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The Bear Pit Bar-B-Q Review
Yesterday was Father’s Day, and my father-in-law’s food choice was BBQ. He loves eating old school style: think the Smoke House, Pink’s, El Coyote – and to this day laments the closing of the Tips Restaurant on Lyons Avenue in Santa Clarita. So when he picked The Bear Pit, a 50-plus-year-old, Missouri-style BBQ restaurant in the Valley (on Sepulveda near the 118 freeway) the rest of us were only too happy to oblige.
When we arrived at The Bear Pit around 2 pm for a late lunch, there was still a little bit of a wait. (Seems like when many Dads take a Sunday off from manning meats on the grill, they choose restaurants that, umm, grill meats.) It seemed popular, which is always a good sign. But then we ate the food, and I realized how much middle America loves just average restaurant food, especially when it’s piled high on a plate.
Most of us ordered the dinner special, which includes soup or salad, two sides, tater tot-like potatoes and garlic toast. Two members of our party ordered the BBQ beef, one person ordered the baby back ribs and I ordered the BBQ chicken. After we got our order in, it took a little while to get our drinks. I don’t think that an order of two Diet Cokes, a Sprite and a regular Coke was that complicated, but I know that wait staffs are always slammed on holidays so stuff like this is to be expected at restaurants, right?
Our appetizers – a creamy chicken soup, coleslaw and two iceberg lettuce-based salads -- arrived first. And the salads were just as expected for iceberg dinner salads. Though I asked for my dressing on the side, I got a ladleful of the sesame dressing on top. But hey, it was Father’s Day and the staff was busy, so I just dealt with a little more dressing. The sour cream-based and vinegary tasting cole slaw was not overwhelmingly creamy so that choice was definitely a hit with the person that ordered it.She was the lucky one.
Next up came the entrees. The huge plates of beef BBQ looked really juicy, but aside from the sauce on top of it, the meat itself really had no flavor and it was chewy to boot. The baked beans looked more like a baked bean soup. I like my beans less wet and a wee bit thicker. On the other hand, the baby back ribs had a lot both meat and flavor – and the half slab was plenty big. The garlic cheese toast was decent, but when you’ve had the garlic bread at the Smoke House, it’s hard to find garlic toast that even comes close.
But then it came time for my BBQ ½-chicken dinner, which I was greatly looking forward to since I hadn’t eaten breakfast. When the plate arrived, it looked like an entire crispy chicken that had been left in the rotisserie at Ralphs for one too many spit turns. After eating half of the dry chicken dinner and washing it down with some baked-bean soup, I realized that there was a little cup of BBQ sauce – on the side. Just how my salad dressing was supposed to be. I thought about telling our waitress, but she looked stressed and busy and I wasn’t going to eat any more, so why bother asking her to change it?
None of us could finish our food, and it wasn’t good enough for seconds. Needless to say, we all skipped dessert. Even though we were full, and the lunch didn't make a huge dent in our wallets (total = $65), we left The Bear Pit less than satisfied.
The Bear Pit
10825 Sepulveda Boulevard
Mission Hills, CA 91345