Unlike most folks, I am not partial to North Carolina-style barbecue or Texas-style barbarcue or any of the others. I just know if it tastes good to me or not. Usually, I tend to like the vinegary sauces rather than the tomato ones, but I can be won over as long as I can still taste the meat.
That being said, JL’s Open Pit Bar-B-Q is just OK. There are other elements of the restaurant that are stronger than the barbecue, but it’s something to think about if your signature item is not as good as your others. The ribs were too chewy to even finish, but the sliced turkey with the hot barbecue sauce poured on it was tasty. The half chicken was exceedingly dry, and I had to pour sauce all over it to get it down. We took most of the items on a picnic, so maybe some of the food lost something once we left the restaurant.
The best side we tried was the twice-baked potato. I remember having these when I was little.It was always one of my favorites, but too much of a bother. I enjoyed the one I had at JL’s and highly recommend it. The sweet potato was also really well cooked -- tender and steamy. The potato salad, however, was inedible, as was the coleslaw. There was a twang to both of them that tasted like they might be on their way out. The baked beans were good, very sweet with bits of meat throughout.
The salad bar seemed a bit pricey for what it was: mostly iceberg lettuce with the usual toppings plus two or three hot items and banana pudding. I’ve gotten pretty good at sniffing out homemade banana pudding, and I’d guess this pudding is from a can. The other desserts are advertised as homemade, and they were better. We filled our fairly empty stomachs with pecan pie, key lime cake, and peach cobbler.
Other items you can try are prime rib, sirloin steak and even Savannah fried shrimp. Going at lunch instead of dinner saves you about $2 on whatever you order. Check their Facebook page for their daily specials before you go.
With all the other barbecue places in the area, I would like to see JL’s step up their game and differentiate themselves from their competition by taking a little more time to assure that the meat itself is top notch and making sure JL’s is offering value for your money. With a giant new barbecue place down the road, some of the local barbecue joints are bound to lose business. It will be important to rise to the top if the existing restaurants hope to survive.
Restaurant: JL’s Open Pit Bar-B-Q
Address: 5001 Brookhaven Road
Payment: cash, credit
Kids Menu: yes
Noise Level: low
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Health Rating: 100
Price range: $5-10
Rating: 2 stars