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History of the Barbecue Pit

The first Barbecue Pit family restaurant was opened on Dec. 16, 1947. It was located in the Maryland Hotel on 6th Ave. in downtown San Diego. It was opened by Joe & Lila Browning and Ed & Mella Jenson. Lila and Mella were sisters. Joe Browning arrived in San Diego during World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy where he fell in love with and married Lila Coates. Joe came from Texas where he learned the barbecue business from his step-father, R.T. Shoemaker. R.T. owned several barbecue restaurants in the Dallas area called “Shoemaker’s Famous Barbecue”. After the war, it took just one hot summer in Texas to convince Joe and his new bride, Lila, that San Diego was the place for them.

Joe and his brother-in-law, Ed Jenson, pooled their resources and opened the first two “The Barbecue Pit” restaurants in San Diego. The first one was in the Maryland Hotel and the second one was opened approximately a few days later at 1413 Market St. Over the years there have been many locations: North Park, Pacific Beach, National City, Linda Vista, 6th Ave. in San Diego, 63rd and El Cajon Blvd., El Cajon Blvd. in El Cajon, Escondido, Kearney Mesa, Chula Vista, Fletcher Hills and San Marcos.

Currently, there are two restaurant locations owned by Joe & Lila’s son, Gary and his wife, Sue. At the FLETCHER HILLS and NATIONAL CITY restaurants, Gary & Sue Browning along with their sons, Todd and Tim, continue to maintain the high quality of homemade and slow-cooked barbecue that was established years ago.

The special recipes and methods of cooking have been handed down from generation to generation. We use only ‘choice’ cuts of meat which are then slow cooked over an oak wood fire just the way Joe’s step-father did in Texas during the 1930’s.

The Browning and Jenson families have appreciated the loyalty of our customers who have supported us for over 60 years. Our commitment is to keep our product and service at the highest quality for you, our valued customer.


"Thank you so much for your assistance last Friday night. You were professional, courteous and friendly...what a combination! We received many compliments on the service and delicious food."

-Olivia Puentes-Reynolds

"On behalf of the Wells Family, thank you for catering Mom's life memorial reception. The food was a great hit. Your time and kindness are most appreciated."

Pam Sievers

"To the servers of my party,
Thank you very much for the wonderful job done at my 90th birthday party. You both were so kind and helpful. I received many words from my guest, due to your friendliness."

Thanks again,