Bear Creek Open Pit BBQ - decent, but disappointing
I attempted to submit this review for the website, but after catching an error twice, opted to post it here instead.
Having been introduced to BBQ by the now defunct Hocutt's Carolina BBQ (the standard by which I judge all others at this point), the rave reviews for Bear Creek Pit BBQ lead me to plan a short vacation in southern Maryland specifically with a stop or two there in mind. So maybe it was a case of impossibly high hopes, but I found Bear Creek, while not bad by any stretch of the imagination, to be very disappointing.
You go in and make your order at the counter, then take a seat and wait for your meal to be brought to you. Stepping into the front room with the big pit and all the cuts of meat cooking over it is tantalizing. I ordered a sliced pork sandwich and frito pie.
The dining room, incidentally, is one of the finest I've ever seen in a roadfood joint. Most of the tables and chairs were unique, and the entire room was decorated with animal trophies up to and including a small black bear, as well as all sorts of old photos of hunters and relics of the 17th and 18th centuries - old bullets, bags of flour, and the like. It was almost enough to be a miniature museum, and possibly worth a visit just to see.
The sandwich, however, was awful. Literally pure fat without enough meat to make a meal on. The staff took it away and, without being asked, brought a replacement that was better. Still, the portions were not as generous as they were in the pictures (this held true with almost everything ordered), the pork had little flavor, and it got cold quickly. The Frito pie was good but not exceptional. The chili was made with ground beef and kidney beans. It came out very hot. The chili had a moderate heat level in it that overwhelmed at first, but as the dish cooled the rest of the flavors came out, and in the end it was more than satisfactory. The portion was very generous and more than enough for a meal.
The person I was eating dinner with ordered the two meat combo with pulled pork and sliced ham. The pork was decent, but I found it lacking a strong flavor of either smoke or pork. This assessment was disagreed with by the person who ordered it. I didn't care for the ham at all, but I generally don't like ham in the first place. The greens the combo came with were truly excellent, but the coleslaw was below average and uninspired. Both came with cornbread that was on the dry side but still well above average at least, thick and rugged with a bare hint of sweetness, the kind that needs something to be dunked in and would hold up to the experience.
There was a case in the front that held what appeared to be high-end factory deserts - a caramel apple cheesecake stood out and had I not been full I'd have probably ordered a slice. They also sell large homemade cookies.
Bear Creek was good enough that it demanded a second chance, but it was not as good the other Maryland BBQ locations I'm familiar with; Andy Nelson's BBQ, which is on this website, and Kloby's Backyard BBQ and The Big Bad Wolf, neither of which are.