When Susie and I don't agree on what to watch, something trite like Diners, Drive In's, and Dives becomes the fall back. One time, when absentmindedly watching the show, I noticed the dude talking about something in Baltimore called "Pit Beef."
I consider myself to be a connoisseur of roast beef sandwiches. There are famous French family stories about my love of roast beef. It was an Arby's roast beef sandwich that mistakenly was covered in cheese sauce that made me sick, creating my gag reflex to cheese. As a three year old, one night my parents heard me screaming in my bed room. They ran into the room, only to find me sitting up in bed. They asked me if I was ok. With my eyes closed, I said "I want a double roast beef sandwich!" and then slumped back to my pillow. Finally, a few weeks before I started in the 7th grade, I had what was supposed to be outpatient surgery to remove a benign bone tumor from my upper right arm. I reacted poorly to the anesthetic and was hospitalized overnight after vomiting repeatedly. When the affect wore off, I had a, you guessed it, a roast beef sandwich! I was so hungry that I asked the nurse for another one. My mother (who also worked for the hospital) reported to me later that my chart indicated that "Jonathan is a very hungry boy who enjoys roast beef." Needless to say, in my inner circle, it is commonly known that a roast beef sandwich is a quicker avenue to my heart than just about anything. Even pie!
As I got older, I found a particular affinity for eating leftover London broil and standing rib roast slices on sandwiches. That has been my go to. Yet, given my poor history with slow cooking meat, they are rare delicacies reserved for the holidays.
So, after seeing this episode, where the dude visits a place called Chaps Pit Beef on the east side of Baltimore, a seed was planted. Later, I sampled the delicacy for the first time at the Pasadena, MD fishing flea market back in February of 2016. The smells from the wood-powered smoker were so succulent that I squealed with delight as I stood in that line on the cold February morning. The sandwich was delicious, yet, Pasadena is in Maryland.
Maryland and I have a checkered past. On occasion, I have crossed the Potomac in an attempt to fish in Annapolis, Cambridge, or Ocean City. But, it is difficult. I don't like Old Bay. The traffic is awful. The people are worse. And, the fishing has rarely been good enough to cope with either. As I have aged (and lived in Northern Virginia where even a three mile drive can turn into an ulcer-inducing stroke waiting to happen), I find myself less and less inclined to cross the dreaded Potomac into the vast wasteland known as Muhr-Lahnd.
I spent Monday and Tuesday at a work conference in Baltimore. Friends who have relocated to that area asked me if I was coming back for this year's edition of the Pasadena fishing show. They poured water on the seed. I debated it. I started talking to my Susie about it. And, by last night, I had her researching Pit Beef. That lead us to a fateful decision. We would go to the Pasadena show, and then find the best Pit Beef on the west side of Baltimore to enjoy a family lunch.
The search lead us to Pioneer Pit Beef. It is a small shack, behind a liquor store off of Johnnycake Road in Catonsville MD. It was not an easy drive from Pasadena, and I was filled with doubt after passing up a Pit Beef sandwich at the volunteer fire department that hosted the fishing show. I am happy to say that I was wrong.
The shack looks suspect, but was worth every miserable moment of driving through that wretched cesspool of a state. They are cash only. You walk in through the left door and find the menu written on a wall. You order through the left window and it comes out the right window. You can get Pit Beef, ham, or turkey in a variety of sizes. I purchased a Super Pit Beef (large size) with just some honey mustard (yes, I panicked because I didn't know which would be the best.) Susie got a Pit Beef medium rare with tiger sauce, onions, and horseradish sauce. The kiddo got one with barbecue sauce. We shared an order of gravy fries. Each of us were given a sample, spoken to like we were visiting a ChikFilA while the national office is visiting, and were in and out in five minutes. With that, we went back to the car and started to sample the source of the amazing smells.
Oh... my... god... the juiciness, the tenderness, the manna! I don't know if I have ever had a sandwich so deliciously constructed in my life. The meat is the perfect mix of smoky, juicy, and tender. The gravy fries were layered, messy, and succulent. I am not ashamed to admit that I went back in and bashfully ordered a second sandwich.
Do you think I am exaggerating? Challenge me. Make sure your crew is there to witness it. I don't take traveling to Muhr-Land lightly. Go there, enjoy a sandwich. You just might get embarrassed, by your gluttony. FIVE F'N STARS
Why are you still reading this? Plan your travel. Do it. And, bring me one.