As the Buckeyes took their first victory of the season over Bowling Green this weekend, residents of the Linden neighborhood in Columbus got their first taste of a new restaurant with a strong connection to Buckeye football.
Former Ohio State football players Chimdi Chekwa and Bryant Browning, along with their friends D’Andre Martin and Mike Johnson, fulfilled their longtime goal of starting a business when they opened The Pit BBQ Grille on Saturday in the Northern Lights Shopping Center on Cleveland Avenue.
“This neighborhood reminds me a lot of the one I grew up in in Cleveland,” Browning said on why he and his friends chose Linden.
Browning met Martin and Johnson while growing up in Cleveland and he and Chekwa, who is originally from Louisiana, were roommates at Ohio State. The friends had all talked about someday starting a business together.
Browning said the planning process began at the beginning of this year, and by the end of March they had obtained the building in Linden. They spent the next several months renovating.
“We hired contractors but ended up doing a lot of the work ourselves,” Browning said.
In the restaurant, patrons can take advantage of a spacious seating area with flat screen televisions to display sporting events. Customers can order from the chalkboard menu above the register, which features home-style barbecue fare and sides inspired by everyday cookouts.
Browning said his favorite thing on the menu is the Polish boy. The Cleveland staple consists of deep-fried kielbasa, fresh-cut fries, hand-mixed coleslaw and The Pit’s homemade barbecue sauce.
Chekwa said he prefers the greens and mac and cheese, which remind him of meals he ate growing up in the South.
Even though they are not within walking distance of campus, Browning and Chekwa hope they will still be able to serve Ohio State students and Buckeye fans.
“We really value the connection to OSU and Columbus,” Browning said.
Browning works for Nationwide Insurance and Chekwa is currently a cornerback for the Miami Dolphins. However. both expressed excitement about the new challenge of being business owners.
“The biggest challenge so far is that I’ve been doing a lot of work in the kitchen, and I’m not very good at doing work in the kitchen,” Browning said. “We could definitely use some more experience.”
Chekwa said he will be at the restaurant whenever he can, but he’ll have to balance it with his football schedule.
“I’m happy to be back in Columbus and I’m excited about starting a business and being part of a community,” Chekwa said.
The Pit had a busy first day, and ran out of some menu items just a few hours after opening. They were open for shortened hours on Sunday and planned to close for the next few days to make some adjustments before reopening on Thursday.
“Our goal is just to serve good food to this community,” Bryant said. “It’s all about building community.”