A Bewildering North Carolina BBQ Experience at The Pit

While visiting a friend in North Carolina, I had to stop in to a real BBQ restaurant to experience authentic southern BBQ.

We drove through Raleigh and ended up at The Pit, a restaurant with overwhelmingly positive reviews online.

This place was apparently featured on the Travel Channel. Their claim to fame is that they slow roast the entire hog until the meat is falling apart, and then they serve it to their customers.

the pit raleigh

The state’s barbecue is famous and renowned, so I was excited to give it a shot.

What Eating at The Pit Was Like

Now, I’m no barbecue aficionado or culinary expert. But when I think of BBQ, I think of something that looks like this, which I got in Kansas City:

gates barbq chicken

I expect to get a plate with hunks of meat doused in heavy sauce. That’s the kind of BBQ I remembered growing up.

Instead, the pulled pork sandwich we received at The Pit in Raleigh looked like this:

pulled pork sandwich

That doesn’t look like any pulled pork I’ve ever eaten! I sat there dumbfounded. No sauce whatsoever!

Evidently that’s a thing down here. I suppose it makes sense on some level – you want to highlight the meat and not drown with other flavors.

But I was taken aback because I’ve certainly never ordered BBQ and received a platter of boring, dry meat. That just proves that different places do barbecue in completely different ways!

I gave the plain pork a shot, but it wasn’t tasty enough on its own, so I ended up having to add my own sauce anyway.

Talk about a weird feeling. Here I was at an upscale BBQ establishment, with a beautiful plate of pit-roasted meat, and all of the flavor in my dinner came from the jar of BBQ sauce on the table. That’s just strange.

The sides at the Pit were excellent, give them credit for that!

the pit bbq raleigh

The meat was tender and cooked perfectly. I’d like to go back and try this BBQ again, because I think that now I’d appreciate the natural flavor of the meat more than I did back then.

Now that I’m going in with the proper expectations, I can truly enjoy the NC barbecue experience.

Types of North Carolina BBQ

I’ve since learned that there are two common types of North Carolina BBQ: Lexington style and Eastern style.

Lexington style uses only pork shoulder and a red sauce with vinegar, tomato, and red pepper flakes.

Eastern style uses the entire pig and has a light vinegar and pepper sauce, with no tomato.

If you really want the ultimate North Carolina BBQ experience, attend the Lexington Barbecue Festival in October.

More than 200,000 people visit for the games, rides, axe throwing, swing music, chainsaw contest, and, of course, the meat.

pit bbq interior
Eating North Carolina bbq at The Pit in Raleigh.

The Pit was the only North Carolina BBQ place I visited, so I won’t write off the entire state’s BBQ industry based on one questionable experience.

However, it’s telling that the Pit was one of the only places I could find that was open on a Sunday. This being the south, most other BBQ joints were closed on the holy day.

I’ll give North Carolina BBQ another try the next time I’m back in the state – provided it’s on a weekday.

If you’re in the area, consider checking out other North Carolina attractions, such as the Smoky Mountains, the Andy & Opie statue, Greensboro activities, New Bern activities, the birthplace of Pepsi, and camping in Croatan National Forest.

Also check out quirky attractions like the Ava Gardner Museum and the ACC Hall of Champions.

Do you enjoy North Carolina BBQ? Which kind of barbecue do you prefer?