Nana’s Chophouse Switches to Ed Mitchell’s Pit

Everything but the Squeal

November, 27, 2007, by Jedidiah

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Everything but the Squeal. Some may squirm at hearing this phrase, but the newest restaurant to open in The Warehouse District has the phrase in large script on its menu and are dedicated to this slogan in their BBQ.  The Pit opened its doors last night for dinner in what used to be Nana’s Chophouse.  Nana’s closed just over a week ago, all the signage on the front was taken down (side signage still remains) and a new sign hangs above the front door stating:  The Pit: Authentic Barbeque, Whole Hog, Pit-Cooked, Ed Mitchell Pitmaster.  For many folks who have lived in Eastern North Carolina for more than a few years, the name Ed Mitchell may be synonymous with the word BBQ.

Ed Mitchell (photo by Dean M. McCord) was the owner and pitmaster of Mitchell’s BBQ in Wilson, North Carolina and was close in fame to Wilbur’s BBQ in Goldsboro, until it closed in March, 2005.  As soon as the doors closed, Mitchell was already speaking about the next BBQ joint he was going to open.  At first, he had hopes of opening Mitchell’s in another location in Wilson, but soon after, his dreams switched to Raleigh, North Carolina.  The Pit is a collaboration between Mitchell and local downtowner Greg Hatem, who owns the building.  The Pit is Whole Hog BBQ which is “pit-cooked all night over hickory or oak coals, basted with a homemade vinegar and pepper sauce, pulled from the bone, chopped and served hot.”  This style of cooking BBQ is very popular in Eastern North Carolina.  Also, the hogs at The Pit will be from Bunting Farms and are top grade premium, hormone-free, all natural hogs.  Mitchell has a great location for his new establishment and his dreams of having a restaurant in New York, Charlotte, and re-opening in Wilson may be possible if The Pit is successful. 

The interior hasn’t changed much yet, but it will.  It won’t be a radical shift, but many surfaces and materials will be updated to make the restaurant feel new and not simply Nana’s part two.  The changes that have occurred are mostly in the art work on the walls and the previously mentioned logo.  A new graphic of a whole hog, with parts of the body labeled relative to the food they are used in, is hand drawn and then printed on a large piece of glass on the wall immediately to the right when walking in the front door.  A handful of drawings and paintings of pigs and cows are hung throughout the restaurant and bathrooms as well.  The menu comes in two large pages,one each for food and drinks, and one small one, for dessert.  The draft beers have been strategically picked from local and foreign breweries and come in an option of 10 or 20 ounce sizes.  Wine has its own back page of the drinks menu and ranges from $6 glasses to a bottle for $208.  They also have a nice selection of Cocktails and Bourbons.

The food menu centers around the Chopped Whole Hog, which is very rich in vinegar, and the other entrees and appetizers spread out from there. The new restaurant is not limited to only pig, but includes various fish, chicken and steak dishes.  There is a regular list of sides as well as Country and City lists as well, contrasting two forms of living into two forms of tasting.  There are a couple of combo varieties on the menu to combine various meats into one dish, as well as a Family Style sample of everything from the pit, and Pig Pickin’, which is “everything but the squeal” and requires 24 hour notice.  What a tease.

Overall, the restaurant still has the Nana’s Chophouse feel atmospherically, but that may change when all of the interior is resurfaced.  The food selection is a bit different and The Pit looks to set a new standard on what urban BBQ is in North Carolina and Raleigh specifically.  Hideaway BBQ on Capital Boulevard is the closest comparison to bbq style, but the atmospheres are completely different.  The Pit looks to add the word “upscale” to BBQ and it seems it will do a great job.  During my visit, upscale and urban were definitely two words that defined the restaurant.  The meats at dinner were definitely the highlight, the chopped bbq and pork chop are both tasty, but the sides seemed to be the parts that needed a bit more care.  The BBQ cocktail sauce that comes with the shrimp appetizer was fantastic and the sweet potato baked grits have lots of potential.  It was their first dinner open so some hiccups are certain, but Greg Hatem and Ed Mitchell have a good thing going in the west end with their collaboration. 

Mitchell left the kitchen for a small walk around the restaurant at one point last night and he stopped at Hatem’s table for a chat and a hand shake.  Hatem and his company attested to how tasty the food was, Mitchell thanked them and continued his walk around the tables assuring that his customers were satisfied.  This was a great personal touch.  They will be open for lunch in the coming months which will give the workers and residents of downtown a bit pricier and fancier option than Cooper’s, which is still a local favorite and is holding on as long as it can to its location just up Davie street.  It seems Davie Street has become Raleigh’s BBQ alley and as The Pit’s website boasts, “Raleigh’s West End is Heating Up”.  The west end has definitely never smelled as good on a Tuesday morning as it did today.

Another highly anticipated Hatem project, The Smoking Times, which is an annex of the current downtown hot spot, The Raleigh Times, should open its doors sometime this week, if not tonight.


The Pit
328 W. Davie Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
919.890.4500
misty@empire1792.com


Current Hours of Operation: Mon-Weds (5-10 pm), Thurs-Sat (5-11 pm), bar until 2 am

 

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  • 150
    11/27 07:57 PM

    Does anyone know why Nana’s closed?  I’ll really miss it.  I only ate there a few times, but I thought the atmosphere and food were fantastic.  It was also the only place I know of that served a real bellini. 

    I’m not a bbq fan, so this is a loss for me personally, but hopefully the restaurant will be successful.

  • RaleighRob
    11/28 03:35 PM

    150 - I know what you mean…I was more likely to go to Nana’s than this.  (No offense to anyone who likes BBQ.)

    My guess is their business was a bit lite.  It’s in a part of downtown that’s mostly casual, whereas they were a bit high-end and pricy.  Maybe had they been nearer (or in) the office towers—like Fins is now—they could’ve done better.  I dunno.

  • Sea Captain
    11/30 04:40 PM

    I personally think this should be a hit. Imagine full service great BBQ. I checked the place out and the draft beers are fantastic like you might see in a great beer bar. So a nice atmosphere, great food, killer bar and you have a day to day true Southern restaurant. I loved it. Another menu plus is there are very nice selections other than BBQ. My lady was very happy, she did however end up eating a lot of my pit food. Service was spotty but it is the first week, all the people were very personable.

  • Helen Tart
    11/30 05:10 PM

    Hey Sea Captain—

    You left out the price range—

    It’d be great to have somewhere to get good pig at night downtown,  but not for $20.00 a plate.

  • Jedidiah
    11/30 05:35 PM

    Helen,

    I left out the price range in my article as well, which is something I debated.  Luckily the BBQ was only $12 and the pork chop was a bit more.  To say $20 is a bit of an exaggeration and I think $12 is actually reasonable, although the mignon price is a different story.  Lunch will be served in January and I think the prices will be a bit lower during the day.

    Here is the full menu with prices:

    http://varmintbites.wordpress.com/2007/11/26/the-pit-opens-today/


    Also, Red Hot and Blue looks to be opening soon beside Player’s Retreat and will be a cheaper option but with average beers and average atmosphere.  Sometimes you have to pay for “good design”.

  • Dissappointed
    12/03 06:31 PM

    I tried The Pit out last Saturday with my kids and was very dissappointed. The ribs were tough and very difficult for them to pull of the bone much less eat. The service was spotty. At one point I sent my son to go find a waiter so we could get pepper for our salads. The wines were over priced compared to other restaurants in Raleigh. I complained to the manager and showed him how tough the ribs were to no avail. Never going back there…

  • FuzzyT
    12/03 08:35 PM

    Anyone who likes Q and doesn’t try the chopped whole hog plate is really missing the boat.  It’s the best I’ve had in the area.  And $12 for a nice big portion with two sides doesn’t break the bank.

    The pulled pork was nice too.  Soft and luscious.

  • BBQ Chef
    12/07 03:33 PM

    not for one minute, do I believe the person Dissappointed, when he/she states that they complained to the manger to no avail about the tough ribs… There is absolutely no way a new restaurant would let a customer be that dissapointed on opening week… and the fact that the Pit Master is known to walk to dining room talking to people about how the quality of the food is.. sumtin a bit shady about that postin.. could be one of those ” competitors” posting that crap

  • foxy
    12/07 04:41 PM

    how do you know what the atmosphere at red hot and blue will be like before its even opened?

    i think it looks cool inside, and if youre judging based on the NR location, i think it will be different since its next to campus.

    looking at the menu for the pit—-yeah, too pricey for me.  i’ll stick with Q shack at north hills on Thursday nights ($3 big boss pints and live bluegrass!)

  • David
    12/07 05:20 PM

    Q Shack, Red Hot Blue- neither one is very NC- Lexington or Eastern Style.  Authenticity is what the people want.

  • Helen Tart
    12/07 10:07 PM

    I gotta say this:

    If you want real NC barbecue, all you have to do is go one block on the other side of Fayetteville Street to Cooper’s. You just have to get there before 6pm. You can get sliced, coarse or chopped pig with 2 sides for $6.00 in a place that has been serving it in the same spot for 50+ years.

    I’m glad there is a spot for folks who aren’t comfortable with the atmosphere in most NC barbecue joints. They deserve to get to eat pig like the rest of us. But to suggest that it’s “authentic” is just misguided.

    I do wish The Pit, and all the other new restaurants downtown, well.

  • Jedidiah
    12/08 12:18 AM

    I had Cooper’s for lunch today as well, hadn’t been in a while.  $4.75 for a que sandwich, fries and a sweet tea.  Doesn’t come much more southern than that…..Cooper’s will remain a staple as long as the owner holds tight.

  • JZ
    12/09 01:50 PM

    I dined with Mr. Jedidiah and I say if Coopers goes, all hope is lost for downtown…sorry folks….new, bigger and brighter don’t cut it w/out some of the old school….Hang in there Coopers, Mecca and Roast Grille, we got yur back….

  • kitch
    12/10 04:06 PM

    Checked this out over the weekend.  It was awesome!! Would definitely return again.  The bourbon selection (and pour) was weak.  But the BBQ was excellent.  Great sides as well.

  • Ginger
    01/04 05:51 PM

    “I’m glad there is a spot for folks who aren’t comfortable with the atmosphere in most NC barbecue joints. They deserve to get to eat pig like the rest of us. But to suggest that it’s ‘authentic’ is just misguided.”

    Helen,
    I’m not sure why you remain so negative…it seems to me that they’re trying something “new” and “different.”  I can’t imagine why this would threaten bbq places that are just simply not the same thing. 

    “Authentic,” by the way, refers to the “Pit-cooked BBQ,” which I can assure you is both Authentic and Pit-Cooked.  You obviously haven’t been or you’d have seen the HUGE Pits in the open kitchen.

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