Tulare, California, has had an airplane set up as a roadside restaurant for over a decade. The plane is a 1951 Air Force training jet, the body of which serves as a dining room. There is something dizzying about eating lunch in a downed aircraft, but we dig it. A few years ago, Pitty’s took over the plane, bringing aboard a Santa Maria style grate BBQ pit powered by oak logs.
Pitty’s bills itself as a tri-tip place; its thin-sliced steak has more than a few things going for it, including nice bark and a clear smoke ring from the oak. We really like the thin, tangy BBQ sauce and the presentation of sliced onions and pepperoncinis atop the mound of meat. Portions are generous. It eats fairly chewy, which is the nature of tri-tip, but Pitty’s is tougher than the best we’ve had. Tri-tip is a temperamental cut, so we’ll try it another day, mainly because we’re encouraged by Pitty’s great burgers.
The tri-tip burger is a distinctively Californian beauty, cooked to order over oak, resulting in plenty of smoke and a jot of char.
Linguica sausage, a spicy Portuguese dog popular throughout the San Joaquin does well over the oak fire, which gives it great snap. It is one of several items on the menu marked with stars, signaling a fifteen minute wait while they are cooked to order.
Pitty’s sides are distinctive. Chili beans are thicker and richer than ranchero beans, which are the more traditional tri-tip side. They’re great next to the burger, but perhaps too much next to thinly sliced tri-tip. Macaroni and potato salad could use more vegetable crunch, but we like them for their Hawaiian BBQ-style pepper punch.