Pit Beef Roundup

July 19, 1992

We sampled the sandwiches at 10 area pit beef stands. Here they are, in random order, with our reviews of everything from the cooking fires to the fixin's.

Big Al's Pit Beef.

Address: 7900 block of Pulaski Highway.

Construction materials: Cedar shingles.

Cooking method: Gas.

Meat quality: Lack of wood robs meat of flavor.

L Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, barbecue sauce, onions, Tabasco.

Ambience: Next to Murphy's Nite Life bar.

Price: $3.10.

Andy Nelson's.

Address: Valley View Farms nursery, 11035 York Road, Cockeysville.

4 Construction materials: Wood trestle and siding.

Cooking method: Hickory logs with a water-vapor tenderizing system.

Meat quality: Smoky, tender.

Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, barbecue sauce (house brand), onions, best collection of exotic hot sauces this side of the border.

Ambience: Suburbanites hauling sod to their station wagons, kids in strollers, more wholesome than you could imagine.

Price: $3.50.

Chaps Pit Beef.

Address: 5801 Pulaski Highway.

Construction materials: Wood and metal shack.

Cooking method: Hardwood charcoal.

Meat quality: Modest serving, thick, smoky and seared.

Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, barbecue sauce, onions, Tabasco.

Ambience: Cooks wear T-shirts saying "Best Pit Beef on the Highway." Located in front of Gold Club country and western bar (Cadillac Ranch playing the day we were there).

Price: $2.75, fast and a bargain.

Porky's Pit Beef.

Address: 8014 Pulaski Highway.

Construction materials: Wood shack.

Cooking method: Hardwood charcoal.

Meat quality: Smoky, moist, machine-cut but thick.

Fixin's: Horseradish, barbecue sauce, onions.

Ambience: Near Sister Bess' ESP and Palm Readings and Act Two Dinner Theater. Step back from the window too fast and you'll get squashed by an 18-wheeler.

Price: $3.

Danny's Belair House Open Pit Beef.

Address: Kenwood Avenue and Belair Road, next to Danny's Belair House Restaurant & Bar.

Construction materials: Fresh plywood.

Cooking method: Charcoal.

Meat quality: Thin slices, smoky, somewhat fatty. Jon: "Easy to chew." Mark: "Cooked to death."

Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, barbecue sauce, onions, A-1.

Ambience: Beer to take out (a big plus in our book!); gazebo with shingled roof, picnic tables and families give it an O.C. boardwalk flavor. Plenty of speed shops and car repair joints in neighborhood.

Price: $3.25.

Scoober's.

Address: 7210 Holabird Ave.

Construction materials: Redwood siding. Provisions in an old shipping container.

Cooking method: Charcoal.

Meat quality: Dry, cold, medium-smoky.

Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, onions, Tiger Sauce (buy local!), mustard, vinegar, Old Bay.

Ambience: Next door to Terri's Dog Boutique, up the street from a biker speed shop. Old shipping container a good touch.

Price: $3.35.

Freddie's Open Pit Beef.

Address: 8027 Belair Road, behind JC's Crab House.

Construction materials: Aluminum siding.

Cooking method: Charcoal in a brick-lined pit.

Meat quality: Slicer-cut in perfect circles, tender, smoky, easy-to-eat smallish portion. Missing a certain soul.

Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, barbecue, onions.

Ambience: Whole family in the act, almost like a commercial restaurant. Surrounded by asphalt, feed lots, car dealers. Friendly as all get-out.

Price: $2.65, a bargain.

Tempo Pit Beef.

Address: 402 Back River Neck Road.

Construction materials: Brown wood.

Cooking method: Charcoal.

Meat quality: Top round, medium smoky, rich. Sloppy trimming left our sandwiches fatty.

Fixin's: Mayo, mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, two cuts of onions (diced and ring), Old Bay, vinegar, Tabasco, horseradish.

Ambience: Next to Tempo Lounge; bull horns above the counter, string of dried red peppers to ward off evil spirits, dusty parking lot.

Price: $3.75, but worth it.

Tom's Pit Beef.

Address: 33rd Street and Keswick Avenue, sidewalk in front of Benjamin's Tavern.

Construction: No shack, just a cooker on the corner.

Cooking method: Fan-blown hardwood charcoal.

Meat quality: Hand-trimmed top round. Mammoth portions, cut to order.

Fixin's: Mayo, horseradish, barbecue sauce (two kinds), onions.

Ambience: Hampden street-corner slice-of-life; beers to go from Benjamin's, where guys sip long-necked Buds while watching the O's on a Saturday afternoon. Note: closed in July and August.

Price: $3.50 and a fair deal at that.

Boog's Corner

L Address: Eutaw Street pavilion, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Construction: Mobile cart with awning.

Cooking method: Kingsford Charcoal, apparently the official charcoal of Boog, judging by the plugs all over the stand.

Meat quality: Solid but dry. Big servings cut nice and thick, though by machine.

Fixin's: Horseradish, barbecue sauce, onions, mustard, ketchup, Tabasco.

Ambience: Hard to beat having a major league baseball game nearby. But getting a sandwich during a game is a little like executing a triple play: It requires expert timing and an ability to exploit unusual opportunities. The lines start forming before game time, grow into a 30-minute ordeal, and by the sixth or seventh inning, the cart seems to run out of everything but baked beans.

Price: $5.25. Outrageous, but isn't everything at the park?

WHAT"S YOUR FAVORITE

Hey, why didn't you guys review the place on my corner? Well, it seems some pit beef stands are here today, gone tomorrow, just like summer -- and most aren't in the Yellow Pages. So if your favorite pit beef stand is missing from this list, fret not. Just send a note with its name and address to Pit Beef Roundup, c/o Michael Davis, Executive Editor, Sun Magazine, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. We'll get the word out in a future issue.

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