I’m always on the look out for an authentic BBQ place and as many have experienced, those spots are often off the beaten path. In the case of The Pit, it is a bit out of the mainstream of the city but not the typical dive that I gravitate to. The Pit is also a bit more upscale than most of the hidden BBQ finds I have written about in the past. There is also a small bit of celebrity associated with the The Pit mainly in the aspect of financing by some sportsball celebrities from OSU by the names Chekwa and Browning. One hails from the south and the other from Cleveland and he brought in two childhood friends to help out.
Some logistical footnotes before we begin and/or before you start your own journey of discovery. The Pit is buried inside the Northern Lights Shopping Center in North Linden. The front of the shopping complex is ringed with almost every fast food chain. The snaking ring of stores on inner part of the complex are fronted by a series of hodgepodge intersections and poorly delineated and marked parking areas that seemed designed to facilitate accidents and road rage. This is exacerbated by a large number of drivers that are either very old, very young or very new to driving, all wandering around this area trying to figure out how to drive as well as where they want to shop which makes this maze like parking lot a potentially hazardous journey. So here is an insider tip, from Cleveland Ave., turn where the A&W is located and that will lead you to the straightest and safest path to The Pit.
A few items fast tracked the Pit to the top of my to eat list. My cousin-in-law Greg mentioned the place to me a few times. Greg makes the best non-restaurant ribs in town and knows a lot of people who know BBQ. He had not dropped in yet but his sources had high praises. In my research of the online menu I spied a Polish Boy (a little known sandwich from Cleveland) and Turkey Ribs.
The possibility of a good Polish Boy in Columbus made a trip a high priority. The potential for Turkey Ribs made the trip a necessity. I have seen Turkey ribs on the menu at a handful of places but those spots never had them available on my visits.
The good news. The Pit had turkey ribs. It is a 20 minute wait for them but the turkey rib is a thing to be experienced. At the Pit these are big, meaty servings of meat that definitely taste like turkey.
There was a rib tip special on the day I visited. For $5 I got a generous serving of rib tips and some fries. The rib tips were perfectly cooked – tender to the bone, flavorful, and meatier than most I have tried in the past. The fries were not the typical airy, flavorless, out of the freezer fries often featured to save money and time, these Pit fries were fresh-cut and fresh out of the fryer. This was a great value for the price.
As for the Polish Boy, I would have preferred the sausage to be more spicy and flavorful as well as cooked a bit longer in order have just a trace of gristle. This version not as messy as other Polish boys I have tried but I am happy to have it on a menu in Columbus. The cole slaw on this was a bit of a surprise but I will get to that later.
As is my typical modus operandi for BBQ sampling I tried as many side dishes as possible. In many things in life it is “the devil n the details” for BBQ evaluations the devil is in the sides. My favorite of the bunch were the baked beans. Most places mess up by making the beans too watery or dumping a bunch of unneeded junk (peppers, large pieces of onion) in the bean base. These baked beans were made of slow cooked beans, a lightly spiced sauce and a trace of meat to flavor the mix. The consistency was thick and the flavors were balanced.
The greens were more firm than what I am used to. More often greens are cooked to the point of limpness, these leafy greens were still a little rigid. There was not much flavor to them but there was a giant slab of meat hidden under my pile.
Mac and Cheese is an easy dish to make but so few places execute this it well. The key is to keep it simple and slightly saucy. The Pit version was dense and cheesy the overall flavor was bit bland but with a bit of pepper or BBQ sauces added in this version beats most you can find in local restaurants.
The cole slaw was surprise. This interpretation here is different that any other BBQ place I have tried. There is a mix of large leaves of leafy green and purple cabbage with a light and slightly tangy sauce. It was good although very different and I found the pieces to be just a but bigger than mouth-sized which caused some problems when trying to eat the Polish Boy.
So there you go, more than a few things that I think will entice you to give the place a shot. There is a good amount of inside seating. The interior looks a lot like a Chipotle with some metal sideboards and industrial looking wood finishes. Please comment if you pop in to The Pit.