After years of languishing in the shadows of sushi bars, gastropubs and other trendy eateries, it looks like the humble barbecue joint is staging a comeback.
But not all that humble, in the case of The Pit, the downtown Raleigh restaurant that added a touch of refinement to the genre by featuring humanely raised, hardwood-cooked whole hogs, locally grown produce and a full bar in an upscale-casual urban setting. The formula has proved so successful that a second location of The Pit opened last November in Durham (321 W. Geer St.; 919-282-3748; thepit-durham.com).
Meanwhile, The Pit’s original pit master, the legendary Ed Mitchell, has moved on. Mitchell is targeting early April for the opening of Ed Mitchell’s Que (359 Blackwell St.) in the new Diamond View III Building overlooking the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Within days of Que’s opening - April 9, if all goes according to plan - the granddaddy of Triangle barbecue joints will get a new home. Clyde Cooper’s Barbeque ( clydecoopersbbq.com), which served countless plates of Eastern NC-style pork (and probably sold nearly as many bags of fried pork skins) over the span of 76 years at its original Davie Street location, will reopen around the corner at 327 S. Wilmington St.
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Just three days after Cooper’s opens its doors, City Barbeque is slated to introduce its all-embracing approach to barbecue to Cary (1305 Kildaire Farm Road; 919-439-5191; citybbq.com). The first North Carolina location of an Ohio-based chain, the restaurant offers a national sampling of smoky fare, from Saint Louis-style ribs to Texas brisket and smoked sausage to “North Carolina pulled pork.” We’ll have to wait and see just what they mean by that last one.
Even the food truck scene is benefiting from the trend. Fans of mobile vendor Big Mike’s BBQ can now sit down and enjoy a tasty beverage while getting their fix of Big Mike’s smoky fare (a truly eclectic offering ranging from from smoked fish tacos to chopped pork egg rolls) at View (610 Glenwood Ave.; 919-615-1368; viewbar.com), a popular bar on Glenwood South.
Greg Cox, the N&O’s longtime restaurant critic, also reports restaurant news. Tune in at 11 a.m. Saturdays to hear his radio show on WPTF. Reach him at email@example.com.