Where to Try South Carolina BBQ

The importance of barbecue (or BBQ) in the South cannot be overstated. It’s a noun down here, something you eat rather than a verb that you do. To the Southerner, barbecue is both delicacy and staple: one of life’s greatest luxuries, but one without which a person cannot be said to be truly living.

platter of South Carolina bbq
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ in Charleston, SC. Photo © Jim Morekis.

South Carolina holds a rare distinction. It’s the only state in the union that represents all known variants of barbecue sauce: vinegar and pepper, light tomato, heavy tomato, and the Palmetto State’s own contribution, a hot, sweet mustard-based sauce. A culinary legacy of the German settlers who numbered heavily in that interior region, this indigenous mustard sauce is found mostly in the central Midlands portion of the state from Newberry almost to Charleston. The extreme Upstate leans toward the heavier tomato-based sauce, while a sweeter, ketchupy sauce is the trend along the Savannah River. The vinegar-and-pepper concoction—an eastern North Carolina transplant—holds sway everywhere else, especially east of the Wateree River in the Pee Dee region.

As for the meat itself, in all regions there’s no question about what kind you mean when you say barbecue. It’s always pork, period. And connoisseurs agree that if it isn’t cooked whole over an open wood fire, it isn’t authentic barbecue, merely a pale—if still tasty—imitation. Sides are important in South Carolina, especially the item known as hash, made from pork byproducts served over rice. In any genuine barbecue place you’ll also encounter cracklin’s (fried pork skin), whole loaves of white bread, and, of course, sweet iced tea (called simply “sweet tea”).

Aficionados further insist that a real barbecue place is open only on Friday and Saturday (some generously extend the definition to include Thursday), chops its own wood, and proffers its pig not à la carte but in a distinctive “all you care to eat” buffet style, which generally means one huge pass at the buffet line.

Dukes BBQ sign with a statue of a pig
Duke’s Bar-B-Q in Walterboro, SC. Photo © Jim Morekis.

Where to Try the Best South Carolina BBQ

  • Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ, Charleston (1205 Ashley River Rd., 843/225-7427, Mon.-Sat. 11am-9pm, Sun. 11:30am-9pm, $10-20)
  • Henry’s Smokehouse, Greenville (240 Wade Hampton Blvd., 864/232-7774, call for hours, $4-10)
  • McCabe’s Bar-B-Que, Manning (480 N. Brooks St., 803/435-2833, Thurs.-Sat. 5:30pm-9pm, $10)
  • Po Pigs Bo-B-Q, Edisto Island (2410 Hwy. 174, 843/869-9003, Wed.-Sat. 11:30am-9pm, $4-10)
  • Sweatman’s Bar-b-que, outside of Holly Hill (1313 Gemini Dr., 803/492-7543, Fri.-Sat. 11:30am-9:30pm, $8-15)
  • Duke’s Barbecue, Walterboro (949 Robertson Blvd., 843/549-1446, $7)

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