By Erika Webb
If you live on the north side of DeLand or in DeLeon Springs, just throw away your stove. You won't need your flatware either. Grocery shopping is not a pleasure anywhere, so quit doing that, too. Follow me to Pitmasters BBQ.
Let's not put a lamp shade on the elephant here. The truth is there are a lot of barbecue restaurants around. But how many have seafood, steaks, pork chops, specialty stews, chili, Philly cheese steaks, Cuban sandwiches and appetizers galore.
Owner Sam "Poppy" Trivett tried fishing, then competitive barbecuing after he retired. Being a person who never does anything half way, he found himself competing successfully in the Memphis in May, and Kansas City and Florida Barbecue Association competitions; he never left without a trophy from some category.
But he found the competitions didn't take up enough of his time. If you want something to take up a bunch of your time, open a restaurant.
"We started this because we wanted something to do and found out we truly love it," Mr. Trivett said. "We love the customers and love the people who work with us here."
Space won't permit a description of all 13 appetizer choices, but here's an example: Fried Tater Wedges -- potatoes baked and then lightly breaded and fried crisp, dusted with a spicy seasoning, covered in cheese, topped with chopped bacon and served with sour cream and jalapenos on the side. It's enough for two people to share.
Southern-style cooking is about creating and preserving tradition, like a gastronomical scrapbook. Take, for example, the Mountain Mama Platter with pinto beans, cooked with ham hocks; mixed greens cooked with rib trimmings; sweet creamy coleslaw or "tater" salad; and cornbread. It was Mr. Trivett's Mama's favorite meal.
Pitmasters BBQ combinations prove it doesn't pay to cook at home. The Rib Combo for Two features one full rack of baby back ribs, choice of eight spare ribs or eight St. Louis-style ribs with four regular sides and four pieces of Texas toast ($26.99).
The Combo for Four to Six is designed to feed the family. That one includes one whole chicken, one pound of pork and brisket, eight ribs, eight regular sides and four pieces of Texas toast, all for $48.99.
Then there's the all-you-can-eat buffet and salad bar -- $10 for lunch; $12 for dinner.
"We have people that eat with us seven days a week," Mr. Trivett said.
From a first glance at the menu I knew, I had to try the BBQ salad because it had all of the elements, and it's a Pitmaster original. But first, the fried green tomatoes.
They were incredibly fresh, vine-sweet and juicy underneath the lightly-battered crunch. Something unusual, they were the perfect temperature. The accompanying thick, creamy remoulade sauce had a hint of smoke, making it the best I've tasted yet.
The brisket on top of the salad truly melted in my mouth. Not too smoky and not too sweet, it persuaded me to continue eating after I was full.
My co-diner ordered the Angus Burger and fries. Then she stopped talking. Nodding her appreciation, she cut me a piece of the sandwich -- a perfect medium-rare chunk of prime beef on a grilled, buttery bun. No wonder she was speechless.
The service was great. Our server, Melissa, was prompt, friendly, efficient and very knowledgeable about the food at Pitmasters. Her enthusiasm for the food she serves was refreshing.
Inside, Pitmasters is homey, like a big country family room with an enormous brick fireplace as the focal point. Ample seating, including roomy booths and tables, allows diners their space and privacy.
Out back is where the party is. A huge deck -- with bar, plenty of seating and retractable awnings for protection from rain and cold -- overlooks the game area with volleyball court, horseshoe and corn-tossing pits, fire pit and picnic tables. The setup is ideal for parties. Speaking of parties, Pitmasters will cater any event, "from 25 to 2,500 of your closest friends."
If you didn't save room, take home whichever of Pitmasters scratch-made desserts are available: fresh baked cobblers, apple dumpling, old-fashioned banana pudding, peanut butter pie, key lime pie, chocolate brownie, and ... drum roll please ... bread pudding made from scratch in a variety of flavors ranging from chocolate to butterscotch to fruity, served with ice cream. "Poppy" makes these when he feels like it, so get 'em when you can.
"All of our recipes come from my mother and grandmother," Mr. Trivett said. "It's real honest to goodness down-home food."
I'll eat to that!
Pitmasters BBQ is at 4425 N. U.S. 17 in DeLand. Call (386) 985-4488 or visit www.thepitmasterbbq.com.