Restaurant Review: The Pit BBQ Grille (Clintonville)
Restaurant reviews hardly ever start with the side dishes. The default review format would probably go in the order of operations: ambiance, appetizers, entrees, desserts. Sides get squeezed in there somewhere, along with drinks, if it’s got a liquor license.
But the sides at The Pit BBQ Grille’s Clintonville stop are distractingly good. It’s the side dishes, in fact, that put it over the top. So let’s talk about those sides up-front, and let’s start with Candied Yams. With their cinnamon accent and honeyed finish, they smell like Christmas. But not in a cloying, syrupy way. There’s a defining naturalness to the dish, and a lighter, more finessed landing spot than might be associated with its close cousin, the sweet potato. The house yams might not be fancy food, but they’ll make enthusiastic yam-eaters out of an otherwise unsuspecting diner.
Or the Greens. Perhaps greens are an easy, anticipated culinary victory, as they’re generally good in most barbecue joints. It’s a win nonetheless: an order provides thick, supple leaves made soft with stewing and armed with the tiniest bit of spicy bite: Compelling.
Mac and Cheese is another time-honored barbecue partner, and it performs nicely as well, bearing bits of caramelized baked finish and a harmonious balance between noodles and cheese sauce. Sides, it seems, are taken seriously at Pit BBQ ($4 each).
But perhaps all this early attention to the side dishes risks running out of room, both in this column, and in terms of stomach space. There are certainly other things on the menu. You can give the major BBQ meats a whirl in something like The Pit Sampler. Served with cornbread, guests choose three meats and two sides ($22). Pulled chicken, pork, and brisket make a harmonious trio. Each presents a slightly different hue of cooked meat presented in its respective pile. The meats share, though, some common features. Pit BBQ isn’t really a “smoky” sort of place. Its meats offer more traditional slow-cooked flavors. Can’t argue with quality; the chicken, pork and brisket were cooked dewy soft while retaining their defining textures. No mushy meat in the house.
From a personal perspective, barbecue sauce is not a favorite condiment. It’s often syrupy, or aggressive, and can hide lots of meat flaws. The barbecue sauce at Pit BBQ, however, is exceptional. It has a smooth accent that approaches buttery-ness, and it elevates the straight-shooting meat selection in a thoroughly likable way.
Oh, we’re not done yet. There’s more. There are Wings ($9), for example. The fried ones are shockingly good, with a sauce that scores again, finishing their crackling edges as a perfect tangy foil.
There are sandwiches too; the house sausage is showcased in the Polish Boy ($11). The sausage foundation sports a good, beefy blend, no mystery bits or gratuitous fattiness: Just a nice savory sausage. It’s piled high with french fries and fancy coleslaw made with serious greens. Somewhat challenging to eat, the combo makes for a well-constructed glorious mess.
It all fits together at this counter-service joint. These days, The Pit BBQ Grille can be found in a couple spots in town. There’s a spot on Parsons and a stall inside the North Market Bridge Park, but the aforementioned eating adventures occurred at its 4219 N. High St. location.
For more information, visit thepitcolumbus.com.
All photos by Susan Post