In my five-plus years blogging about Baltimore restaurants, people frequently ask me to find local places offering good barbecue.

In the Baltimore area, while there are a handful of traditional “low and slow’' barbecue spots, we also have our version of “barbecue” that is all its own — pit beef. Some people confuse pit beef with pit bbq, but it is actually different.

Pit beef, a high-temperature cooking method for cooking roast beef cuts over charcoal fire, originated in the 1970s in East Baltimore. The meat can be eaten rare to well done and is often served thinly sliced on a Kaiser roll with raw onion and tiger sauce (a horseradish-and-mayonnaise-based sauce).

In my latest Ask Charm City Table column, a series where I visit some of the restaurants suggested by Baltimore Banner subscribers as well as offer my own recommendations, I test out a restaurant recommended by reader Andy Szilagyi — a local establishment with both traditional barbecue and pit beef on the menu.

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“I would like to strongly recommend ‘JAKE’S BBQ,’ ” he wrote. “It’s an easy to miss small place (on Falls Road) for mostly carry out BBQ. Best I’ve had in Baltimore. The ribs are to die for as is the meat piled high beef sandwich — you get to choose rare; medium or well done. In addition to the food, Jake is a really nice, hard working young man.”

Pit Turkey at Jake’s Grill (Simone Phillips/The Baltimore Banner)

Jake’s Grill (its actual name) is located just over the Baltimore County line off of Falls Road. While the location — an old shack with off-white paneling — may be easy to miss, the clouds of smoke and smell of barbecue let you know you are in the right place.

The restaurant has a small menu of ribs, sausages, pit sandwiches including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ham, and just two sides — macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. There are a few seats on the outside and inside in case customers want to sit and eat, but with limited parking and minimal decor, this appears to be more of a carryout place.

Per Andy’s suggestion, I ordered both the smoked ribs with barbecue sauce and a medium pit beef sandwich with a side of macaroni and cheese. Both orders were ready in about 15 to 20 minutes, stacked high in to-go containers.

I began my tasting with the smoked ribs. Tossed in a sticky sweet barbecue sauce, the outside of the ribs had a good amount of charring and sauce-to-meat ratio. The texture was tender with a clean pull away from the bone. The flavors were bold – slightly spicy and smoky with some sweetness from the barbecue sauce. While I usually opt for sauce, these ribs did not need it. The seasoning, juiciness and texture were all notably great. They were some of the best ribs I have had in Baltimore.

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Ribs at Jake’s Grill (Simone Phillips/The Baltimore Banner)

Next, I tasted the pit beef sandwich. A Kaiser roll dressed with a stack of sliced pit beef, raw onions, tiger sauce, and a golden barbecue sauce, this sandwich required two hands to eat. Jake’s pit beef is juicy, a little smoky, and has the perfect amount of chewiness. The onions added a crunchy texture and bite while the tiger sauce added the strong, spicy flavor of horseradish balanced by the sweetness of the golden barbecue sauce. A satisfying pit beef sandwich with all the proper fixings.

I recommend getting to Jake’s Grill early since they tend to sell out of items. Their hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. most days.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in the Baltimore area or are you looking for dining suggestions? Email simone.phillips@thebaltimorebanner.com with recommendations and questions.

Simone Phillips is the founder of the food blog Charm City Table and a Creative in Residence for The Baltimore Banner.

Simone Phillips is part of The Baltimore Banner's Creatives in Residence program, which amplifies the work of artists and writers from the Baltimore region.

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