I just can’t bring myself to go to The Pit.
If barbecue was meant to be upscale it wouldn’t be made of chopped pork. And if folks in Raleigh need cloth napkins and a glass of chardonnay to enjoy barbecue, then perhaps they should just do without and leave the pork for the huddled masses. That said, The Pit’s pitmaster Ed Mitchell is a legend of NC barbecue. He used to own a joint in Wilson that had a stellar reputation, and sadly I never had the good fortune to visit it. That fact alone has almost drawn me to visit The Pit.
Unfortunately, The Pit is a far cry from Mitchell’s old place—it is set up as more of a barbecue zoo than a barbecue joint, putting the wild barbecue beast on display for visitors to stare at while keeping a safe distance. The Pit’s website claims the restaurant is “a celebration of all of the great culinary offerings of the Old North State.” Based on the menu, apparently North Carolina’s “great culinary offerings” include Hot Spinach Bacon Dip with Baked Baguette Chips, Meatloaf with Onion Demi and Blue Cheese Crumbles, and Barbecued Tofu. I have never seen tofu slow-cooked over wood coals but I can only imagine tofu lets out a squeal that would scare the vegetarian right out of even the most devout PETA member. If serving tofu at a barbecue restaurant is not a sin in the First Church Synagogue of ‘Que, I am not sure what is.
In fairness, The Pit’s menu features some classic whole hog NC barbecue and sides, and I have little doubt that Ed Mitchell is a great pitmaster. Plus, the focus on locally raised organic hogs and local produce is admirable. I just can’t quite bring myself to visit a barbecue zoo when a true barbecue safari can be had within 20 miles in any direction.