Recently I joined a group of friends from work in a trip to Chaps Charcoal Restaurant, a Baltimore landmark, for lunch. Chaps has been featured on "No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel and "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" with Guy Fieri (the episode also featured Chef Duff from "Ace of Cakes") on the Food Network and is known for one thing: pit beef. Pit beef is a Maryland thing (apparently - I only found this out when the out-of-towners had no idea what I was talking about), typically made from top round beef that is cooked over charcoal and then sliced super-thin, served on a kaiser roll with raw onions and horseradish sauce (lovingly referred to as "Tiger Sauce" when it comes to pit beef).
Ever since being featured on TV, Chaps has been on my radar. I grew up eating pit beef with the BCD family (traditionally served with awesome, boardwalk-style fries) and since Chaps got so much press, we were eager to drive across the city to give it a try.
Chaps is located on Pulaski Highway near the County line and there are a good handful of adult book and video stores in the area. Chaps happens to be located in the parking lot of a strip club. One stop shopping if you were so inclined!
Gentleman's Gold Club + sandwiches
Anyway, the group arrived at Chaps right around noon and miraculously we missed the gigantic line that formed after we got there and at one point stretched out the door.
Mostly male clientele at Chaps; I felt a little out of place (a) being dressed in business attire, and (b) being female, but everyone was super-friendly nonetheless :)
I was first in line and I knew exactly what I wanted: pit beef sandwich, medium rare, fries, drink. YUM. Some of my friends got some other side items with their sandwiches, like baked beans, cheese fries, or cole slaw, but I needed to investigate the fries - official blog research, of course!
Cheese fries - I heard they were good
The verdict? The pit beef was moist, tender, and well-cooked (it was more medium than medium rare but that's okay), the roll was fresh, and the tiger sauce was rich, creamy, and SO strong your sinuses were cleared with each bite. Delish!
The fries were good but they were a little cold and needed some salt -- perhaps I got the bottom of the batch? BTW, fries + tiger sauce = amazing. I've been to pit beef places (at the farmers' market under the JFX, for instance) where they add bits of charred beef to the sandwich to add some contrast in texture, which would have been nice to have here but certainly did not detract from the sandwich experience.
Most of the folks I came with got pit beef, but a few friends got the "Triple D," featured on (created on?) "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" which consisted of pit beef, corned beef, and sausage all on one sandwich. Wow. It got great reviews, perhaps I'll try it next time?
Triple D sandwich
It was a great lunch adventure and I was glad I could share the Baltimore tradition of pit beef with my friends! My next goal is to go back to The Canopy on Route 40 in Catonsville, where BCD Dad used to take me for pit beef after lacrosse games, so I can compare to Chaps. Any excuse to eat pit beef and fries, right?
The lunch gang!
Happy local fare eating,