|Dianne Creech and her cousin, Annie|
But times are changing. Melissa Cookston, owner of Memphis Barbecue Company restaurants, is author of the aptly titled new cook book, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Lisa Mills, daughter of legend Mike Mills runs a barbecue consulting firm and co-authored the James Beard-nominated book, “Peace, Love and Barbecue.” Danielle Dimovski, joined Cookston as a champion and is best known to her TV fans as “Diva Q.”
As the old late 1960s advertisement put it, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”
On a recent visit to Cincinnati, I decided to check out the Queen City’s No. 2 barbecue restaurant according to Yelp, Pit to Plate BBQ, which has been owned and operated by the warm-hearted Dianne Creech since 2000 and eight years in its current location at 8021 Hamilton Ave., Mt. Healthy, Ohio.
After 14 years of operating a barbecue joint, Creech acknowledges that she’s in a boy’s club, adding with a laugh, “They don’t like it, because, you know what, I’m a good challenge to them.”
Earlier this year, Cincinnati Magazine selected Pit to Plate as the best barbecue on the city’s northside and numerous positive reviews on Urbanspoon, Chowhound, TripAdvisor.com and the “Food Hussy” (Really) attest to its solid local reputation.
Given that we are in Cincinnati, it’s not surprising that Creech comes from German stock and a large family. But her father wasn’t into barbecue – he once gave her an Easy Bake Oven, which she still owns.
|A sampler's platter|
“I watched them build my smoker in the fabrication shop. I was there with them from the very first piece of metal to the very end of it,” she said, reflecting back to when it was made 14 years ago at Bewley’s factory in Dallas, Texas.
“Our briskets and our pork cook about 12 to 14 hours. I smoke them overnight,” Creech added, as I took a bite of the tender brisket. “All hickory wood, no propane, no charcoal …
Once in a while, I’ll get a piece of cherry and toss it in there.”
Creech said she competes in local competitions for fun -- Pit to Plate was one of eight teams which competed at the annual Pork Rib-Off barbecue show-down at the 2013 Ohio State Fair. But she prefers to be “hands-on” at her western-themed restaurant, where the table covers have cowhide patterns, the backs of benches are wagon wheels and America’s most-beloved cowboy, John Wayne, looks down at diners from the center of the room.
|Several of Pit to Plate's 20 sides|
During my visit to Pit to Plate, Creech was generous to allow me to sample nearly everything on her tasty menu, including several of her own creations, such as the Chili Mac, which consists of hickory-smoked brisket and pork and macaroni and cheese. She has her variation on corned beef and the Reuben sandwich. Soon, she will be introducing a smoked meat loaf to the menu.
Pit to Plate offers the full array – brisket, pulled pork and chicken, beef and pork ribs, smoked turkey, fish and local Cincinnati favorites, kielbasa and mettwursts. They also cater and offer hog roasts.
While meat options are abundant, none of her vegetable sides, such as green beans, cabbage, okra, greens and beans and rice are highly seasoned with meat.
All of the sauces also are made in-house – all seven of them. They range from tomato-vinegar sauces of various heat levels, to spicy garlic to a mustard-based sauce to a horseradish-based sauce, which Creech recommends for her corned beef.
In fact, she suggests paring all the sauces with certain meats, almost as if she were paring wines instead.
|Creech with her beloved Bewley|
In addition to adult, alcoholic beverages, Pit to Plate has a “saloon” serving nostalgic sodas from Boylan Beverage Co., in a variety of flavors (as well as Coke products). They have live music on the weekends.
Pit-to-Plate’s décor reflects the whimsy of its owner. One sign reads, “Children left unattended will be given an espresso and a free puppy.”
But another sign seems more appropriate from this female pitmaster, “We don’t serve women. You must bring your own.”
Rock on, Dianne and thank you.
Location we visited:
Pit to Plate BBQ
8021 Hamilton Ave.
Mt. Healthy, Ohio.