The Pit Portuguese BBQ

The Pit Portuguese BBQ

The Pit Portuguese BBQ
NJ Town: Bloomfield
Cuisines: Barbecue

I’m wondering if The Pit is the best name for a joint that serves food. It’s like when Radio Shack tried the whole ‘The Shack’ thing. Because there is no better place to buy your sophisticated electronics than a place that generally lives outside a hillbilly’s homestead. Or barbecued meat from a place that’s named after the underground space where Buffalo Bill kept young ladies to condition them up for his skinsuits. I don’t think any of this has to do with this The Pit, of course, but I always seem to focus on the wrong thing.

I’m starting to wonder if there are different breeds of chicken. I mean I know there are the ones with the wacky feathered feet and stuff, but it’s hard to square the incredible size difference between what qualifies as a chicken at The Pit versus, say, one of those cooked rotisserie jobbers you pick up from the Whole Foods. I’m trying to make this not sound sexual, but the breasts on those Whole Food chickens — and, frankly, a bunch of the other joints — are very full. Meaty and robust. The breasts from The Pit are not that. Same, honestly, with all the parts of the chicken. When you order a whole barbecue chicken from The Pit, the pieces come chopped and flayed, but even if you were to reassemble the thing and set it next to your average fowl from your average chicken spot, it would look like Holly Hunter standing in the shadow of Venus Williams.

But as I initially ate our tray full of barbecue chicken and fries with my eyes, it suddenly felt eerily familiar. And it hit me. El Pollo Loco! My absolute favorite fast casual restaurant from my childhood. It too has anemic meat ratios, which means the flavor it just super-concentrated. Which can be a challenge when it comes to chicken, especially with white meat. So The Pit manages to focus that flavor, imbuing that meat with a nice smoke and brined loveliness. The issue that can come about, though, due to the meat’s low fat content and lack of volume is dryness. The dark meat has less chance of losing its juice, but it too can suffer if the clucker spends too much time on the grill. It’s a delicate balance. Our first go ’round, they nailed it. The second time, I had to hit it with more hot and bbq sauce to keep it wet. Funny enough, the fries were perfect the first time, but actually a bit undercooked the second time. Maybe the regular chef had the night off.

Look, this ain’t fancy. It’s not gourmet. It’s a very specific type of thing that will feel incredibly familiar if you’ve had Latin barbecue before. The restaurant itself feels like a cross between one of those faded-board Chinese joints and a public sector cafeteria. Though I’ve spent a grand total of about two minutes inside, just popping in to pick up my embarrassingly large aluminum try of grub. The folks working there couldn’t be friendlier, my food was ready on time and was plenty hot. You’d be surprised how often that isn’t the case. Anyhow, The Pit brought me the taste of home. And my home, friends, is called Flavortown! (But it’s really L.A.)

178 Broad St. – Bloomfield