After ordering a half slab of ribs and fried catfish at Smoke in the Pit, Powderhorn’s new takeout barbecue joint, we wondered aloud if we should get anything else. “How about smoked wings?” the friendly woman behind the counter asked. “Sure, throw in four!”
Later, while enjoying our meal in Minnehaha Park, we’d lament not ordering a dozen — or more. A beautiful leathery brown, Smoke’s juicy, salty wings are deliciously, well, smoky. Unlike the deep-fried variety, these wings pack a ton of flavor without leaving your face a greasy mess. The chicken is so flavorful that we forgot about the side of dipping sauce.
Dwight Alexander, pitmaster and owner (top), lets the wings steep in smoke from smoldering sweet wood, but he can’t really tell you how long it takes. An old-school, proud artisan, Alexander doesn’t use a computer, timer, or any other fancy gadgets to aid his cooking process — he just waits and waits and waits until he senses the food is done. Hence, he gives ranges of time (“Oh, four to five hours…”) when asked how long he cooks this or that meat. Both humble and confident, the wiry craftsman from Little Rock, Arkansas, absolutely refuses to char his meat over an open flame (that’s not real barbecue) and shakes his head disapprovingly over those who do.
Alexander’s dry-rubbed pork ribs are just as flavorful as his wings. Seven or so hours on the grill produces an exquisite bark that’s as tasty as it is attractive. The meat is lean, exceptionally smoky, and impressively moist. These are “fall-off-the-bone” ribs — the bones pull right out of the meat with a slight tug. (If you prefer your ribs to put up a bit of a fight, you’re better off getting your dry-rubbed slabs from Q Fanatic in Champlin.) Like the wings, the ribs don’t need sauce, which is a good thing since Alexander’s barbecue sauce is too sweet and one-note for our tastes. We felt similarly about the baked beans and coleslaw.
Along with barbecued meats, Smoke in the Pit offers several fried dishes. We sampled the cornmeal-crusted catfish. The coating keeps the fish moist and adds excellent texture, but it’s a little too thick, leaving the overall dish a tad dry. Since we weren’t crazy about the barbecue sauce or coleslaw, we pined for lemon or hot sauce to complement the fish. Although it wasn’t ideal, we’d order the fish again.
Smoke in the Pit is a great addition to the Twin Cities’ barbecue and take-out scenes. Alexander and his wife Ivy, who takes orders and keeps the ship on course, are passionate about food and committed to making their storefront a Minneapolis institution.
Although their side dishes and sauce could use some tweaking, their meats — especially those wings — are sure to earn a committed following and become staples at picnics, potlucks, and other events requiring real barbecue.
Smoke in the Pit
Take-out barbecue in Powderhorn
3733 Chicago Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
OWNER / CHEF: Dwight Alexander
HOURS: Mon-Thurs, 11am-8pm, Fri and Sat 11am-9pm, Sunday closed
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: No / No
ENTREE RANGE: $5.25-24