For some time now, I have had people encouraging me to pay a visit to Phil’s Dream Pit, a barbecue establishment in Kingsport located off Exit 10 from Interstate 26. One good friend, who actually lives in that area, has been especially persistent.
On a recent Saturday, I did travel to Phil’s Dream Pit, and now I’m really glad that so many people recommended the restaurant. I arrived with a friend, and several members of the restaurant staff welcomed us with warm greetings. Owned by Phil and Dianna Pipkin, the restaurant is part of their quest for perfect barbecue. That claim is printed on the front of the take-home menu. Perfection’s certainly a worthy goal for any endeavor, and the food at Phil’s Dream Pit comes pretty darn close.
The restaurant, which is located in a rather isolated building surrounded by industrial businesses and a trucking lot, has been serving barbecue favorites to increasing numbers of fans since early 2008. The front of the restaurant is equipped with a wide porch that shades an outdoor eating area furnished with several classic picnic benches.
Customers stepping inside the building can first approach the front counter to order their meals. A large menu board is on view behind the counter listing such items as Pork Wings, Dry Rub Chicken Breast, Homemade Chicken Salad and Phil’s Barbecued Ribs. Pork and chicken platters are also available, as is Beef Brisket and Pork Sandwiches.
The menu board also lists several “Dream Packs” to go, including complete meals for four and six diners. The restaurant also sells its pork, brisket and chicken salad by the pound.
The menu also offers a “Dream Dog,” which is a hot dog topped with beans and slaw. That sounded tempting, and I always like a good hot dog. I might try one on a future visit. This trip was more about the barbecue.
All the traditional sides — Slaw, Beans, Potato Salad and Macaroni Salad — are available, as well as bags of chips. I had a difficult time narrowing my choices. I considered the Dry Rub Chicken Breast Meal and the Beef Brisket Meal before the woman at the front counter suggested the Chicken Platter Meal, which features half a smoked chicken accompanied by two sides, Texas toast and a beverage. I like to follow the advice of those who know best, so I ordered that meal.
My friend considered both the Pork Platter Meal and a half-rack of ribs. By the way, the ribs are the only individual menu items that cost more than $10.99. The half-rack runs $15.99 while a full rack of ribs costs $25.99. Both options also include two sides, Texas toast and a beverage.
My friend decided to try the Pork Wing meal, which includes two plump Pork Wings as well as the two sides, toast and drink. Individual Pork Wings are available for $3.50, so my friend added an additional Pork Wing to his platter.
I chose the Beans and Macaroni Salad as my side dishes while my friend went with the Slaw and Potato Salad.
After we ordered, a member of the staff escorted us to one of the interior dining room tables. Seating is available at tables and picnic-style benches. There we made ourselves comfortable after we got our drinks from a self-service dispenser. Soft drinks, water and tea are the basic beverage options.
The decor at Phil’s Dream Pit consists mostly of “pigs on parade.” The walls were covered with pig items and several shelves were lined with other porcine memorabilia. On display were pig clocks, pig cookie jars, pig oven mitts, a pig kite and a string of pig ornamental lights. Several pig cut-outs were prominently displayed on the walls, which also held a single wall-mounted television set. Some vintage signs also featured depictions of hogs.
Wallpaper printed to look like green-stained wood covers the walls. Red valances give a bright contrasting color at each window.
T-shirts in a variety of colors, including tie-dyed versions, are displayed on the walls and available for purchase. So, too, are the tasty barbecue sauces served at the restaurant. My favorite decorative feature was an upright shelf lined with various pig plushies and stuffed hogs.
Our meals arrived in good time. Food is served on disposable plates accompanied by plastic utensils. Each table is equipped with a dispenser for paper towels as well as a container with the three sauces — Sweet Fire, Vinegar and Sweet Smoke.
My chicken was quite tasty. The inside meat was still moist and tender and featured a pleasant, smoky flavor. The side dishes went well with the barbecued items. My beans featured a hearty amount of slow-cooked beans mingled with ample amounts of pulled pork to achieve a good balance between sweet and smoky. I also liked the Macaroni Salad.
The real hit of the meal was the Pork Wings ordered by my friend. This tasty entree looks a lot like a single rib bone with a hunk of meat attached to it. I looked into it and learned that Pork Wings are actually made from trimmed pork shanks. Regardless of what part of the hog they come from, these tender pieces of barbecued pork won rave reviews from my friend and me.
After we finished our meals, we made one other trip to the front counter to place our dessert orders. Available sweets included assorted cookies, Blueberry Dream and Brownie Dream. We had eaten really hearty meals, so we decided to share a Blueberry Dream. This scrumptious dessert is like a blueberry-brown sugar crumble served in a disposable cup and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. This shared treat provided a particularly yummy way to conclude my first visit to Phil’s Dream Pit. It’s the first of what I hope are many future visits. I still owe the one friend who kept recommending the restaurant.
The restaurant also offers kid’s meals, so take the whole family along for a visit to Phil’s Dream Pit. If you go, let them know they were recommended. Word of mouth can do wonders!
AT A GLANCE: Phil’s Dream Pit, 534 Eastern Star Road, Kingsport. 349-6437. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Most menu items $10.99 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Catering available.