I started this write up over on Instagram (where I’ve been posting for the most part for the better part of a year) but I ran out of text space! I really should be utilizing the whole “article” concept of this site that I loved so much when I started this site, but Instagram is truly the easier solution.
Birthday dinner last night at Spork Pit in Garfield right off of Penn Avenue. You grab a sheet of paper off the wall with all of the meat options (ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket, sausage) and what size (quarter pound, half pound, pound) or 8 wings. Sides are all separated out and ordered in whole quantities. There’s also a dessert option (banana pudding when we were there).
Of course we ordered the entire menu (minus the dessert and entire cocktail list) and I’m proud to report it is as outstanding as I’d hoped. The frozen cocktails were excellent, as well as their tasty selection of local drafts.
When they were running their proof of concept out of the backyard of Spork, I was in love with their smoked wings and I’m so happy to report they’ve kept the same recipe and even kicked up the spice in the rub.
The brisket is their contender for best in the city, with incredible melty juicy fat intertwined between tender and flavorful meat. the bark was retained and the 10 hour cooking time was evident in the final product.
Jerk chicken was a chunked and de-boned, but lost some of the flavor of the rub due to the prep. Still tasty, smoky, and juicy chicken.
The ribs were slow-cooked and fell right off the bone, with three ribs per quarter pound. A nice light rub provided a good base flavor for the meaty pork to enhance, really well-trimmed and prepped.
The sausage was homemade and the fine grind was held together nicely with studs of cheddar cheese and a nice snap on the casing. It was lighter than a loose grind might have been and was definitely elevated by the strong hand of garlic and paprika in the meat mixture. Not too spicy or overpowering, it played nicely with the other meats.
The pulled pork was good, although a little dry and slightly over-shredded but still held it’s own and was greatly enhanced by their sauce options.
They had a thick and sweet coffee BBQ, a Texas style thinner sauce, and a vinegar sauce for the pulled pork. All of the sauces were tasty and helped enhance the natural flavors of the meats without overpowering them.
The sides were all large enough for sharing and fairly generous in their portioning. 1 is definitely enough for 2 to 3 people.
The mac and cheese is a must order, ridiculously cheesy creamy magic. The shells were still substantial, but this beast was like 50% cheese. Perfect bite and sharpness and velvety smooth. The perfect mac and cheese. The black beans and rice as well were amongst some of the best I’ve had in recent memory, with strong herbs and wonderful seasoning on the black beans. There were strong undertones of either sage or rosemary that made them pair exquisitely with the pork. The beans were still toothsome and the rice still had body to it, which is tough to maintain with a BBQ side like that which can be warming all day. They weren’t overly spiced which was deeply appreciated in the substantial side.
The potato salad again was top tier (if you like mustard), as their base was more dijionnaise than straight mayo and really nicely seasoned. Big chunks of soft potato and crunchy veggies provided a nice cold respite from the fatty and rich meats.
The collard greens had a good depth of flavor from both the broth and added proteins. The greens themselves were a little too big and on the soft side, which is very tough to avoid, but delicious just the same. The Cole slaw was good, a cheesy vinaigrette with crunchy slices of both red and green cabbage. But unremarkable overall.
The one major misstep was the bread option. It was a flat focaccia which was quite hard and crispy on the exterior. I think a lighter and fluffier focaccia would have faired better to sop up the bits of meat and sauce left on the trays. I do applaud their alternative approach to the standard corn bread, but I feel like the greatest ground can be made up with their complimentary bread (which speaks volumes to the initial quality and foundational perfection they’ve already achieved).
I’m all for the family style sharing approach to BBQ, but providing side plates (like Smallman and Federal galley provide) would have been more preferable. They do seem to have no flatware with plastic forks and knives, as well as drinks served in plastic cups.
There also isn’t a tap water option (again, the Galleys nail this with big glass bottles of tap) and we had to order a big Fiji water to split amongst us. Again, no deal breakers but still places to work from. Operating with a bare-bones staff (I counted 3 front of house, the chef, and another runner) they run the large operation seamlessly. We were greeted and run through the entire meal helping to provide assistance with whatever you need.
I highly recommend Spork Pit for some of the best brisket and mac and cheese you’ll ever have! Go on a gorgeous Pittsburgh day, sip some cocktails (frozen or otherwise) and enjoy the backyard BBQ you always wanted right on Penn Avenue.