Foodie Travels: The Smoke Pit, Gastonia, N.C.

We’re always “full” and extremely satisfied when we leave The Smoke Pit.

What more do you need in order to give two big thumbs up for the food, service and atmosphere of a restaurant?

My wife Molly and I first learned about The Smoke Pit, a Texas-style barbecue joint in North Carolina, several years ago when we offered a “#FoodieScore Top Fan” contest on our Facebook page. The contest asked our Facebook following to share the page and get others to like it, too, and the winner had the option to select one of our homemade pies or a gift certificate to a local restaurant. The randomly-selected contest winner, a long-time #FoodieScore supporter named Grace, chose a gift certificate from The Smoke Pit. So I ventured into the restaurant’s Concord, North Carolina, location (one of four now) and picked up the prize.

Several months later, the sights and smells of the previous experience still fresh in my mind, we decided to try out The Smoke Pit’s food for ourselves during a stop at the Salisbury, North Carolina location on our way to Raleigh for a week of vacation. I ordered a pork plate with multiple sides, and Molly ordered a smoked turkey sandwich with a side of fried okra. …I’m not sure I’ve ever been as full as I was when I left that restaurant that day. The meats were smoked to perfection, tender, juicy and truly melt-in-your-mouth good. The sides were all rich in flavor and worthy of any Southern family feast.

As I said, The Smoke Pit serves Texas-style barbecue. If you’re not familiar with the differences in styles, don’t despair. I’m no expert, but I think of Texas pit-cookers as focusing on using different kinds of wood, emphasizing beef products more than pork (hence menu items like brisket), as well as serving their smoked meats in things like tacos, in addition to the North Carolina traditions of sandwiches and plates.

Many things are classified as barbecue, and we love them all, so we’re open to different techniques and servings.

Recently my wife Molly, who’s a teacher first and a foodie second, had a student who works at the Gastonia, North Carolina, location of The Smoke Pit invite her to come eat at her restaurant. So we did. And, if it’s possible, we were even more delighted by our experience there than we were previously at the other Smoke Pit.

Molly ordered a couple of tacos, one with brisket and one with chicken, and a side of sweet potato casserole. I opted for a burnt ends sandwich, something traditionally unique to the Kansas City BBQ scene and an item you don’t often find in North Carolina, with a side of macaroni and cheese. As Molly likes to say in a reference to the Jack Black movie Nacho Libre, it was “the Lord’s” mac and cheese. So creamy. So cheesy. So good. And the burnt ends were incredibly tender, smoky and sweet-sauced just enough, served on a truly massive soft bun.

We ate all that, with drinks and a side of banana pudding to go, for about $30, including a tip at the register. Don’t be fooled if you’re looking for value. The amount of food for the price was as satisfying as the food itself. We’re a couple of thrifty people who try to stretch our dollars as far as we can, and we had no complaints about the reach of our hard-earned money at The Smoke Pit.

In our travels through the South and across the United States, we’ve eaten barbecue at many popular spots, including most of North Carolina’s iconic joints known for things like chopped pork, hushpuppies and Brunswick stew. The Smoke Pit isn’t like your old-school North Carolina barbecue stops, which mostly stick to pork and don’t often offer beefy delights like brisket and burnt ends. The Smoke Pit is something different, and we find that refreshing in the vast landscape of North Carolina barbecue. Like we said, barbecue can mean many things in the world of pit-cooked meat, and we love just about all of it.

As we often say, “Sometimes love is messy.” We love food, even when it’s messy, like the tray of banana pudding at The Smoke Pit in Gastonia.

Read more about The Smoke Pit here.


  1. My neighbor over the creek (separates our property) is a cook at The Smoke Pit in Gastonia. Ironically, haven’t eaten there yet. Hubby and I did recently frequent the new Hillbilly’s location in Lowell 2 weekends ago. Excellent. When I lived in Texas (mid 80’s), I remember the variety of *beef bbq*, having tried first *brisket*..a dish my brother in law cooked often. So we will set our radar soon to visit The Smoke Pit -:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The name SMOKE PIT caught my eye…….but you lost me when you described it as Texas style bbq. This coming from someone who grew up eating eastern NC bbq. But I love your blog, and love your food travels and recipes. Keep ’em coming !!!

    Bubba Grant Cary, NC

    Liked by 1 person

      • B’s in Greenville
        Wilber’s in Goldsboro
        Skylight in Ayden
        Sam Jones in Winterville
        Grady’s in Dudley
        Parker’s in Wilson
        Stephenson’s in Willow Spring

        Take your pick….all are excellent.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s