Port-A-Pit? It sounds like something I avoid at outdoor concerts. But I've passed the sign so many times after leaving Keaton's outside Statesville, I finally had to stop and figure it out.
It's not easy. When you spot the sign on U.S. 64, right next to the Cool Spring Fire Department and just before the John Deere dealership, there is no obvious sign of a restaurant. Just the sign and a gravel road leading into a field. But the field is full of trucks with "Port-A-Pit Barbecue" painted on their sides. So there's got to be something in that building at the back, right?
Is it in that machine shop on the left? No, that's just the whine of power tools. Wait, the right side of the building, where the steps are -- ah, that's it.
You still have to go all the way around to the back and through the door. And you're still puzzled: You're in the small office of Koala-T-Katering. The guy on the phone in the back doesn't even look up. But if you turn right, there's the catering kitchen. A line of women are rapidly dealing cups of sauce into take-out boxes on one side. On the other side, there's a line of steam trays with chicken, pork, ribs and the day's vegetables, and a couple of tables lined up to herd you toward cash register. Takeout is the only choice.
Since I was on my third lunch of the day, I just opted for a pork barbecue sandwich for $3.25. That brought a very generous pile of already sauced, shredded pork, a hamburger bun, a large serving of coleslaw -- choice of mayo-based or red -- and two little cups of barbecue sauce. There are a few benches outside, but your car is the most comfortable place to sit.
The barbecue is smoky, moist and already sauced, the sauce on the side is dark, sweet and tastes strongly of liquid smoke.
Port-A-Pit must operate on the Smucker's theory -- with a name like that, they have to serve something good.
Port-A-Pit BBQ, 119 Marshall Forest Lane (behind Cool Spring Fire Department on U.S. 64 East), Statesville. 704-872-9778. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday only. www.portapit.biz Prices range from $3.25 for a barbecue sandwich, $5 for a barbecue tray, $4.75 to $8.25 for chicken, rib or pork plates with two sides and bread or hush puppies.