Among the recent announcements of restaurants forced to shutter, there is a bit of light, as new restaurant, Pit Stop, gets ready to open this Sunday.
Last July, the barbecue restaurant housed in a renovated auto garage on The Hill, J Smug’s GastroPit, closed for service. Owner Joe Smugala announced the restaurant would be moving and the prior space would transition into a new concept called Pit Stop, but other than a brief tease, he shared no other details or descriptions. (Along with another couple, Smugala and his wife own the popular steakhouse Carnivore, also on the Hill.)
“When we decided to make the move with GastroPit to the larger space, a lot of people asked if I would give this place up,” says Smugala. “There were a lot of people interested in taking over my lease but I didn’t want to give this place up. It’s such a great location and a unique spot. I knew I didn’t want to let go of it.”
In the fall, veteran chef Grace Dinsmoor came on board to lend her expertise to all three restaurants.
The small interior of the renovated service station at 2130 Macklind now has an interior with rustic and industrial elements. Taking up the majority of the space is a newly constructed back bar utilizing reclaimed barn-wood from a farm in Illinois. Steel pipes support wood shelves and simple bare Edison bulb pendants light the space. Televisions are new, as are the live edge tables.
For the menu, Smugala turned to his chef at the GastroPit, Carlos Hernandez. “Carlos has the ability to infuse flavors from all over the world into his dishes and it works,” said Smugala.
Hernandez has come up with an eclectic menu with appetizers that include smoked chicken tacos with crunchy shells and a poblano pico and a smoky brisket toasted ravioli. A roasted sunflower hummus crudite is just one of the vegetarian offerings. “We created several vegetarian options and I’m working on more vegan options so there is something for everyone,” says Hernandez.
The rest of the menu is split among entrees like a guajillo braised pork belly, with fennel puree, shiitakes, and a jalapeño crema. Grilled salmon is served with bamboo rice and a pistachio pesto. Red snapper and an airline chicken breast with spaetzle and mushroom au jus are also offered.
Smoked ribs, fried chicken, burgers, salads, and wraps are available. “We season our fried chicken using local Andy’s Seasoning,” said Smugala. “And of course, Carlos adds his secret spices as well.”
The restaurant opens for dinner service this Sunday evening with the large majority of the seating being outside on the patio space in front of the restaurant and a second side patio. The restaurant will offer wine and beer, and in a few weeks a full bar will be available. “We’ll be making a lot of interesting and unique cocktails and drinks,” said Smugala. Lunch service will start in about a month.
Walk-in, phone-in and online ordering will be available starting Sunday evening as well.
“Anyone is going to be able to come in here for a great meal and be comfortable. It can be a business meeting or a first date or just a dinner out during the week,” said Smugala. “We’re happy to be a full service restaurant with a unique space in a great neighborhood.”