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Ed Mitchell leaving the Pit to open new restaurant

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Famous eastern North Carolina barbecue pitmaster Ed Mitchell is leaving The Pit in downtown Raleigh and plans to open another restaurant in the Triangle, according to a press release that went out today.

Meanwhile, Mitchell's former business partner, Greg Hatem, announced that he would be opening a second location of The Pit in downtown Durham later this year or early next year.

Mitchell is a well-regarded barbecue pitmaster who originally transformed his family's Wilson grocery store in 1990 into a barbecue destination. As Mitchell's profile started to rise, he stumbled as a businessman. He ended up in a squabble with the bank that resulted in litigation and that restaurant was closed in 2004. A year later, he was convicted of failure to pay state sales taxes related to the business and served 30 days in jail. 

But in 2007, Mitchell's resurrection on the barbecue scene seemed assured. He partnered with downtown Raleigh developer Greg Hatem to open The Pit. Hatem operates Empire Eats and has stakes in several downtown Raleigh restaurants, including  The Raleigh Times, The Morning Times, Sitti, Gravy and Fai Thai. It seemed at the time like a good pairing: Mitchell with the barbecue expertise and being a known barbecue personality and Hatem with the business sense and an existing centralized system for running the restaurant's payroll, ordering and logistics.

Mitchell's return to the restaurant scene was covered extensively in the national food magazines. Then a 2009 appearance on "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay," the Food Network star, made the Raleigh restaurant even more popular than it already was. The restaurant even began selling its own brand of barbecue sauces at Williams-Sonoma stores.

But now that partnership has come to an end. In a phone interview, Mitchell said: "I thought it was time to move on. There were some other things I wanted to do to take my vision to the next level. I'm very happy that Greg and I did something great. The opportunity was very appreciated."

Mitchell didn't want to discuss his next restaurant project but hopes to within a month's time. The press release directs the public to this website for updates:

Mitchell did reveal that he plans to partner with Butterball, which is headquartered in Garner, to make turkey barbecue. He will be showing off that dish at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party next month in New York City. (Mitchell is a founding pitmaster at the block party and this is his ninth year to cook for the event.)

Reached on the phone, Hatem said, "We enjoyed our relationship with Ed Mitchell. Ed wants to pursue the Ed Mitchell brand. We want to continue pursuing great North Carolina whole hog barbecue."

Hatem added that nothing will change at the Pit restaurant. The recipes, sauces and dishes will not be altered due to Mitchell's departure.

Hatem added that they plan to open a catering kitchen to help the restaurant keep up with demand and be able to offering catering services.


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Good Blog

Through this post I have known about the Ed Mitchell leaving the Pit to open new restaurant. A place where people pay to eat meals. This is a good information mate you have posted in this website which may come to help us more.

An Ed-less Pit

I knew Ed in his wiltson restaurant days. He definitely does a good job with barbecue. In fact, I had suggested he go to Raleigh b/c at the time, you couldn't charge over about $7 for a BBQ plate in Wiltson. I think the initial partnership with Hatem was good for both.  But I have noticed as I stop by there about every other month or so, Ed was there less and less. Ed, as a person, tends to be "more show than go". Commensurately, I think Hatem & Ed parting is probably good for both.  I think their movie has played out. As a side note, Mr. Hatem, please fix the barbecued chicken.  They departed awhile back from the original vinegar based sauce.  Now it tastes like there's worcheshire sauce and garlic in it. Yuck!  Barbecue is still the best, imo.

Oh, and Bill's; not so much. The Mexicans working in the kitchen put peppers in EVERYTHING. All the vegetables.  Barbecue is hit or miss.  Parker's actually has better consistency these days, imo.  Both use gas to cook nowadays.

What you said about Bill's

What you said about Bill's is about the furtherest thing I've ever heard from the truth!  You definitely don't know what you're talking about.

I am one that doesn't like spicy food so I would definitely notice.  They do have the hot stuff available if you want to make it that way.

Bill Ellis, himself, personally oversees the entire operation every day.  And if you have a complaint or suggestion or just want to talk he is right there for you.

The only thing wrong with Bill's is I have to drive from Raleigh.  But it's a lot more convenient now that 264 is 70mph all the way there and back.

HA !

Bill Ellis, HIMSELF, oversees the operation every day in Wilson.  Yet you live in Raleigh.

How does that work ?


As most got caught up in the resturant media hype so decided to give the Pit a try.  Way overrated and disappointing, have not been back.  You can put lipstick on a pig but its still the pig that brings the customer back.  The Pit's pig is along way from being good Carolina B'Que.

The Pit

I ate there once expecting really good barbecue. Didn't happen.

Best barbecue place to eat is in Wilson.  Bill Ellis Barbecue.  

If you're looking for atmosphere like The Pit, forget it.  You will find a clean, comfortable family restaurant.

If you're looking for home-seasoned vegetables, fried chicken, barbecue chicken, fish, desserts, and did I mention, the best barbecue, then you will love Bill's.

They always have a whole pig on the pit in addition to the chopped barbecue.

If you haven't tried it, you owe it to yourself; if you have tried it you know exactly what I'm talking about.  And I didn't even tell it all.

HA !

give me King's in Kinston or B's in Greenville long before Bill Ellis. 


The VERY best NC BBQ was at "Simps" in Roper.

A couple months after it

A couple months after it opened I walked in by myself for an early dinner at 5:00 or so. Sat down at the bar. It wasn't very busy yet. I didn't realize it but the guy sitting a couple spots down was Ed Mitchell. Shared a few words, he was unassuming and pretty quiet. I even asked him something stupid like "Have you been here before?" I guess he and the employees at the bar must have thought it was funny and they let me go on in my ignorance.

I didn't realize until a couple months later when I saw his picture in an article that he was the head honcho. When I found that out I definitely had a "D'OH" moment.

Anyway, I've been there maybe a half dozen times and I've always been satisfied. I plan to continue going even after Mr. Mitchell's departure.

The Pits

Overrated product of the New York media machine because he looks like what they think a good old 'cue man should look like. Most North Carolinians never heard of him or his unsuccessful Wilson restaurants. "Big dollars" saw a chance to capitalize on the media hype.

Agree 100%. I can't believe

Agree 100%. I can't believe this story even rates more than a paragraph.

The pit

Ate there probably ten times and only once was I not satisfied. It was two visits ago. Looking forward to the new venture ...

ed mitchell farewell

the truth will come out !!!!!!

I Love New Restaurants!!

Sounds to me like Mr. Mitchell just wants to branch out and fly to his full potential. Partnerships aren't meant to last forever. I had the pleasure of meeting him once at the Pit and he is a very nice guy. I commend him for his positive statements. On the otherhand, reading Hatem's statement leaves something more to be desired, he is obviously trying to rain on his parade by stating, "Ed wants to pursue the Ed Mitchell brand. We want to continue pursuing great North Carolina whole hog barbecue."

In my opinion and I'm sure many others, Ed Mitchell IS North Carolina whole hog barbeque. I also had the pleasure of meeting several of the staff, particularly Lauren. If I'm not mistaken on my recent visit there, I was told she is no longer a part of the Pit either. If the staff and cooks are not the same, then certainly the recipes, service, etc will change as well. Can't wait to see what Mr. Mitchell does next!

I don't know what happened

I don't know what happened there but the last time I went, the food quality just wasn't up to the standards I had come to expect. I saw several people sending their food back and I would have done the same if I had time to wait.

Same here - our food came

Same here - our food came out in under 5 minutes from the time we ordered, and it was ice cold.  Haven't been back since!

Not sure how good this will be for the evil Empire - look what happened to Duck & Dumpling after they lost David Mao...


I heard from another local restauranteur about a week ago that Hatem fired Ed Mitchell.  Didn't believe it at the time.  May never know.  Love the Pit.

Ed Mitchell Leaving.

Someone has to say it.

That is the Pits.

More ...

There's probably more to this story but I doubt its anyone's business other than the parties involved.  The Pit is a very fine restaurant.

the best

Mr. Mitchell,  I wish you more and more success.

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About the blogger

Andrea Weigl has been the food writer at The News & Observer since the summer of 2007. She has won a handful of awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Society for Features Journalism. Her profile of chef Ashley Christensen titled "A Force of Nature" will be published in the sixth edition of "Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing." She is serving a three-year term on the James Beard Foundation book awards committee. Follow her on Twitter at @andreaweigl.