Pit owners take team approach to barbecue, family recipes

Jim Fischer
ThisWeekNEWS.com
The owners of the Pit BBQ Grille, from left, Chimdi Chekwa, Mike Johnson, Bryant Browning and D’Andre Martin, hope to open their third restaurant in central Ohio in mid-October at 4219 N. High St. in Clintonville.

If slow-smoked barbecue is worth waiting for, then the food at the Pit BBQ Grille in Clintonville only will be tastier when the restaurant opens its doors.

The owners expect to open in mid-October, following some delays primarily related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The location will be the third brick-and-mortar spot for the team, which includes former Ohio State University football teammates Chimdi Chekwa and Bryant Browning, along with their college friends, D’Andre Martin and Mike Johnson.

“We always thought Columbus had a great selection of restaurants, but as we considered doing a restaurant together, we felt like there was a need for something like this,” Chekwa said. “We also wanted something that reflected our experiences, and we thought barbecue was something where we could combine our upbringings.”

Chekwa is the son of Nigerian immigrants living near New Orleans; his three partners grew up in Cleveland.

He said the hope was to capture some of the feel of the family cookouts of their respective youths, with as many recipes as possible, in particular for side dishes, coming from one family or another.

“We cherry-picked the best sides, most from our grandmothers,” Chekwa said. “The collard greens, for example, is my wife’s grandmother’s recipe.”

Meat choices reflect their disparate upbringings, with some dry rub from the South alongside the Polish Boy, a Polish sausage with barbecue sauce that is a Cleveland staple.

“Bryant was my teammate at Ohio State, but we all played football growing up,” Chekwa said. “You take all these different pieces to make a team, and that’s the same approach we bring to the restaurant.”

He said the approximately 2,000-square foot restaurant at 4219 N. High St. – the former 9Round Fitness location – has a small dining room, but given the current conditions, the team expects to do primarily carryout business, at least initially.

The Pit joins Hot Chicken Takeover in the strip center, where a new Gallo’s Tap Room also is set to open in mid-October, according to co-owner Nick Gallo. 

Gallo’s also has experienced some COVID-related delays, Gallo said, but he is looking forward to opening and sharing the center with other local businesses.

“We’ve never viewed other local places as competition but rather as partnerships,” Gallo said.

The Clintonville location of the Pit joins locations in south Columbus and in the Linden neighborhood. In addition, the team expects to open a restaurant in Dublin in 2021, Chekwa said.

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