Name: The Pit Durham
Address: 321 W. Geer St., Durham, NC 27701
Order: Lexington style outside brown, eastern style chopped pork, beef brisket, beef short ribs, corn bread, red slaw, fried okra (link to menu)
Price: $117.64 (for four people, including drinks)
Speedy: Upon finding out that Raleigh favorite The Pit was opening a new restaurant in Durham, I started looking for excuses to check it out, as I’ve had nothing but solid experiences in several trips to The Pit. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the new Pit quite lives up to the standard.
Monk: Although the rating for The Pit in Raleigh isn’t quite up there with our highest rankings, we did have a great time there a few years back and thus I was jealous of Speedy’s trip.
Speedy: Walking in, the atmosphere is more upscale than most barbecue joints, but overall is similar to the Raleigh version. It is a bit more closed off, and our group was seated in a large dining room, which was completely separated from the bar area. Overall, the atmosphere is fine, but it doesn’t scream “barbecue” at all.
The first thing I noticed about the menu is that it is somewhat different than The Pit in downtown Raleigh. Many menu items are the same, but The Pit Durham focuses on more “family style” ordering. Also, The Pit Durham did not have the BBQ soul rolls on the menu, which was a huge disappointment as these BBQ style egg rolls might be my favorite appetizer on Earth. Our group skipped all the appetizers and ordered an assortment of meats, sides, and cornbread.
Monk: No soul rolls?!? For shame!
Speedy: When the meat arrived, we received fairly large portions of our four meats. The menu advises that these are large enough for two people, which is probably about right; however, our group was totally prepared to sacrifice our stomachs (more on that later…) to over-indulge on smoked barbecue delicacies.
My personal favorite meat was the eastern chopped pork, as I found it to be tender with just the right amount of vinegary goodness. The Lexington style pork was fine, but just didn’t hold a candle to the real stuff you get in Lexington. Strangely enough, the rest of my group (who all grew up in Eastern NC) did not think much of the Eastern style but really liked the Lexington style. To me, that really just means that you can find much better versions of either style elsewhere. I remember all of the pork being better at the Raleigh version.
Monk: Funny how that worked out…
Speedy: The brisket, I thought, was pretty good and very similar to the Raleigh version. I’ve definitely had better and as my brisket palate is becoming more refined, I’m starting to learn what great brisket is. This was not great brisket, but it’s also really easy to get horrible brisket, and this certainly isn’t that either. I would probably order this again on a subsequent trip.
As for the short rib, this order was not my idea. For some reason, short rib seems to have become the most “mainstream” of all the traditional barbecue goods, as it can be found on menus of many high end restaurants. I’m not sure I understand why. I get that the meat can be cooked such that it’s super tender, but I don’t think it holds the smoky flavor in as well as some other meats. I’ll personally take pork ribs ten time out of ten when it comes to any type of rib. All that being said, this was a pretty decent version of short rib – it’s just not something I would tend to order at any barbecue joint. So take that into account when you consider my rating – similar to “degree of difficulty” on a gymnastics routine – I’m not sure there could ever be a short rib that would earn five hogs.
Monk: I’ll be honest here, I had to look up what a short rib was. I don’t think I’ve ever had one, unless I still just don’t know what it is.
Speedy: I was a little disappointed in the sides. The hush puppies and fried okra were strong, but the barbecue slaw lacked the necessary tang and was just so-so. The corn bread was kind of bad. It looked like banana bread and just didn’t taste quite right.
Monk: Being that the Durham location of The Pit just opened last November, do you think they could still be working out the kinks any? Or maybe the slight differences in the menus between the two may just mean that Durham won’t ever be quite as good.
Speedy: The issues I had with the food didn’t really seem to have much to do with it being new. The service was fine. It just seemed like the operators made a conscious decision to make The Pit Durham different from The Pit Raleigh. In my opinion, the changes were not for the better.
Overall, I thought the meal was good, but not as good as my experiences at The Pit Raleigh. I will say that starting about three hours later, my stomach was in bad shape for about two days. I think this is likely due to my extreme over-indulgence, and it wouldn’t stop me from a return trip, but I do think it probably has affected my perception, and thus my rating. I had high expectations going in, and was left wanting a little more (in terms of quality – I had eaten plenty of food).