“The Girl Who Ate Boston” Nibbles North Carolina: The Pit

Spoiler: North Carolina has good barbecue. Durham, to be specific, and the Pit, to be precise.

I’m not telling you anything that anyone in Durham doesn’t already know. I had been in the city for about 24 hours, and just about every person I met name-dropped the Pit as a restaurant I shouldn’t miss. And I’m glad I didn’t.

It’s not that Boston doesn’t have a some good barbecue options (hey there Sweet Cheeks Q and Redbones) but obviously, the further you are from the Bible Belt, the fewer choices you have. I was excited for my first visit to true barbecue country.

Duke Gardens - tulip, flowers in February
Durham had FLOWERS in February. Boston was still having SNOW by April.

For my first visit to the Pit, I meandered in around 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. There were plenty of free tables.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - interior
The interior of the Pit, a barbecue restaurant in Durham, North Carolina.

I could have filled up on the basket of warm, fluffy biscuits with even fluffier butter, PLUS crispy hushpuppies … but I exercised restraint.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - biscuits, hushpuppies
Biscuits, butter, and hushpuppies! Being indecisive, I opted for the sampler of appetizers rather than picking just one.

Being indecisive, I opted for the sampler of appetizers rather than picking just one.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - bruschetta, deviled eggs, soul rolls
Appetizer sample! From front to back: jowl bacon bruschetta, southern-style deviled eggs, pimento cheese balls, and barbecue soul rolls.

Not that the other items weren’t devoured, but the bruschetta stole the show. It was anchored by red pepper, mixed with jowl bacon, red pepper, spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onion on toasted baguette.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - deviled eggs
Southern-style deviled eggs and jowl bacon bruschetta.

Aside from the dash of pickle relish mixed in with the yolk paste, the deviled eggs tasted exactly like my mom’s, which is to say they were excellent.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - soul rolls
“Barbecue soul rolls” and pimento cheese balls.

The barbecue soul rolls — a twist on egg rolls, I was told —  were packed with chopped pork barbecue, collard greens, and candied carrots, served with a spicy, mustard-based Oak Island sauce. The pimento cheese balls, served with a sweet red pepper jelly, were standard; not a standout on this particular tray of delectables, but would solidly satisfy any cheese-ball craving.

I wished that I could have tried the fried green tomatoes and the pumpkin corn bread with maple butter, but one person can only eat so much, and I had to save my appetite for the actual barbecue.

… Speaking of actual barbecue.

The Pit offers two options for eastern North Carolina-style whole hog barbecue: “chopped,” pit-cooked and seasoned with the most vinegar-y of the Pit’s three sauces; and “pulled pork,” seasoned with salt and ready for you to sauce. Also available: “Lexington-style” pork shoulder barbecue, a milder and sweeter take, coarse-chopped with crispy bits.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - whole hog pulled pork eastern North Carolina vinegar
Whole hog barbecue — “chopped,” pit-cooked and seasoned with the most vinegar-y of the restaurant’s three sauces — with cole slaw and sweet potato fries.

I love vinegar. I love salt-and-vinegar chips, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and vinegar peppers strong enough to numb the roof of your mouth. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I opted for the “chopped” and proceed to douse even more of the vinegar-y sauce on the heap of piggery goodness.

For sides, I went with the uber-creamy cole slaw and the sweet potato fries sprinkled with brown sugar. I recommend both.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - brown butter pecan pie
Brown butter pecan pie!

My meal was so good that rather than explore a new restaurant in Durham on Wednesday, I came back to The Pit for a second visit. I skipped the apps and dove right into the baby back ribs.

The menu described the ribs as “cooked for hours but eaten in minutes.” I can vouch that this is accurate, though I would have personally used the word “devoured” to describe what I did to that plate of food. The ribs were super tender with a thin coating of sweet barbecue sauce.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - baby back ribs, applesauce, fried okra
Baby back ribs, with fried okra and apple sauce!

Sides: apple sauce (because pork + apples = magic) and fried okra (because okra is divine and not enough restaurants in Boston have okra).

Dessert was some of the best peanut-butter pie I’ve ever had. The filling was struck a Goldilocks-esque balance: not too dense, not too fluffy. Dark chocolate top, a few peanuts on top, chocolate sauce squiggles all over.

The Pit Durham barbecue bbq - peanut butter pie pb
Peanut-butter pie.

I spend a lot of time researching restaurants, especially before a trip. But due to poor planning, I touched down at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport with no restaurant itinerary at all.

Luckily, the good folks in Durham saved me the need to do research because the answer was so obvious.

Barbecue? Durham? The Pit. Of course.

Duke Gardens - flowers in February
MORE flowers from Duke Gardens.

INFORMATION as of May 2017

Official website: thepit-durham.com
Twitter: @ThePitBBQDurham
Instagram: @ThePitBBQDurham
Facebook: facebook.com/ThePitBBQDurham

Address & Phone
321 W Geer St.
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 282-3748

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