When it comes to new restaurants, there appears to be three types of opinions on the establishment’s menu: the exaggerated, the resentful, and the so-so fugazi. So immediately after hearing rumor of Columbus’s new black-owned BBQ joint that apparently was in the running for best BBQ in Columbus, I had to get a taste and make a distinction for myself.
This is Columbus. Do They Even BBQ?
I mean this is Columbus, the not-so-home of reputable BBQ. Though we do house a few local spots such as Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, JP’s, and B&K, I hold the opinion that our BBQ market compares nothing to our southern counterparts. Therefore The Pit instantly became more than an initiative to review a new restaurant, but more so a personal obligation to find homage in a black owned restaurant housed in a retail space.
The Pit’s interior layout is reminiscent of a Chipotle or a Piada minus the buffet line. Modern faux wood decor, stainless steel accented in grays and blacks, and I must admit I was surprised that such a beauty could exist in Northern Lights of all places. The staff seemed young. From the cashier to the kitchen staff, for the most part the employees were all young, uniformed in t-shirts and visors, giving off the impression that The Pit was going for a fast food BBQ concept, not so much the down-home, mom-and-pop joint.
My partner and I ordered the original rib tips combo, and the pulled pork sandwich combo. Each entree , minus the sandwich menu, is served with two sides while the sandwiches only include a generous portion of the house’s fresh hand-cut fries. As our sides, we judicially decided that yams and mac ‘n’ cheese defined the validity of BBQ cuisine. We wish we could’ve added a third side such as greens or green beans, but the price of an up charge was unclear.
Stop Pretending – Aint No Half Steppin’
After making ourselves comfortable, within about 7-10 minutes, the cashier brought our order to our table, and within 20 minutes into the meal, my partner pronounced he could no longer ‘pretend’ to stuff himself.
It was his unconscious commentary that could basically sum up our entire experience, it felt all too pretend. We sincerely wanted to become members of the wave of raves we’d heard about The Pit, but after biting into food that lacked freshness and differentiating flavor, all we could do was pretend to enjoy the meal.
While I took pleasure in the pulled pork sandwich, my partner complained that the sandwich was too dry though I felt it was purposely under-sauced. I was unimpressed by the fatty rib tips but they just so happened to be my partner’s favorite part of the meal. From there the meal made no effort to impress us, and the fresh cut fries were the exact opposite; if anything they were refreshed cut fries. The mac ‘n’ cheese held the consistency of a tray of casserole that was left sitting under a hot lamp and the yams that were unusually spiced and held the texture of an under-cooked yam, though I’m unable to pinpoint if they were freshly diced or conveniently from a diced can.
The Pit brings to me the arrogant view that anyone can make it in the restaurant business. The opinion that it takes little to no creativity and investment in one’s menu, but more so in the business strategy that exploits the clientele of the restaurant. For example, opening a casual fast food BBQ restaurant in a predominantly black neighborhood whose menu consist of re-seasoned food prepared in bulk trays and used throughout the day.
They Need Alotta More Sauce
I had every intention of falling in love with The Pit, but I believe there needs to be some sort of re-organization in the menu and a few more shits given. The restaurant’s interior design, layout, and ambiance though popular if not cliche, stands out in a plaza full of stores that care little to none of the cleanliness of their environment, let alone the interior design.
But what’s the point of serving mediocre BBQ in a cute restaurant when your customers will eventually stop coming simply because they can pay for better BBQ from the guy on the corner with the smoker (or as I often do in Columbus, just go without BBQ unless a family member is having a cookout).
I continue to hold the superstition that Columbus is the last place I’d seek out BBQ, and I pray that someone proves me wrong.