I love being from a part of the country without its own true barbecue tradition. I'm not from Memphis, or Kansas City. I can love my ribs dry or wet. I'm not from North Carolina or Texas. I can eat pork slathered in vinegar sauce or succulent brisket with sauce spicy and red and only on the side. I'm not from South Carolina where it's all about mustard, or Baltimore where its all about...
...pit cooking. Pit beef. Pit sausage. Pit turkey and ham. Good lord the smoke and the iron at Chaps. That's where you should focus your peepers as soon as your order is placed and you're around the corner waiting to pick it up.
Baltimore's barbecue is pit. And most folks who even know Baltimore has its own barbecue know it's pit beef. Roast beef, 'hon, slow cooked in the pit. Chaps will offer you rare, medium or well on its menu.
Ok, back up. In a day full of Italian, Greek, and German delis, markets, and butchers, SM, Suzu, A.S., and Fetz (Oh, dear Lord, Fetz), Amanda and I needed a break, and we needed to eat. Naturally, after looking at so much soprosetta, prosciutto, bauernwurst, weisswurst, haloumi, mozzarrella, and feta; we needed to eat meat and cheese on bread.
To Chaps we go, to pay homage to Baltimore Pit Beef and get our "Guy's Been Here" on. Yes, we pay attention to such things as Diners...and Drive-Ins...and we all love Dives. Get over it, it's a fun show and I want to eat that food more often then not when I'm on the road.
Suzu'd been there before. So I took her advice and went for the Bull Dog. A hefty hoagie roll stuffed with smoked pork sausage, pit beef (rare here), and 'Merican cheese product.
Hit the condiment bar after you get your tray for pepper relish (hothothotgood), onions, pickles, and HORSERADISH. God there was just a TUB of horseradish and a spoon. All for me (and the other customers). Definitely in love with that.
Sit and eat.
Tried a bite of SM's pit turkey sammich and have to please ask every major brand of deli meat to shut up, stop what they are doing, and go directly to Chaps to find out what smoked turkey SHOULD taste like. Really. Do it now. I'll take a number and wait in line until you have.
The Bull Dog was loaded up with pepper relish, horseradish and raw onion, and it was gooooood. The sausage was coarse ground in what felt like natural casing. Some crushed pepper heat led me to believe Italian hot was the family/species. Rare pit beef on top was smoky and indeed rare. Delicious, moist beef. Cheese melted just enough underneath to hold the sausage/bread together in my hands. Well done on the construction of a sandwich Chaps peeps.
Sides of mac n' cheese (OK, creamy, a little on the 'Oh, it's cheddar" side) and Fries with Gravy. Who knew Bal'mer imitated Pennsylvania that well? Hand cut. Somewhere between a shoestring and a steak fry, and drenched in brown gravy. This is the only time I don't absolutely require crispy to rate fries on the high end of the spectrum. And with a small absolutely overflowing from a standard small to-go container, it's worth the upsell.
Few seats for what I imagine are huge crowds of locals on non-holiday weekends. Five or so picnic tables out back, a few small tables and one large picnic table inside.
Staff knows the menu and the expediter even knows the foodie geek with a camera, barking at the grill station to step back for a minute so I could get a good shot. Not getting in the way of the food, mind you, but definitely worth a hat tip and an extra exclamation point or two in the review.
I'm sure other folks have raved about it already, and I'm late to the party; but Chaps is a brilliant find in a city full of great food.
On a sunny saturday afternoon with a gang of old and new friends out to see a city and taste what it has to offer I can think of few better, or more local, spots to stop and eat than a roadside pit beef shack on a busy four lane north of downtown that doesn't cling to tradition but rather proudly recreates day in and day out Baltimore's offering to the world of barbecue.