Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Plating the food cooked in the Smoky Pit

If there is a barbeque joint that surpasses all others in the area, it’s Pit to Plate. The husband and I didn’t make plans for Valentine’s Day because we assumed the other person would reservations at a fabulous restaurant like Barresi, Golden Lamb or Primavista. Clearly that wasn’t the case. We called couple restaurants the night before to try to get reservations and by the 3rd call I knew it wasn’t worth the effort. We were in mood for barbeque and knew it after the 1st call. We agreed on Pit to Plate. It was a place where we would eat with our hands, have sauce dripping down to our elbows while watching TV on the big screens. And I kind of liked the thought of that... sometimes it's good to go casual, even if it's on the most romantic day of the year.

When we first walked in, I noticed it was nearly empty; probably because everyone was busy fancying their loved ones at a romantic restaurant. Some of the food was set up near the front (or the back, depending on how you look at it) in closed glass counters that held many ready-to-serve sides. Baked beans, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, cornbread; it all looked good. A good look at the place and it’s obvious the owners have done a hell of a job to make this little space feel like a relaxed Texas-style barbeque joint. Along the walls, there are framed pictures of cowboys, cowboy boots or rodeos. Furthermore, there are blinking lights all around the restaurant. If you weren't distracted enough by the pictures and the big screens.... The only thing missing is a mechanical bull. Something else I noticed when we sat down was the aroma of hickory smoked meats. They have a huge outdoor pit and with the doors opening and shutting so often the smell is embeded in the restaurant.

Our server promptly brought our water and asked about appetizers. Since we both showed signs of hunger pangs, she recommended half chicken “because it was slow cooked to perfection in the pit”. Instead of appetizer, I quickly ordered a half a chicken with corn on the cobb, macaroni & cheese, and Cajun rice as main dish. (Side note: the restaurant offers two sides with the main dish but I really wanted to try their Cajun rice.) He ordered a Chicken a la Cowboy, their version of Chicken a la King. When my food arrived 25 minutes after ordering, his main takes longer time to prepare, I scarfed down the corn in minutes. The smoked chicken was moist, smoky and tender; it was perfect. On each table, they have variety of barbeque sauces to accompany the meat of your choice. The sauces vary in tastes: North Carolina, Wrangler, Mild Bbq, Hot Bbq to name a few. Though the chicken tastes great by itself, I enjoyed dipping my chicken in couple of the sauces just as much.

Unfortunately I was slightly disappointed in the macaroni and cheese and Cajun rice. Though edible, the macaroni and cheese was not the southern, homemade, laden-with-butter I was craving. It was run of the mill macaroni and cheese made with elbow pasta and cheese sauce. The Cajun rice fell short of my expectations as well; it wasn’t as flavorful as it could have been. Our server warned me of its spiciness, which it was, but other spices were missing. I understand not everyone can make a good pot of Cajun rice so I don't hold Pit to Plate responsible for their failed attempt at making this dish. The husband was served a big plate of creamy chicken and veggies over jalapeño cornbread, with a topping of onion rings and cheese. I am happy to announce, he thoroughly enjoyed his dinner, so much so that he didn’t leave anything to throw away or wash off. The back end washers probably thought he licked his plate clean.

One of the most important things I consider when reviewing a restaurant is their service; Pit to Plate passed with flying colors. Our server was very sweet, and helpful in finding foods we could eat. Soon after finding out about our beef and pork restriction, she quickly listed some of the dishes that didn’t have either. After serving our meal, she was attentive and inquired about the food multiple times.

Overall we had a great experience at Pit to Plate on a day like Valentine’s. We were both very happy with our main entree choices. Though mac & cheese and cajun rice weren't up to par, I plan to go back when I have my next craving for barbeque.

There’s a reason this little joint’s been in the local papers and reviewed multiple times; it’s worth the hike out to Mt. Healthy for a taste of Texas-style smoked barbeque. I hear their pulled chicken sandwiches are very good so be sure to try that if you end up at Pit to Plate.

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