You've heard the obligatory “restaurants have been through a lot” opening paragraph that tops so many articles lately. But bear with me—for The Barbeque Pit, which will open July 4 in its new location on Yesler Way, it’s worth repeating.
The Central District barbecue joint lost its original location just off Rainier and 23rd in 2019, when new owners tore the building down to develop an apartment complex. Edward Whitfield, the pitmaster better known as Pookey, quickly fell into a new location—the owners of R&L Home of Good Bar-B-Que personally vetted his handiwork and decided his restaurant would be a fitting successor for their family-owned business, a veritable institution that opened in 1952 and occupied The Barbecue Pit's new spot for decades.
Pookey was a single health inspection away from opening when Covid-19 hit. Eventually, holding his phone’s camera up to show inspectors on the other end of an all-important video call the readings on his digital thermometer, he got the green light—just in time for the meat shortage.
Now, Pookey's got meat supplies lined up for a month, and is finally ready to serve his extensive menu of classics—candied yams, greens, mac and cheese, and those ribs. Eventually, The Barbeque Pit will be a full-on neighborhood sports bar, complete with a cocktail lounge where customers can sip Standard Brewing IPAs while they watch the Hawks on TV. But Pookey's sticking with takeout for now. It’s safer, he says, from a health perspective. It’s also safer for a restaurant owner who’s wary about opening with zeal only to be forced to close up again if we move back a phase.
But he's certainly taking to takeout with bravado, and a full online ordering system, as well as Apple and Samsung Pay for touchless options on-site (the Pit is usually cash-only). Pookey envisions a seamless experience—by the time you pull up, he says, your order will be ready to grab. Minimal contact, minimal fuss.
“It makes people feel more comfortable that there’s a place they can go to and still get something to eat without having to spray their bag off,” he says. “I want the people to feel safe.”
The only thing he’s more serious about? The food, of course.
Reopening after all that time is like “letting the monster out of the cage,” Pookey says. “I am coming back with a bigger bang.”