Recently I had a work trip that took me to the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina. Naturally, the first thing I did was search for the best bbq in the area, and that’s when I was told I had to try The Pit. So, as soon as I landed into the GPS it went, and I drove straight there from the airport. When we arrived, I could see and smell the smoke emanating from the building, but I was surprised at how nice it was. When I heard whole hog, for some reason I was picturing a hole in the wall, picnic table outside type of set up, but this is a full fledged restaurant.
We were greeted by the hostess and seated at a nice booth back near the open kitchen. Again, I expected a rustic place where I would leave smelling like bbq smoke, but instead we were seated in a nice booth, and even given silverware in a cloth napkin, no paper towels on these tables. Aside from the amazing smell of bbq, the only other thing that let you know it was a bbq place was the bbq sauce on the table, and in typical Carolina style they were both very heavy on the vinegar. One was a straight vinegar sauce and the other had a darker color and hint of bbq sauce flavor, but vinegar was still the main ingredient. After we placed our food order we were given a basket of hush puppies and biscuits. Any place that gives complimentary hush puppies and biscuits before the food arrives is my kind of place! And they were good, like real good, like I ate way too many and wasn’t even hungry anymore by the time my food came good. Not to worry, I still found room, but I wold be lying if I said I wasn’t full.
For lunch I ordered the Carolina Classic Combo which is chopped bbq and two pieces of fried chicken plus two sides for $11.99. I don’t know what has changed with me, but I used to hate fried chicken, and now I crave it. For my sides I got candied yams and fried okra, because if fried okra is on a menu I will always order it. Pellet Guy got the chopped bbq plate with two sides for $9.99, and his two sides were mashed potatoes with gravy and mac ‘n cheese. If mac ‘n cheese is on the menu, you can pretty much guarantee he will order it.
Pellet guy was in hog heaven (pun intended). He couldn’t get enough of the vinegar flavor and succulence of the pork. He liked it so much that when I had to stop because I thought I was going to bust a button, he finished my pork too. He said the mashed potatoes were really good, nothing out of this world amazing, but still real solid. The mac ‘n cheese however, he said was incredible, some of the best he had ever had. I loved the pork, I thought it was so moist and tender, and I absolutely loved that it was chopped, I would take that over pulled any day. I liked the vinegar, but I wish there was a sweet sauce option to cut the tang juuuuust a little bit, so that’s my only knock on the pork. The fried chicken was delicious, but honestly I was so full after eating all those hush puppies, that after I ate about half my pork I just didn’t have anymore room in my stomach so I only managed a few bites of the chicken. The skin was super crispy and had a nice peppery bite, and the chicken was super moist. The candied yams were awesome, they made the perfect dessert for my meal, and the okra was really good too, albeit a little smaller than I have seen at other places, but after all the food I had consumed, small was a good thing.
Overall, The Pit was an incredible bbq experience, and after finishing our meals we understood why so many people told us we had to go there. Next time I will try and control myself and just eat a few hush puppies so I can eat more of my main dish. I also really want to try the ribs, so that will happen too. A cool little side note, across the street from their Raleigh location is a chocolate shop. It’s small, but the chocolate is delicious, so if you have any room left after you eat at The Pit, do yourself a favor and walk across the street for a little chocolate treat.
You know, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I should have known The Pit was going to be a real restaurant. The day before we left for Raleigh we were watching The Food Network and they had Chopped Pitmasters on and the executive chef of The Pit was one of the contestants. She came in second too which was really cool. I thought it was weird that a bbq joint would have an executive chef, because in my mind this was a whole hog place where there was a 3rd generation pitmaster stoking the coals in some old building with nothing but huge open pits with whole hogs in there getting basted every hour. Clearly I watch too much television, because what I created in my head was nothing at all like reality.
Anyway, if you find yourself in the Raleigh Durham area and want to try some authentic Carolina style bbq, I highly recommend trying The Pit. They have a location in both Raleigh and Durham, so no matter where you are in the Research Triangle there is a location near by.