BBQ Safari: The Smoke Pit

The Smoke Pit
2401 E. Belknap, Fort Worth

Posted 8:55am on Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2011

Telling people that you’re on a quest to find the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ is a little like announcing you’re looking for a new religion. Everyone suddenly becomes a zealot, and theirs is the only true path to enlightenment or a meat-induced Myocardial infarction. With so many of my friends proselytizing for The Smoke Pit on Belknap, I felt I better check it out.

The Smoke Pit advertises itself as BBQ with a view, and by view they mean scantily clad, attractive waitresses. If you've ever been to an establishment built on this business model (especially those familiar owl-themed ones) you know that service often takes a backseat to, well, backseats. The staff knows that their tips are not dependent on how efficient they are and the service suffers. That most certainly is not the case at The Smoke Pit. My waitress, Destiny, was friendly, kept my drink refilled, and brought my food quickly.

If you’ve been following this ongoing BBQ safari, you know that I consider good service to be in-authentic, and a proper Texas BBQ joint should be surly and indifferent. But other than that, t this place is 10 out of 10 for atmosphere. The Smoke Pit is a free standing building that looks like a proper dive BBQ joint (including outside sections patched with bare plywood). There is junk all over the walls, and wood tables. All good.

Where it all falls apart is the food. I ordered the two meat plate (ribs, brisket), and a side of coleslaw and potato salad. Let’s start with the sides:

The potato salad tasted like the stuff you get at the grocery store in the tubs -- nondescript, not particularly fresh, and unfortunately it was the best thing on the plate.

The coleslaw was inedible. The only thing I can figure is it had gone bad, as it tasted like nothing I had ever tasted. I just can’t describe it, and don’t really want to think about it.

But BBQ is all about the meat – not sides, atmosphere, or the “view”. And that’s where The Smoke Pit really falls on its face.

The ribs were poorly done: Very little meat, the membrane on the backside had not been removed (here’s a hint, guys, get some of those catfish skinning pliers you can get at any sporting goods store), and they were coated with some kind of flavorless sticky rub. They weren’t good when they were fresh, and I’m willing to bet these were smoked at least two days ago and then microwaved – maybe a couple of times. What little flavor they had left was old grease. They got the texture right, at least.

The brisket also had all the hallmarks of a product reheated past its prime. There was a hint of a smoke ring (so at least it wasn’t cooked in an oven), but the meat was chewy and flavorless. Even the squeeze bottle of generic BBQ sauce that I stole from another table couldn’t save it.

Anyone can have a bad day, so the next week I gave the Smoke Pit a second look – on a Monday this time. Service was just as good, and the meat was nearly as bad. It may not have been re-heated this time but it was still tough and flavorless. I didn’t finish even half of it before I made my way for the door.

The people recommending this place were apparently more concerned with scenery and less so with BBQ. That's fine. But I’m continuing my quest for the Holy Grail of BBQ. If you think you know where I can find it, please leave a comment on this story at DFW.COM.



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