Chicken is what they do best at Big Ed’s Chicken Pit. This particular piece of bird, a leg and thigh combo, has been herbed and roasted, then served with two sides. (photo by Brian Clarey)
The High Point restaurant scene is full of idiosyncrasies. It’s a place where fine-dining establishments share street space with 50-year-old sandwich joints, where one of the best steak houses in town is on a university campus, where pizza and Chinese food were slow to catch on.
It’s also a place where an eatery that describes itself as a “pit” can withstand the test of time.
Big Ed’s Chicken Pit is named for the father of the owner, Beth Jones, and the barbecue pit that came with the place when she and her husband Clay opened it 11 years ago. And while for most people, pit cooking is synonymous with pork, at the Chicken Pit they focus on the bird.
There is chopped chicken barbecue. There is chicken pie and chicken salad. Chicken tenders are dipped and fried in-house. Barbecued chicken ranges from mild to hot, and the Buffalo wings have become a citywide favorite.
The lunch menu also features roasted chicken, with a leg-thigh combo paired with a couple sides and a drink running less than $5. I’m all over it. And when I ask my server if that will be enough food, she sort of… laughs at me.
“Oh yeah,” she says. The Chicken Pit itself is not without its charming quirks. They only accept cash, though there is a cash machine on-site. And though they sell beer, you can’t order one unless you’re eating.
Fetching, too, is the dcor: natural wood paneling, tables and booths; family photos and artifacts on the walls; a lunchtime crowd that runs from retired folks to quick-bite business people to regular working stiffs — sometimes at the same table.
It’s tucked off Main Street, near a bowling alley, with no street-front signage or anything else to alert you to its existence. And the parking lot is so small that one always gets the impression the place is packed — though to be fair at mealtimes it generally holds a healthy-sized crowd.
Another peculiarity of the place: Before becoming mayor of High Point, Becky Smothers, Beth’s mother, used to make the slaw.
The food comes out fast, and the smell is comforting. The mashed potatoes are real, buttered and salted, and have no need for gravy. And the green beans have taken on a fatback sheen.
But chicken is the house specialty. Mine wears a gentle coating of herbs, and though it lacks the crispy skin I love on my roasted chicken, I’m pretty sure if I came in earlier it would have. The meat falls off the bone when I twist off the leg, and the flavor is, again, a comfort. It sits upon a bed of white rice, which soaks up all the juices that can’t be gotten with the small roll.
And yes, it was enough food, but I still ordered a piece of deep-dish triple chocolate cake that may have come from the mayor’s own recipe book. It comes out warm, marbled with dark and white cake and with a schmear of ganache melting on top. As I eat it I realize this cake is just an hour or so old.
The cake is fabulous with coffee, but in the end my server was right:
I could barely finish half the cake, and I took the rest of the coffee to go.
Big Ed’s Chicken Pit 105 W. Peachtree Drive, High Point, 336.869.7584