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Apr 3, 2010 05:33 PM

The Pit: Eastern NC barbecue, Raleigh/Triangle NC

I finally popped into the Pit today to see what the fuss was about. I had a chopped barbecue plate- it was explained to me that this is in fact traditional eastern NC whole hog. They also have a "pulled pork" option which is just shoulder meat. I ordered slaw, mac and cheese, and baked beans as sides, although they gave me two portions of slaw and left off the baked beans. I got this to go, and didn't feel like venturing back in to get the beans. Although I got take-out, it was eaten immediately- we just had a couple of tired, sleepy kids in the car which we didn't feel like bundling inside.

Anyway, the food. The barbecue itself was great, and on par with the best eastern NC places like Pete Jones, Blackbeard's, and Grady's. Lightly sauced and really didn't need anything added, which was good, because their vinegar sauce is a weird orange concoction that I didn't especially like, and the darker "sweet and sour" sauce doesn't pair well with chopped barbecue, in my opinion.

Now to the bad- the sides were utterly forgettable, for the most part. The mac and cheese was bland and seemed to be out of a box, and the slaw was just plain bad- much too coarsely chopped, and without any/enough sweetness to complement the barbecue. It seemed to be more of a northern influenced slaw. In any case, I didn't like it. The sweet tea was also very poor and not something that I'd order again.

I can't really see going back to The Pit- as great as the barbecue was, the poor sides and tea are a real problem for me. Maybe if I could drink and I limited myself to a barbecue sandwich. I thought the prices were fine- it's in downtown Raleigh and my meal didn't cost much more than I would have paid for a similar plate here in eastern NC. I suspect folks who are complaining about the prices don't really know how much a barbecue plate goes for in the more rural parts of the state.

I get the complaints about the atmosphere, though- as I was sitting at the bar waiting for my food, the bartender did a hell of a Basil Fawlty impersonation as he explained to another customer why he couldn't get a Budweiser.

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  1. This reviewer didn't try the ribs, which are truly exceptional. This is a great restaurant option for Chowhounders in Raleigh. Individual tastes vary, and statements like "the slaw was just plain bad- much too coarsely chopped, and without any/enough sweetness to complement the barbecue" is highly personal - for instance, I like their slaw a lot, and would never in a million years call it bad (but then again, I love slaw, all kinds, and enjoy the subtle differences that such a seemingly simple preparation of fairly standard ingredients can offer up). I think the atmosphere, which is more upscale than traditional BBQ joints, throws some folks. This IS a nicer restaurant, and may help explain the Basil Fawlty comment - I'm sure this poor bartender was having to shuck and jive to explain their (possibly misguided) no Bud policy . . . but this place is aiming higher with it's wine list and beer selection, and that is a management decision (and they have equal or better beer available) so not sure if that is fair criticism either, unless you care to insist that all your BBQ places look alike and serve the same stuff. Me - I'm glad to have The Pit as an option when dining in the Triangle and, along with Clyde Coopers and Allen & Son, I think it serves up some fine grub and the area dining is richer for it. P.S. - their mac & cheese IS lackluster . . .

    2 Replies
    1. re: Pigeage

      I don't have any interest in ribs, although the bartender volunteered that they didn't have any ribs on Saturday- this was around 1:30pm. I have no doubt that they are good- the meat portion of my lunch was the only thing I really liked.

      As for the slaw, my beef here is that it's not what I'd consider barbecue slaw and doesn't pair well with the barbecue. It's the sort of mediocre slaw you'd get at a chain restaurant or a Q-tip fried fish house like the Sanitary, and I'd be highly surprised if it is made in house.

      I didn't have a problem with the atmosphere; there's no reason why you can't have barbecue in a nicer setting. However, I really, and I mean really, dislike being talked down to by wait staff. I love craft beer and appreciate what they're doing there, but sometimes- especially when it's hot out- you just want a Budweiser. If someone orders a Bud, it is exceedingly poor form to launch into an extended discourse on what an awful beer it is. Shut up and give me what I ordered or the nearest equivalent you have.

      1. re: Pigeage

        Having had both their BBQ, Brisket and Ribs. I'd rank them the ribs at the top. I'm not a ribs person either but these were some of the better I've had especially in the area which to my knowledge isn't really known as a ribs destination. I'd rank the BBQ next and only because I've had it more recently than the brisket and it was fresh in my mind. I can't say I've ever had truly horrid bbq anywhere. I guess I'm just not that picky, but I have had bbq that is way more peppery and sauce than I'd like. The brisket was very good too. I just wish there were more of it and I can't tell you hwo it compares to the Q-Shack.

        As far as slaw goes.. I hate it and so I'd never rate it. I'm not a Southern slaw fan.

        10822 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC 28277

      2. Can you really judge a place based on take-out? To me, nothing ever, ever tastes as good from a take out box as it does on a plate the minute it's ready. Even if it's only been a few minutes, once it's in the box, things start to go downhill.

        I'm a Pit fan. I love the BBQ and feel that it's consistently good, which I can't say of other places that I've tried. I enjoy Allen & Sons, Coopers, Wilburs, etc. but I would rather be at the Pit and I've yet to have an off batch of cue. While I am in no way an Eastern BBQ expert, I know that I like it and I always look forward to a return. The fried chicken is terrific. And, I've really enjoyed the sides, although I never get the slaw.

        The service has always been pretty good to me - not perfect but not bad. It's too bad to hear about the bartender. While I don't think anyone should serve that rank bladder water (kept afloat by marketing alone) that goes by the name of Bud, he should have simply steered them to something else with a bit more grace.

        I wouldn't poo poo them just yet.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dinersaurus

          The main component of the meal that would go downhill in a take-out format is the meat. And since the OP has said repeatedly that meat was good, then I don't think I understand the issue you raise. Certainly slaw isn't going to deteriorate in a few minutes.

          1. re: dinersaurus

            "Can you really judge a place based on take-out? To me, nothing ever, ever tastes as good from a take out box as it does on a plate the minute it's ready. Even if it's only been a few minutes, once it's in the box, things start to go downhill."

            I don't see what difference it would make- I ate the stuff immediately- and this is how I eat a lot of food, given the problem of waking up cranky sleeping kids and getting them into a restaurant. And given the volume that they apparently do(they were *very* busy), I'd be very surprised if everything wasn't sitting in steam tables/warmers in the back anyway- especially the sides, which is what I had an issue with. The barbecue was great. But while it might be fine if you're in the neighborhood, it's not a destination- they need to improve their sides to get to that level.

          2. While I've never been to The Pit, I've been wanting to go ever since Ed Mitchell was on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. I AM a rib person - and his ribs looked fantastic!

            10 Replies
            1. re: Jeanne

              I was at the filming - Ed's ribs were better!

              Naco- Enjoyed getting your perspective!

              I found the mac-n-cheese lacking too. I've only been to The Pit twice since they opened. I remember the sweet potato fries as very tasty. I no longer recall details of other sides.
              The meats were all quite good in my experience.

              I haven't spent time at the bar, but there are much more professional ways to deal with the
              Bud situation. The bartender lacks some serious people skills.

              1. re: meatn3

                I may not be all that picky when it comes to mac and cheese, but I for one thought it went excellently with a little bit of the bbq sauce.

                1. re: raleighboy

                  I thought I was the only one...mac 'n cheese is great with a little bit of bbq sauce (NC style of course). Its also good with a little SC mustard sauce - I like sharp cheeses and mustard together, like Welsh Rarebit, so it makes sense to me. I get the strangest looks though!

                  1. re: billyjack

                    For mac & cheese, we think Poole's Diner is the place in Raleigh. I don't think I've ever tried The Pit's version.

                    I applaud The Pit's support for craft beer over the factory produced products like Bud. There's always a reasonable alternative on the menu. To me, demanding "your" brand of beer when it's not on the menu is like an adult ordering the chicken fingers off the kids menu. If I'm in a restaurant that serves only industrial beer, which is far more common than the reverse, I'll adjust my expectations. How would this situation have been different if the guy was demanding Sutter Home over a hand picked wine list?

                    To return this to relevance, I prefer The Pit's Carolina ribs over the baby backs. I love dry rub.

                    1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                      When I went for the first and only time with my family in March, I had the Carolinas but my sister had the babys. I definitely enjoyed the higher fat content of the carolinas but loved the flavor of both. Can't really complain either way.

                      As far as brisket goes, I have to admit I was underwhelmed. I'm not sure if it was the flavor or the portion (relative to other things on the plate) but I found it just a little lacking. Still good, don't get me wrong, but lacking.

                      1. re: raleighboy

                        One of my visits was with a person from Kansas, where brisket is a primary BBQ item. I explained that in NC BBQ = pork. He ordered brisket anyway and was not a happy camper. I didn't get to taste it so I have no personal opinion.

                      2. re: Tom from Raleigh

                        Let me explain a little more fully what happened. The fellow customer that I mentioned did not "demand" anything by any meaningful definition of the word. He simply sat down at the bar and when asked if he wanted a drink, ordered a Budweiser. The bartender stated that they have Bud Light, but not Budweiser. Customer seemed a tad bewildered by this and uttered a "do what?" or something to that effect. The bartender then launched into an extended soliloquoy about how The Pit only has high quality Belgian beers(of which Bud Light is no doubt a fine example) which are equivalent to drinking three Buds, which is a bad beer anyway!

                        I found this all rather off-putting- if I want a server's opinion I'll ask for it, otherwise shut up. Do not insult my taste or my intelligence. Do not assume that I don't know or care about craft beer or any other personal or corporate hobbyhorse of yours because I ordered something different. Perhaps customer ordered a Budweiser precisely because it is low in alcohol content and refreshing on a hot day. I had a Bud at Chuck E. Cheese's later that hot day, and it hit the spot quite nicely, thanks.

                        1. re: Naco

                          I agree with Tom from Raleigh, particularly the comment that nobody ever seems to complain that they can't find something like White Zinfandel on a quality wine list. Craft beer is still not widely appreciated and, because there are many styles, a little difficult to comprehend.

                          Having been to The Pit, however, I have found their craft beer list to be much broader than just Belgian beers. In particular, they highlight a number of local craft brewers. I cannot recall if they have any local lagers on the menu but I would not be surprised to find that they stock a lager or a lighter ale that might be a nice crossover beer for a Bud drinker.

                          1. re: brentk

                            "Having been to The Pit, however, I have found their craft beer list to be much broader than just Belgian beers."

                            I figured that the bartender was just talking out of his ass on that and fallaciously conflating Belgian beer with craft beer in general. Which was part of the point- being talked down someone who is himself ignorant is particularly galling.

                            I don't really understand the point about the wine. It's rude to offer unsolicited negative and judgmental opinions about the tastes of a paying customer- especially one who's being perfectly polite. Period, end of story. If you are going to go high concept with the atmosphere, you need to offer service to match that.

                            1. re: Naco

                              Lecturing a customer...Nice. Pissing off a customer...Priceless.

              2. On a separate, but note related to The Pit and BBQ. See link...


                1. OK went back to The Pit this past Sat. The good and bad. $68 for dinner eating BBQ still seems too much to me. The babyback ribs were EXCELLENT. I will not dispute they may have been the ebst I ever had. Got a whole rack which I took a half of rack home for dinner on Sunday night. I guess if I look at it as 2 meals for 2 people it isn't that bad. The service was excellent, with the team service we never waited long for anything. the sides were ok at best. I had the mac and cheese taht was cheesey but lacking something. The mashed potatoes were ok. My wife had the green beans when were uneatable for her and the taste I had was enough. She enjoyed the fried okra. The hush puppies were excellent, the biscuits not so much but we ended up only splitting part of one. Had dessert, Starwberries and cream was goo my wife had the pineapple upside down cake wheich she enjoyed. A good dining experience and we will go back and have ribs again. I still perfer my BBQ in a Parkers, B's BBQ, Clyde Coopers type of setting.