The Pit Master: Chapel Hill's favorite BBQ

Mar. 21, 2011 11:58 pm

‘Local Eats with Claudia’ is a reesenews series on Chapel Hill’s food paradise. Chapel Hill/Carrboro is a place where you can have your favorite chef just a few miles away from your favorite farmer, and where sustainable practices and fresh, quality ingredients are a priority.

Most importantly, it’s a place that excitedly welcomes all into the kitchen to taste and learn something new.

I invite both food connoisseurs and amateur food lovers to join me as I take you behind the scenes of Chapel Hill’s food culture.

Here, I will feature what you want to see, whether that’s an award-winning restaurant, your favorite recipe or the student-chef in your dorm. So send me your feedback and let me know who and what you would like to see featured next! Feel free to send me tips in our “pssst . . . here’s a tip” widget on the homepage or leave a comment on this story.

The Pit Master

Allen & Son Pit Cooked Bar-B-Q sits quietly tucked away in an isolated swath of Chapel Hill that lies just before the railroad tracks off Interstate 40.

Under a bright moon, Keith Allen, the owner and pit master of Allen & Son, begins his work at 2 o’clock in the morning five days a week. Inside the now closed dining room echoes Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the radio Allen blasts as he works in the empty kitchen.

The restaurant’s walls host an unusual yet appealing combination of items, including an 8-pound bass, a mule’s harness and several pig statues.

But the impressive part sits hidden behind the main building. Within tall, brick walls roars a beautiful, bright fire that is really the source of Allen’s famous pork.

And when it comes to barbecuing, Allen is all business. He makes the fire with hickory wood he collects and chops himself, and for 12 hours, Allen manages the smoky pit as he adds to the coal and turns the pork. Meanwhile, Allen writes up the specials of the day, prepares most of the food and bakes all the fresh desserts daily.

To say Allen is a hard worker is an understatement. He also runs a barbecue catering business and a landscaping company. Allen has a confident disposition and an attractive sense of humor. His determined attitude and strong character show he’s a proud worker aiming to be the best at what he does.  And he is the best. Well, at least his barbecue seems to be.

Hungry locals all agree Allen’s hard work is worth it. Allen’s pork has won many local and national recognition and has been said to be the best eastern North Carolina barbecue in the region.

The barbecue is tender with a successful alliance of smoky and spicy flavors complimented by Allen’s secret barbecue sauce.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s eat!

Claudia Rupcich, a senior from Weston, Fla., is as multimedia journalist with the Reese Felts Digital News Project.