It seems everyone has a different take on it: the lowly, hallowed dive bar. The place where you can order a beer and a shot for just a few bucks and see at least one familiar face. Definitions and perceptions of these neighborhood joints are about as varied as the often perplexing string of tunes you might hear on the jukebox — there's gotta be a jukebox — but for one local restaurateur, the definition is simple.
"To me a dive bar is just kinda frozen in time," says Lisa Ann Peters, who co-owns the beloved Richmond institution the Locker Room and recently opened the Pitts with her husband. "Even the décor is from another time. There's nothing really modern in them, they're cheap, drinks are heavily poured, there's no pretension."
And that's exactly what Peters and her husband Michael are going for at the Pitts, the new sister dive to the Locker Room, in the old Boondocks building at 2220 Broad Rock Blvd. Officially up and running since Dec. 1 after a couple weeks of soft opening, the Pitts already feels like a go-to neighborhood joint, with regulars sidling up to the bar nearly every morning for their 7:30 a.m. cups of coffee and plates of biscuits and gravy. The interior is reminiscent of the Locker Room: old-timey framed photos, a mounted fish, donning a Santa hat this time of year, vintage beer signs, a pool table and video games. The crown jewel is its outdoor space in the back, complete with fire pits, warmers and charmingly, deliberately mismatched patio furniture.
Where the Pitts differs from the Locker Room, and perhaps from other dives, is the food. Peters hired Billy Lawson, who used to work at McCormack›s Big Whisky Grill, to run the kitchen. They're still tinkering with the menu, which Peters says they intend to keep small and straightforward. Classic eggs-your-way plates, country fried steak and biscuits are available all day, and barbecue is constantly coming out of the smoker. Sandwiches include two burgers, fried bologna, barbecue and spicy breaded chicken, with sides like collard greens, corn bread, coleslaw and fries.
Like anyone else who's been in the River City longer than 10 years, Peters remembers what the food landscape looked like before Richmond was on the map.
"Back in my 20s when I was waitressing, the number of restaurants that were really nice to work in was pretty limited," Peters says. "It's kind of amazing now what we have."
Peters says she doesn't consider herself or her businesses to be "in the same league" as the trendy new restaurants popping up in every neighborhood, and she loves trying out new spots when she can get away. But even as $14 cocktails and gourmet grass-fed burgers become the norm, she's confident that establishments like the Locker Room and the Pitts will always have a place in the dining scene — partially because at the end of the night, folks working at those new restaurants need a place to eat and drink, too.
"You can see the value in being very professional, putting out this wonderful product, then letting your hair down, playing some pool," Peters says. "I think there's still a spot for a place to grab a burger or a quick breakfast without feeling like you have to get dressed up."