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Restaurants & Bars 10

The Bear Pit (long newbie review)

silence9 | Apr 26, 2004 12:35 PM

Hello there. Been lurking happily for weeks, but wife convinced me to finally post. I was reluctant for my first post to be a review, given the apparent recent presumptions by some as to the dubious intentions of newbie reviewers. Nevertheless, I'll give it a go. BTW, my chowhound 'credential': I enjoy cooking, but love eating more. I am a lifelong member of the clean-plate club. I cannot recall EVER leaving food on a plate unfinished. Some may consider this as gross evidence of an undiscerning palate; me, I just never let the difference between mediocre chow and exemplary chow stand in the way of my pleasure. OK, on to the review:
Visited The Bear Pit (in Mission Hills) for the first time on Sunday. It's bigger inside than one might think, and there was a large patio too (which was not in use due to the Valley heat and a congregation of gnats). The joint was filled and there was a waiting list, but the turn-over is so brisk that we were seated in 5 minutes. The female 'hostess' who seated us had a bit of attitude (actually more of a lack of detectable personality) and she led the way to the table with her pert rump so very high in the air as to give the impression that she doesn't use it to make poo-poo.
Our waitress, on the other hand, was friendly, attentive, and efficient, and though she carried considerably less jaunty rumpage, she displayed considerably more heart and warmth.
A plate of iced pickles and crudites are brought out immediately. The server takes your order immediately. And the beverages and chow arrive to the table in approximately 5 minutes.
I selected the 'Taster's Choice' sampler. This is a lot of food, friends. Consists of: 2 pieces of roasted (not barbecued?) chicken, 2 large spare ribs, 1 large beef rib, a large pile each of sliced pork and sliced beef, 3 small potatoes (lightly dredged in flour and fried whole), a slab of 'texas toast', a small bowl of baked beans and a small bowl of cole slaw. Beverage: good and tart lemonade with refills. Cost: $15.95 plus beverage.
Over all, the primary impression is that of good but dry meat. The chicken was tasty but did not seem to have been anywhere near smoke or open flame. The spare ribs and beef rib were also tasty and maybe too lean, but again, very little hint of barbecuing. Tasted baked. Two accompanying barbecue sauces (dark/sweet and vinegary) did much to remedy this. The two piles of pork and beef (brisket?) have good meat flavor, but were cut thin with a deli-slicer look to it, and were just plain dry. I was initially expecting the pork to be 'pulled-pork', but no such luck.
The sides were very serviceable. The cole slaw was peppery and vinegary, which I likes! The baked beans were soupy and sweet and ironically had the most smoky/barbecued flavor of the the entire meal. The texas toast was merely OK empty calories. The quail egg-shaped fried potatoes were nicely crispy on the outside, but just a bit too al dente within.
I am not nearly a barbecue afficianado. I like restaurants that sell barbecue, but it's the combination of flavors of the meats and sides as a gestalt that I really enjoy, as opposed to the authenticy of cooking/smoking styles and secret-recipe sauces. I've enjoyed Greece's, The Pig, and Dr. Hogly-Wogly's, even on their respective bad days. Would I return to The Bear Pit? You bet. I't not, in my opinion, 'real' barbecue, but it's a decent eating experience and a bargain for the sheer quantity of food served. The menu is also really huge, with many combination plates and sandwich specials. This joint will not please true barbecue fans, I suppose. But for a stick-to-your-ribs rib experience, it will well serve the trenchermen (and women) in our midst... Lastly, allow me to thank the many contributors to this chowhound list. The recommendations are fun to read as well as useful. And pardon this initial lack of brevity on my part. Chow!

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