
The sides were very serviceable. The cole slaw was peppery and vinegary, which I likes! The baked beans were soupy and sweet and ironically had the most smoky/barbecued flavor of the the entire meal. The texas toast was merely OK empty calories. The quail egg-shaped fried potatoes were nicely crispy on the outside, but just a bit too al dente within.
I am not nearly a barbecue afficianado. I like restaurants that sell barbecue, but it's the combination of flavors of the meats and sides as a gestalt that I really enjoy, as opposed to the authenticy of cooking/smoking styles and secret-recipe sauces. I've enjoyed Greece's, The Pig, and Dr. Hogly-Wogly's, even on their respective bad days. Would I return to The Bear Pit? You bet. I't not, in my opinion, 'real' barbecue, but it's a decent eating experience and a bargain for the sheer quantity of food served. The menu is also really huge, with many combination plates and sandwich specials. This joint will not please true barbecue fans, I suppose. But for a stick-to-your-ribs rib experience, it will well serve the trenchermen (and women) in our midst... Lastly, allow me to thank the many contributors to this chowhound list. The recommendations are fun to read as well as useful. And pardon this initial lack of brevity on my part. Chow!
I just had the chance to have the ribs here and they *are not* good. Dry, sauce tasted like something you can buy at a market, no evidence of a worthy rub, let alone smoking. I still have not found a match for the pork spare ribs at BBQ Joint in Moorpark, CA. St. Louis style by Al Mack.
No apologies necessary. As a constant reader and very sporadic poster, I always welcome a thorough and insightful review.
AND - after long having known about THE BEAR PIT we finally went last night. I realize this might be blasphemy to some on the Board, but I found it better that Hogly Woggly's. I had the Ribs n' Ribs plate (pork and beef) The beef ribs were meaty and tasty, and the pork ribs were huge. The vinegary sauce was superior to the sweeter one. The garlic cheese bread is so-so (nothing beats The Smokehouse).
My wife had the 1/2 chicken which was more like a very slow roasted rotisserie bird rather than one bathed in BBQ sauce. It was still moist but had a marvelous crispy skin.
Well worth the drive in from Studio City.
This place has been there for over forty years
and has been serving just about the same menu
for that duration....and as many times as we've
been there, the "greeter" has always been more concerned with "function" rather than giving the
guests a warm fuzzy feeling....and they often have
the barbecue ovens going as you can smell the
mesquite smoke coming from the chimney which tends to
give credence to "genuine barbecue"....we regard this
as an excellent place for barbecue...we like it much
better thatn the "corporate" places that are becoming
Hi Ralph. As both you and another poster to this thread made mention of the noticable mesquite smell wafting in and around The Bear Pit, I defer to your experiences and duly note the genuine qualitites of their barbecue prepartion. While there on Sunday, I hardly noticed the smokey aromas, but then I'm more a people watcher and never even notice when music is playing on loudspeakers at restaurants and supermarkets.
As to the 'greeter' at the door, I also concede that she was very busy and doing a good job of getting people seated in a timely manner. I wasn't so much looking for her to be warm and fuzzy in demeanor; but simple eye contact with a customer goes a long way to set the tone for a pleasant dining experience, at least for me. Perhaps I'm sorta scary looking!
Glad we can agree that The Bear Pit has its charms, nonetheless...
I tried the Bear Pit for lunch once when I was in the area back in 1999. As I recall, they had sawdust on the floor and I had one of their lunch combos with ribs and chicken which I really enjoyed. I haven't had a chance to make it up that way again. I wish there was a Bear Pit in OC. I'd be a regular.
Ditto! Great first post. And I've been curious about The Bear Pit ever since I stumbled across it last year. I'd stopped at the adjacent chain restaurant to use the loo, but while there, noticed quite a few cop cruisers in the parking lot (usually a sign of cheap, decent eats), and the BBQ smell.