Chaps Pit Beef will move from original Baltimore Route 40 roadside stand to a larger space — next door

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After 36 years in a nightclub parking lot on the side of Pulaski Highway, the location has become part of the lore for Chaps Pit Beef, one of the city’s staple purveyors of the pit beef sandwich, Maryland’s unique take on barbecue.

But in a few weeks’ time — if all goes according to plan — Chaps will be packing up the well-worn roadside shack where it all began in 1987 and moving to a larger and more modern restaurant space nearby. So nearby, in fact, that the lore of the location won’t change much at all.


The pit beef restaurant is set to fire up its charcoal grills inside another building in the parking lot of the Gentlemen’s Gold Club, located on the side of a busy, industrial stretch of Route 40 in East Baltimore. The new restaurant is just a few strides behind the old one, and already has a Chaps Pit Beef sign on display.

The move will accommodate growing business and offer a larger, fresher space for customers, said Natalie Rayner, the director of operations for Chaps Pit Beef.


“We’re outgrowing the space that we’re in,” Rayner said. “It was time for Baltimore to get a face-lift.”

Rayner’s uncle and aunt, Bob and Donna Creager, started Chaps Pit Beef in 1987. Donna’s father, Gus Glava, was the owner of Chaps, a Southwestern-themed nightclub at the site of what is now the Gold Club. As a wedding gift to his daughter and son-in-law, he donated a corner of the club’s parking lot and invested $12,000 to build a 12-by-15-foot pit beef stand.

Over the years, the building grew, and so did Chaps’ reputation, which was bolstered by a cameo in “The Wire” and a feature on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

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The classic pit beef sandwich at Chaps features a pile of charcoal-fired, thinly sliced layers of meat served on a kaiser roll and topped with onions and a generous dollop of horseradish. But the stand has an expansive menu, serving up turkey, corned beef and ham as well as racks of ribs and sides like baked beans, cheese fries, mac salad and sauerkraut, another Baltimore staple. For dessert, there’s rice pudding.

The Richwich sub at Chaps Pit Beef on Pulaski Highway is filled with beef, corned beef, turkey and sausage, all of it pit-grilled.

The new Baltimore restaurant won’t change much, menu-wise. And pit beef puritans needn’t worry: Chaps will be keeping its two charcoal grills, well-seasoned through the years with the stand’s secret spice rub.

A former warehouse, the space will more than double the restaurant’s footprint and quadruple its seating, with over 50 seats as well as an outdoor patio with picnic tables.

“We’re very excited that people who love the food are going to be able to have more room, have more of a restaurant,” Rayner said.

Marvin Parker, the general manager at Chaps’ Baltimore location, said that while employees will have “a lot more ground to cover” in the new space, they expect to be able to “maintain the same flow” with a similar kitchen layout.


The Baltimore store sells more than 400 pit beef sandwiches a day during the summer season and draws tourists from all over the country.

Though Baltimore is where Chaps got its start, the restaurant now has a second company-run location in Aberdeen and franchise restaurants in Glen Burnie and Rehoboth Beach.

Chaps is moving from its original pit beef shack to a larger, newer restaurant in the same strip club parking lot off Pulaski Highway.