Barbara's Bits & Bites: Dining - with dog - at my favorite places

Editor's note: Political columnist Barbara Venezia plans to write occasional food columns under the banner "Barbara's Bits & Bites." This is her first.

Even though it's been years since I did a comedy cooking show, "At Home on the Range," on local cable, people still associate me with food on some level.

Last year when I wrote a food column, "Tasty Tidbits," for the Orange County Register, to my surprise it was quite popular.

And readers have continued to ask about it and for my suggestions of interesting places to dine in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

I talked with Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis about the idea of a new monthly column discovering and rediscovering fun places to eat in Newport-Mesa.

Welcome to my new food column: Barbara's Bits & Bites.

It isn't the traditional restaurant review.

Readers should assume if a joint makes it into the column, I like it.

In the coming months, Barbara's Bits & Bites will give you an overview of local eateries and what to expect when you dine there.

I'm partial to pet-friendly places since I usually have my little rescue dog, Stasha, in tow, so doggy lovers, get ready for some good suggestions for the summer months.

I'll also share the latest "dish" I hear about at different restaurants.

This week, when Stasha and I were dining at Saddle Ranch Chop House in Triangle Square, I heard it was considering something of a dog-friendly happy hour.

Though I couldn't get anyone at corporate to confirm or deny the yappy hour rumors, I'll keep tabs on this and report back when I know more. I think it's a great idea.

So where else did we dine this week?

We went to Beach Pit BBQ, 1676 Tustin Ave., in Costa Mesa.

It's one of our favorite spots for barbecue.

Parking there can be somewhat of a challenge since the lot is small, but street parking is always pretty easy to find.

For lunch, I suggest arriving slightly before noon, just before this place gets hopping.

A longtime popular spot for locals, Beach Pit BBQ is nothing fancy, but the food is good and prices are reasonable.

As you walk up, there are picnic tables outside and a play area for kids.

The patio is pet-friendly, as is the one in the back of the restaurant, where there's additional seating.

The building is a small, cottage-like structure that has a cool funkiness about it.

Over the counter are hanging chalkboard menus.

Place your order, take a number and wait for a server to bring the food to your table.

For starters try the fried okra or fried pickles, both $5.99

Known for smoked meats, choices here include pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey breast and pulled chicken.

Choose a meat for your sandwich and one side — cole slaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, blueberry or jalapeno corn bread, potato salad, french or sweet potato fries, collard or green beans — and enjoy a hearty lunch for $8.99.

Chicken and ribs choices are also plentiful here.

Quarter chicken is $8.99, half chicken is $10, half rack of ribs costs $15.99 and full, $22.99.

Salads can also be found on the Beach Pit BBQ menu.

My personal favorite is The Salad at $11.99.

It comes with meat, corn, black beans, jicama and tomatoes and choice of dressing.

There's also a Caesar salad, $11.99, and a wedge salad, $7.99, and you can add any meat to each as well.

The kids can choose from chicken bites, chicken drumstick and a half BBQ sandwich. All kids-menu items come with a small drink and choice of side — mac and cheese, baked beans or fries — all for $6.99.

If you check out Beach Pit BBQ let me know what you think. I always enjoy hearing from readers and appreciate your restaurant suggestions as well.

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

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