In Good Taste

Scalawags Pit Meat Brings Barrel-Smoked Barbecue to Local Pop-Ups

Gnocco general manager Sam White launches a pit beef project.

By Lauren Cohen | August 8, 2018, 12:21 pm

In Good Taste

Scalawags Pit Meat Brings Barrel-Smoked Barbecue to Local Pop-Ups

Gnocco general manager Sam White launches a pit beef project.

By Lauren Cohen | August 8, 2018, 12:21 pm

Highlandtown locals are used to seeing Sam White behind the bar at Gnocco, where he is usually shaking up Italian cocktails or uncorking worldly bottles of wine at the white marble bar. But regulars shouldn’t be surprised to see him sweating in front of a black steel smoker this summer.

Last month, White and his longtime friend Kevin James launched Scalawags Pit Meat—a side project focusing on barrel-smoked pit beef, turkey, chicken, and other carnivorous classics.

“It’s been fun going from a fine-dining thing to doing something more laid-back and hanging outside,” White says. “Pit beef is such a classic Maryland dish. It’s interesting to learn more about it and how people like their sandwiches—with horseradish or without. Onions or no onions. It’s really personal.”

The duo first started experimenting with smoking meats after James received a barrel smoker as a wedding present a few years ago. Since then, they have been testing recipes in his backyard, mixing different woods, proteins, and marinades.

“The pit barrel isn’t really a smoker and it isn’t really a grill,” James explains. “It’s this weird in-between cooking machine. But it’s pretty easy to use and all of the sudden I found myself firing it up every other weekend and turning out really tasty stuff. It really all started out with us having fun while drinking Natty Boh in the backyard.”

In July, Scalawags hosted its inaugural pop-up at Monument City Brewing in Highlandtown—eventually selling out of pit beef sandwiches, pork loin, turkey breast, and smoked corn with clarified butter. In the future, the duo is looking forward to adding ribs, whole chicken, and smoked bacon BLTs to the menu.

James says that perfecting the smoking technique is all about timing, temperature, and choosing the right wood chips.

“The way the environment is in the barrel itself makes for a really delicious product,” he says. “The juices from the meat actually drip down into the charcoal. When you open up the lid there’s just this mushroom cloud of smoke and deliciousness that really takes the cake.”

The next event for Scalawags—which was named after James’ former gig working on the Urban Pirates ship—will be at Gnocco on Thursday, August 23. James will serve up hearty sandwiches that White will pair with whiskey cocktails from Republic Restoratives Distillery in Washington, D.C.

The team is also looking forward to partnering with Old Line Spirits, another one of Gnocco’s neighbors in Highlandtown, to host a third pop-up and put more of a personal touch on some of the smoked meats.

“The distillers from Old Line reached out and offered to let us use wood chips from their whiskey barrels,” James says. “I was floored because it’s local and it adds a certain kind of flavor that you’re not getting anywhere else. It’s typical Smaltimore.”




Meet The Author

Lauren Cohen is a digital associate editor for Baltimore, where she blogs about food, events, lifestyle, and community news.



You May Also Like


In Good Taste

Open & Shut: Zeke’s Coffee; Bmore Licks; The Hoof Cafe; Remington Wine Co.

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.

In Good Taste

Get to Know Diverse Vendors Moving Into Cross Street Market

Lineup includes many minority and female-owned businesses.

In Good Taste

Why Baltimore Restaurant Week Feels More Important Than Ever

Despite recent closures, industry looks forward to starting 2019 on a high note.


In Good Taste

Open & Shut: Twisted Teahouse; Mera Kitchen Pop-Up; Pasta Mista

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.

In Good Taste

Open & Shut: Ouzo Beach; Mexican on the Run; Atwater’s Soup Month

The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.

Food & Drink

Review: Moby Dick House of Kabob

Real-deal kabobs at Moby Dick are memorably delicious.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Union Craft and DuClaw to Both Release LGBTQ-Inspired Beers: Divine IPA and Unicorn Farts sour ale will each debut in March.

Ana Rodney Puts Maternal Health of Black Women at the Forefront: The doula and activist started MOMCares as a way to advocate for black mothers.

Sassanova to Open at Green Spring Station: Local shoe and clothing boutique to open third location

The First Maryland Vegan Restaurant Week Kicks Off: Local vegan advocates promote healthy lifestyle and inclusive community.

What to Expect from the Revitalization of Baltimore’s Historic Chinatown: Developers and community leaders plan a modern interpretation of the forgotten district.