Today my co-workers and I went to The Pit in Durham for our year-end lunch. We’ve had our holiday lunch either from or at Maggiano’s for the past several years, so the change was welcome. I’ve been to The Pit for lunch before, and the food was good, so I was looking forward to the occasion.
When we first arrived, we gathered in the bar for a bit. The service was friendly and efficient. The topic on everyone’s lips was “finding the place”. Our office is in RTP, but only a couple of us live in Durham. Everyone made it to the general area, and though parking was a little tricky, the hurdle was finding the actual building. It’s a large tan brick building with a flimsy vinyl banner on the Geer side, and another on the Rigsbee side. In fact, I entered a door on the Geer side (the building has a Geer address), and found myself in an employee hallway. I quickly exited and walked around the corner to the Rigsbee side – in the photo, the small door is actually mostly obscured by a utility pole next to the stairs.
So 19 of us gathered in the bar for our friendly and efficient drinks, then went upstairs when our room was ready. We had a large room to ourselves, with a full bar at one end, a restroom at the other end, and both high and low tables in-between, sporting somewhat narrow metal chairs. A door next to the elevator leads out to a rooftop terrace.
The meal was served buffet-style. After a few minutes, one of the two appetizers was served: Jowl Bacon Bruschetta: crispy jowl bacon, chiffonade spinach, caramelized red onion & goat cheese over toasted baguette. Each component was expertly prepared, and the combination was wonderful!
After an appropriate interval, the meal was served: green salad with carrot, red onion, seeded cucumber and tomato, with balsamic or ranch dressing; Eastern barbecue, thick-sliced sliced beef brisket, bone-in BBQ chicken, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans. The salad was beautiful, though the onion could have been cut into more manageable pieces. The barbecue was competent but uninspired (I’m not a huge fan anyway), the brisket was very good, its sauce not too strong. I skipped the chicken (bones!). Mac and cheese was delicious, tender pasta, and the cheese was creamy. I like to try baked beans everywhere they are served, and these were good: not mushy or too saucy, nice flavor.
Some time after we had all filled our plates, the second appetizer was served: Southern-Style Deviled Eggs with Pickle relish & smoked paprika. I’m a pickle-hater, but I did not taste any pickle; the filling was smooth and sweet.
Close on the heels of the arrival of the second appetizer, dessert was served: chocolate cake and banana pudding. The cake was topped with a thin layer of mousse, then with a hard layer of chocolate. It was difficult to break apart the top layer without crumbling the cake. Nothing to write home about, slightly dry cake (as restaurant cake generally is) with topping. I didn’t eat much of the pudding (sliced bananas, after all), but it was topped with a superb meringue, slightly sweet, perfectly browned, with great flavor.
The last food to appear on the table was hush puppies and biscuits. The biscuits were on the small side, obviously hand-shaped, tender and not too bready. I was too full at this point to try the hush puppies, but they were the size of large marbles and perfectly browned.
The only real drawbacks to our outing were the lack of decent exterior signage and the poor coordination of the various courses. I would recommend the food to anyone who enjoys barbecue with traditional accompaniments. The bar service was good and all the employees friendly. I will definitely return for Jowl Bacon Bruschetta and a drink.