11 March 2011

Raleigh Day 4

Our third night in Raleigh was the one I was looking forward to the most: We had reservations at The Pit. After having pitmaster Ed Mitchell’s barbecue at The Big Apple BBQ Block Party this past May, I was super-excited to try his grub in his home digs. This was the first time we’d walked out of downtown and my co-workers definitely made a few comments about the sketchy scenery. I ensured them that the restaurant was just over the next hill, which, gladly, it was.

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As we entered were greeted by a very friendly hostess ready to seat us promptly, I asked her if we could sit in the bar, and she said we could seat ourselves. The fact that the place was mostly empty was kind of a surprise considering the semi-difficulty I had with landing a reservation. The bar itself was completely empty. I informed her I had a reservation so I didn’t get dinged as a ‘no show’ on my opentable account and we grabbed a four top in the bar.

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Pretty much immediately after we sat down the place started filling up. At first glance I hadn’t noticed that the entire right side of the front of the restaurant was reserved for a large group of older ladies and gentlemen (we joked that they looked like speed-daters, and after overhearing a conversation at the bar, surprisingly our joking was confirmed).

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We were served by the bartender, a tattooed fiery brunette who was easy-going and approachable. I chose the 10 oz. pour of the Sweetwater Happy Ending Imperial Stout from Atlanta, GA 9% abv.

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It was light and roasty and the high abv was cleverly hidden by slight bitter and sweet notes. It had a nice thick head and was overall a very balanced beer.

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The complimentary hush puppies were closer to what I’m used to, the hard crusty shell and slightly undercooked doughy center. They didn’t hold a flame to Coopers. Unfortunately, neither did the vinegar based sauce. I did, however, like the tomato-based sauce. It reminded me of Andy Nelson’s, although a tad too sweet and not quite as spicy. The complimentary biscuit was also a letdown, with a dry crumb and hard hockey-puck like exterior. This place was starting to show the flaws of mass production as my expectations for my upcoming platter of barbecue started to drop.

I was all set on ordering the fried pimento cheese as an appetizer, but as soon as my colleague inquired about their smoked chicken wings images of Andy Nelson’s started dancing in my head, making my mouth water. On a whim, I chose to order them after he declined. It would prove to be my biggest mistake of the evening. The waitress also mentioned that they smoke their own bourbon (it turned out to be Jack) and I asked for a sample. She brought back a tiny taste and I was very impressed by the level of smokiness the few drops I had produced. I ordered a glass of that, neat of course.

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Unfortunately, the glass she poured me tasted a little off. In larger quantities the smoked bourbon had a very unpleasant chemically taste to it. I still drank it, but I didn’t nearly enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

As I said before, the wings were the biggest disappointment of the evening. You may think my overall negative opinion of the dish stemmed from the fact that I had unrealistic expectations from another dish, but I’ve eaten a lot of wings in my day and these weren’t good wings.

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She said they rub them down with their house rub, but it didn’t taste like too much more than salt. No smoke flavor whatsoever. The skin wasn’t crispy, which I didn’t really expect with them being smoked, but it was tough and hard to bite through. They were big, and juicy, but that was all they had going for them, and any dive bar in the country can serve big juicy wings. Pathetic.

For my main course I ordered the sampler platter which came with chopped pork, pulled pork, chopped turkey, baby back ribs, and spareribs with a side of coleslaw. Well this is what it all comes down to right? Thankfully the barbecue itself was (for the most part) good.

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Starting from the ribs on the top that's spares, pulled pork, chopped pork, chopped turkey, baby backs, and coleslaw. My favorite thing on the plate was the spares, followed closely by (surprisingly) the chopped turkey. The spares were more porky and smoky than the baby backs, and had a more toothsome bite to them. All the reasons I prefer spares over baby backs. Even though the turkey was just a touch dry, I just really enjoyed the way the turkey took on the flavor of the smoke. The baby backs were very moist and tender and had a definite smoke flavor to them, better than Coopers. The chopped pork wasn’t quite as moist or flavorful as Coopers, and definitely not nearly as good as we had at the BABBQBP. The pulled pork, while a little bland, reminded me of my own recipe, very tender with a few bits bark, and again the smoke flavor was subtle and not overpowering. The coleslaw was nothing exciting and instantly forgettable alongside all of the barbecue.

The more barbecue I eat around the country, the more I realize just how good Andy Nelson’s is. It’s not the end all be all by any means, but their wings and their sauces are the best I’ve had anywhere. The only place that comes close is Dinosaur BBQ. Those wings were friggin epic. I’d have to taste them side by side to choose a favorite.

After our disappointing experience at The Pit the rest of the night didn’t go so well either. We went back to The Flying Saucer for another round and every beer I ordered I didn’t care for. Honestly, I just don’t think I was in the mood to drink. I had two Dunkels and didn’t care for either of them. The first was a special that I didn’t catch the name of and the second was Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel from Germany 5% abv that I ended up sending back.

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Maybe I just don’t like Dunkels, they were too heavy and tasted like prunes, but not in a good way. I gave up my second one in favor of the Stone Pale Ale, which was a definite upgrade, but still didn’t really wow me. I liked the way it finished crisp and clean, but it fell flat in the middle, having no noticeable body or discerning character. So-so.

Three strikes and I was out, I laid a $20 on the table and called it a night.

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theminx said...

I've never tried the wings at Andy Nelson's, so I guess I gotta go do that now....

Mr. Micro said...

Oh hell yeah. It's the best thing on the menu, followed closely by the dry rub ribs. And the mustard sauce? The stuff dreams are made of.

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