Friday, September 4, 2009

The Brick Pit (10/10) - 5456 Old Shell Rd, Mobile, AL 36608

After a three and a half hour drive from Dobb's in Dothan, AL while listening to America's "Horse Has No Name", Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes", and Sirius/XM's Bluesville channel, I was ready to dive back into barbecue in Mobile, AL. What I didn't anticipate was eating the slowest cooked barbecue that I ever heard about.

The Brick Pit has a solid reputation for a restaurant which does not enter regional or national competitions. The layout and the ambiance of The Brick Pit is similar to what I would envision designing if I were able to construct a barbecue restaurant from scratch without financial limitations. The Brick Pit appeared to be converted from a residence (much like the the surrounding businesses in the neighborhood) with an addition to its rear to house its commercial sized smoker. Chopped piles of pecan and oak wood lined the the side of the smokehouse.

Bill Armbrecht, the sole-owner, has done well in his attempt towards providing a comfortable atmosphere inside the dining room. The walls are tagged with the names of previous patrons as well multiple articles/newspapers that have published complimentary reviews of his restaurant. One of the articles highlighted the amount of time Bill and his team put towards smoking their food. I was incredulous as I read that the pork shoulders and ribs were smoked in excess of thirty hours and twelve hours, respectively. Intrigued but also excited, I ordered the rib & pulled pork combo with sides of cole slaw and beans. The pulled pork was sincerely the best I'd ever tasted. After a thirty hour smoke, most of the fat has either cooked off or into the leaner meat in the shoulder providing a sweeter flavor. The Brick Pit removes the fat from the shoulder during the process of pulling the meat. The result is a lean but also flavorful and moist product. The pulled pork also didn't have the salty undertones that other smoked meats have. The Brick Pit neither brines or applies a dry rub to the shoulder before the smoking process. The spare ribs were also delicious and tender. The slow cooking process rendered the fat without drying out the meat. I was definitely impressed that both the pork and ribs had a solid but not overabundant smoky flavor.

The gentleman behind the counter offered to give me a first hand viewing of their operations. I happily accepted the invitation. Rather than operating an open-pit, the restaurant utilizes an indirect smoker that is fed by a 90/10 ratio of pecan to hickory wood. The smoker takes up 85% of the enclosure, and the thick haze of smoke makes me question whether a breeze has ever passed through the room. I am told that as the longer smoked meats become ready to serve, the staff moves them further towards the rear of the smoker. The restaurant tries to refrain from removing and refridgerating any of the meat before servicing it to its customers. Although The Brick Pit is closed on Sundays and Mondays, shoulders are still smoked over those days so they are ready for service on Tuesday.

Bill stepped out of the restaurant to call his employee back to work. When Bill realized that I was an barbecue enthusiast with an ambitious plan to eat barbecue across the country, he wanted to give me a personal tour through his restaurant, and to talk to me about his passion for it as well. Bill had previously been a yacht captain, but after 20 years of perfecting his barbecue and a delicious sauce to match, he decided to pursue his passion and open The Brick Pit. He explains that the restaurant smokes with pecan wood due to its softer less harsh flavor than that of hickory and mesquite wood, and that attribute allows his team to cook the meats for longer durations than they would be allowed to under other circumstances. He showed me Jake Peavy's picture on the wall since Mr. Peavy grew up down the street and Mel "Trade Messed Up My Daggun' Top Ten" Kiper Jr's signature as The Brick Pit is Mel's favorite barbecue restaurant in the country.

If The Brick Pit was going to be the only good restaurant I would discover and enjoy during my road trip, it alone would have made it all worthwhile.

Brick Pit on Urbanspoon

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Ratings and Reviews

In order to provide a consistent grading standard across each restaurant/region, I order a barbecue pork sandwich (and other meats/sides if a restaurant/region specializes in another specialty). In addition to comparing the quality of food, I will also take into consideration other intangibles (ambiance, atmosphere, service, authenticity, etc.) in my ratings as I deem appropriate.

Basically, a 10/10 represents an incredible meal, while a 6/10 score indicates a decent dining experience but a substantial number of dishes fell short of great. Lower scores indicate unpleasant experiences which I would most likely not even recommend to my worst enemy (Jonas Singer).

I reserve the right to continuously edit/update previous posts and to change rating scores as I see fit.