On a recent trip to Raleigh I had two nights to eat at the best spots possible. I asked the guys at the rental car company what was the one place I should eat in Raleigh and they immediately insisted I needed two nights. I had to eat at Poole’s Diner and at The Pit.
Poole’s Diner they explained was a trendy hot spot and the Pit was the best Carolina BBQ I would find. I went to both, and my review of Poole’s Diner was published earlier (Click on the link.)
The name, “The Pit” sounds like it’s going to be a grungy, picnic table type BBQ joint. It is not! It is a nice restaurant with a large bar. They featured North Carolina beers on draft and both indoor and outdoor seating.
I noticed a large picture of Bobby Flay taken in the restaurant. Subsequent research revealed that he filmed an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay there. That alone is a tribute to a place being the gold standard for the food they make!
I started with a beer from Durham. The Fullsteam Spring IPA with Kumquats is not something I would normally order. I’m not big on fruit in my beer but the bartender pulled a sample from the tap and insisted I try. He explained that the fruit brought out the flavor of the hops and it was really nice. He wasn’t kidding! It was delicious!
The next thing he put in front of me while I made up my mind on what to order was the best southern biscuit I have ever eaten!
I pondered the menu, trying to make a decision. The list of specialties included chopped pork, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, smoked turkey, baby back ribs, full ribs, and more! How was I supposed to decide?
Then I saw it, the Big Boy Meal Combo! This gave a sample of all of their specialties. I asked, “Is it an insane amount of food?” “Yessir, it is. Nobody has ever finished it.” He was dead serious!
I decided this was the only way to go. I took a breath and said, “I’ll have the Big Boy Special!” and the bartender said, “What sides do you want with that?”
Sides?!?! It came with two sides, this dish that nobody has ever finished! Oh the sides were good too! The night before I had eaten some spectacular fried okra so I decided to get that again to have something to compare it to. I also got a fav of mine, red beans & rice.
I really could have eaten just the sides and been happy! They were both memorable and perfect.
One unfortunate problem was that I did not get good pics of the food. The restaurant was dark and I tried with and without flash and when I got home after my trip discovered that the pics were all too dark or blurry.
Picture if you will, a single large plate with slices of tender beef brisket, a large scoop of pulled pork, and chopped pork (the former smoked, the latter cooked with vinegar), large tender spare ribs, and tiny succulent baby back ribs, a full chicken breast with wing, and a sizable serving of smoked turkey…and two sides.
The plan was to try a little of each so that I could get a good sampling of all their specialties. But there were two sauces, a tangy vinegar sauce and a sweet smokey sauce. So naturally I was looking at a minimum of three bites of each meat, or a minimum of 21 bites…and two sides!
Well I ate both of the sides and you might say that a needless waste of space but they were both really good!
Among the barbecue there were some standouts and some that were just ok. The chicken was cooked as well as a chicken breast can be cooked but in the end could not stand up to the other items on the plate.
The brisket was good, but not the best I’ve ever had. This could be my prejudice that the best BBQ brisket comes from Texas.
This said, the pulled and chopped pork were both magical. They had a silky texture, were loaded with flavor, and had a subtle smokey flavor.
If I had to go back and choose a single item to eat however, it would be the full-sized spare ribs. These were the most sublime ribs I have ever enjoyed. They were not fatty, not too smokey, they were absolutely perfect. I later learned that it was the ribs that Bobby Flay came down and challenged them on…and Bobby lost!
The back of the menu included a large written piece on the 350 year history of barbecue in the US, attributing the first of it to the native Americans, and explaining how it evolved across the country. It was very interesting and I read it all. There is a lot of interesting bbq history on their website.
It turns out the settlers took the Indian method of splitting the hog lengthwise and roasting it to cooking the entire hog which kept in juices. Hence, the expression, “going whole hog”!
In summary, great restaurant, great food, and if you go to Raleigh, make sure you have two nights to eat! (and btw, I did not finish the Big Boy Special!)