The best barbecue joints often boast piles: a cord of wood, visible by the side of the restaurant; a heap of slaw, ready to cool pepper-spiked pork; a mess of banana pudding, to finish things off.
At yesterday's private viewing of The Pit, a barbecue restaurant scheduled to open this July at Durham's former 7UP bottling plant, the piles were different. Old sinks, toilets and pipes filled one side of the warehouse in the Central Park district. Computer monitors were stacked in another, and a 7UP vending machine peeked from behind an oversized board. But among all the mess was barbecue, which steamed on a table in the center of the space.
The event was part of Preservation Durham's quarterly "Hidden Durham" series, which gives members a look at various spots under renovation. "We're the cool kids that get you behind the scenes," says Executive Director Wendy Hillis. Approximately 80 members toured the facility yesterday with representatives from Alliance Architecture, Empire Hardhat Construction and Empire Properties, which owns The Pit in Raleigh that cooks whole hogs.
"There were 10,000 water bottles everywhere," Alliance's John Warasila said, describing the building when they first acquired it. He stood in front of a plan for the new space, which depicted a rooftop deck in addition to a patio on the Rigsbee Avenue side of the building.
"We want to be part of the street scene," he explained, referring to the mass of folks who regularly spill onto Rigsbee from Fullsteam brewery and Motorco Music Hall for the food trucks that gather nearby.
With that in mind, several attendees voiced concerns about parking in the area. According to Warasila, The Pit will offer valet service, as it does in Raleigh.
Compared with its Raleigh counterpart, Durham's location will boast a bigger kitchen to take on regional catering orders. Additional plans include a private dining area and a bar near the entrance on Rigsbee.
As the tour revealed, there's still a great deal of work to be done, including leveling a concrete floor that currently has an 18-inch slope. Several beams overhead will also be raised and replaced.
"When will you open?" one man asked the renovation team while eyeing the space. "July," Warasila confidently answered.
"What year?" the man quipped back. But soon after, he joined others for a bite of a barbecue sandwich.