Sligo Pit BBQ has opened in the former snack bar at Sligo Creek Golf Course, serving barbeque daily to golfers and local residents alike.
Josh Carin was hired about a year ago as director of hospitality for the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which manages the Sligo Creek course along with eight other county golf courses through its MCG division.
One of the first things he was asked to do was to tour the courses.
“As soon as I saw this place, I thought to myself ‘This is a gold mine. This is a greasy-spoon dive, and it needs to be maintained in that manner,’” Carin said.
He told Keith Miller, head of MCRA, the same thing.
“I said you go into that place and it has old paneling,” Carin said. “It has stainless steel refrigerators that go back to the 50s that they don’t make anymore. It has curves like cars, Cadillacs from the 60s. You can’t buy it [anymore].”
Carin recommended to Miller and David DeGirolamo, the course’s general manager, changing the snack bar into a barbecue joint. They came up with the name and began developing the menu during the course’s off season.
Carin, who barbecues as a hobby and competitively, also is the pit master. Old Smoky was moved it to the course about a month and half ago.
“This is a smoker that I bought on eBay, and it was my original smoker and I was so successful, I could not keep up with it,” he said. “It’s folk art, to be quite honest. This is all scrap metal that was assembled by a Vietnam vet in his backyard.”
The menu features smoked beef brisket, turkey, chicken and pulled pork, with sides such as cole slaw, baked beans and mac and cheese. (They also offer the burgers and hot dogs from the old snack bar menu).
The meat is brined for 24 hours, Carin said, and is smoked for two to six hours (depending on the but), then goes into a Dutch oven at 200 degrees over night. Currently, in order to meet the demand, the meats are done in oak-fired smokers at other sites and trucked to the pit’s location at 9701 Sligo Creek Parkway.
Beginning this weekend, Sligo Pit will be offering smoked short ribs done on site in Old Smoky every Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to a need to increase the revenues generated by the golf course, the decision to make the change to a barbecue restaurant largely was driven by the community, Carin said.
“We were looking for something that could serve the community,” he said. “That was important to us. The county executive [and Miller] had, in speaking to the community, had been told for years, ‘We need a place to go. We need a restaurant, we need something.’”
Sligo Creek Golf Association (which once had an adversarial relationship with the county and the authority over various issues, including possibly closing the course) also wanted to see changes that would serve the residents that surround it, and favored a restaurant as well.
“So the pit was born,” Carin said. “The exciting thing to note is since we opened [April 3], revenue for the pit is up over 300 percent a day over what they were doing a year ago just as a golf course.”
He also pointed out that the majority of people coming to the pit are not golfers.
“What’s happening is people are stopping because they see the signs on the road that say ‘barbecue’ and they see the smoker, and they’re coming in,” Carin said. “We’re seeing a lot of carryout, we’re seeing people eating here, we’re seeing a lot of families here.”
The pit can seat 16 people at tables inside, along with six bar stools. There’s seating for about 60 at tables outside, with room to grow that capacity as needed (catering is available as well).
The pit is open daily Monday-Friday at 10:30 a.m. and weekends from 8:30 a.m. “’til the meat runs out,” as the tagline says.
Carin also pointed out that his smokers are different from the gas-fired units that are much more common, but are basically run by gas and computers, flavored with a few logs.
“It makes a really nice product,” he said. “It makes a very consistent product.
“The smokers we’re using are wood. There are no gas lines, there is nothing,” Carin continued. “You are a pit master—you need to know what you’re doing. You have to control the heat, because it’s going to impact the product.”
In the meantime, Carin is thinking big.
“My goal,” Carin concluded, “is for this place to get on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This is that place.”
Photo of Old Smoky at Sligo Pit BBQ by Mike Diegel.