A true Baltimorean knows that the official sandwich of Maryland is not a crab cake sandwich, but a pit beef sandwich. Pit beef isn’t barbecue because it’s not smoked. Rather, it’s a top round of beef cooked over hot charcoal coals. The meat is sliced thin, piled high on a kaiser roll, and traditionally served with sliced onions and tiger sauce, a mix of mayonnaise and horseradish. We have put together a list of the best Baltimore pit beef locations.
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Drive north in Baltimore County, and follow Falls Road as it winds through the woods. Keep your eyes peeled, because you’ll come across a small non-descript building with mismatched patio furniture and picnic benches outside. Inside the wood paneled building, a friendly group will take your order, and you’ll pick out your soda while the sandwich is prepared. Jake’s pit beef is smoky and tender, and you’ll know the difference between roast and pit beef in one bite. Choose your meat by temperature preference and they’ll slice it on the spot. I always go for medium rare. It’s served on a Kaiser roll; condiments, lettuce, and tomato are served at the serving counter. The chicken pit is surprisingly delicious; choose it over the turkey, which is a processed breast. You can also pick up some very solid ribs while you’re here.
11950 Falls Rd, Cockeysville, MD 21030
Baker’s Pit Beef and Tavern
Located close to Martin State Airport in Middle River is Baker’s. The pit beef shack is located across the parking lot from the eponymous tavern. We had high hopes based on reputation. Unfortunately, while the beef was sliced thin and was ample, it was dry. We were left with a pretty nondescript sandwich.
2233 Old Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD 21220
Pioneer Pit Beef
Turn into the liquor store parking lot, drive past the sno cone stand, and you’ll find Pioneer’s shack in the corner. Wood is stacked outside the entrance, and three picnic benches are available. This is a superb pit beef sandwich, with paper-thin sliced beef piled on a Kaiser roll. The meat’s tenderness is accentuated by how thin it’s sliced and has a great mélange of beefy and smoky in every bite. The medium-rare is served at appropriate temperature. This is one of the few spots where the accompaniment and sauces are added to the sandwich behind the counter. Extra points for superb gravy fries. Total winner.
N Rolling Rd &, Johnnycake Rd, Catonsville, MD 21228
Continuing the tradition of pit beef shacks cohabitating in sketchy parking lots, the original Chaps location shares its with a strip club. I always put off a visit to Chaps. The six locations, “with franchises available,” worried me that the Baltimore authenticity and quality might have diluted with its success. Our visit to the original made quick work of that worry. We perused the lengthy menu of pit meats, including combo sandwiches, and went for the classic. It’s glorious, thin cut meat. You know it’s been charcoal grilled and the flavor is deep. The gravy fries are outstanding. Special mention is needed of the large and immaculate condiment bar. We wolfed it all down on the metal tables outside. Not sure if the other locations are this good, but what we ate on Pulaski Highway was as good as it gets.
5801 Pulaski Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21205
Located down the road from Baker’s, on the busy Pulaski Highway, is Charcoal Style. The small shack with picnic benches on its deck is located next to a go-cart course, which I suppose could be combined for an afternoon of beef and driving. We gave big props to for the delicious fries. We thought this was a solid pit beef, sliced well with good charcoal flavor. It’s also one of the few sandwiches served on a potato roll. This is a good sandwich, but we wouldn’t make the drive just to get here.
10907 Pulaski Hwy, White Marsh, MD 21162
Boogs is defined by its owner and location. The owner: Boog Powell, All Star Oriole, who played on the 1960’s dynasty that won four AL pennants and two World Series. The location: Inside Camden Yards behind right field. To the Baltimore faithful, this is the chance to eat Baltimore’s hometown manna served by one of its baseball dignitaries in the cathedral of baseball. Boog is often there, greeting customers waiting in line. He’s signed multiple baseballs for my kids. While Boogs is our go-to food at the ballgame, the sandwich falls short. There’s no choice of temperature and the meat is both dry and tough. Don’t get me wrong; a Boogs sandwich with tiger sauce washed down with Baltimore’s home-brewed Union Duckpin, while watching our O’s is a fine thing indeed. But it’s not about the sandwich.
323 W Camden St, Baltimore, MD 21201