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I-26 Through SC - Any good SC-style BBQ?

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We're driving up to Asheville from FL pretty soon and will be traveling along I-26 from I-95 all the way to NC. My husband and I have always been curious about South Carolina style BBQ, and are wondering if anyone has any suggestions for great places along that route....

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  1. South Carolina-style BBQ can be summed up in one word: mustard. I grew up in SC and absolutely cannot stand the stuff. I'm just glad I live in NC now and get the REAL stuff. :-) That being said, though, a lot of people like mustard on their 'cue, and Bessinger's has made quite a bit of cash on that "Carolina Gold", as I've heard people call it. I will freely admit, though, that others may have better recommendations on the mustard front.

    However - I would recommend checking out Shealy's in Batesburg-Leesville. Their food is really good and it's more than just BBQ and fried chicken (although both are really good there) - they also have great sides and several fresh salads. Looks like they've also added a breakfast buffet, although I haven't tried it. Make sure you ask for a dish of pulley bones when your waitress brings the sweet tea! http://www.shealysbbq.com/

    13 Replies
    1. re: Suzy Q

      Well...I wasn't going to say it out of politeness to avid SC BBQ fans, but NC BBQ is the best in the world and I'm highly doubtful that anything will ever top that.

      BUT, I am curious about the mustard style, and am wanting to expand my horizons to the more "bastardized" forms of BBQ in the world. :-)

      Shealys looks perfect....

      1. re: jazzy77

        Shealy's cooks their pork over gas. Good buffet, though... If you're looking for real barbecue, Sweatman's in Holly Hill, J. D. Hite's in West Columbia or Hudson's in Lexington are your best bets. However, Sweatman's and Hite's are open only Thursday through Saturday so timing may rule them out. Hudson's hours are a bit easier to work around. Jackie Hite's in Batesburg-Leesville is another possibility, but I'm unsure of their hours. There's always the original Piggy Park in West Columbia. Excellent meat, but the sauce is a little too sweet for my taste.

        1. re: Hushpuppy

          For the history of food, Piggy Park whose 'hash' is a tasty amalgam of British Seasonings (think of Branson's chutney) and the low country's rice and hogs.

          1. re: shallots

            Oh, and just for clarification, Piggy Park = Bessinger's. The same guy (Maurice Bessinger) is behind both operations.

            And while I digress slightly from the BBQ topic at hand, since the weather's been warmer lately, I can't stop thinking about the apple salad at Shealy's. I could eat buckets of the stuff and I haven't had it in FOREVER. A nice, cool, sweet side for a plate of hot BBQ and chicken, for sure.

        2. re: jazzy77

          While it is not my favorite, if you have an interest in BBQ then you do need to try the mustard based at least once. When I've had it it has been tasty. It stretches my personal definition of expectations of BBQ, but If I was passing through I'd have it again.

          If you find you like it & are back in Fl. - there used to be a place in central Fl., perhaps north of Mt. Dora or Orlando that served this style. I'll post if I can remember the name. I think that Publix carried their sauce too.

          1. re: jazzy77

            I am a big fan of mustard bbq sauce and just had some this evening for dinner. I have passed by Phil's BBQ on the way to my mother's home in Blk Mtn a hundred times and never had I pulled in the parking lot. One afternoon we decided to give it a try and I have to say that from the moment you step out of the car, you know that it is going to be good. I was pleasantly surprised! This was some really great bbq and they had mustard sauce to boot. I am now a regular and can say that this is in my humble bbq opinion the best bbq in the area hands down.

            kelly
            www.dineoutasheville.com

          2. re: Suzy Q

            SC has 4 different kinds of BBQ: Vinegar, Mustard, Light Tomato Based, and Tomato Based. It depends on where you grew up. Where I am from all we have is vinegar, which is the best and 'REAL' BBQ.

            What part of SC did you live?

            1. re: TBKlNG

              I've lived in Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach.

              1. re: Suzy Q

                Well I'm not sure where you were eating BBQ while in the low country in general and the Myrtle Beach area in particular but I have never seen a mustard based sauce around there. Granted I've only eaten at BBQ restaurants in Hemmingway, Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, Pawley's Island, Andrews and Kingstree. I never fail to stop at a roadside BBQ fundraiser along 17. I've been to many different peoples pig pickin's in the area and I BBQ my own pigs low country style, but no mustard sauce. Granted I do use mustard in my sauce, I put in about 12 oz for every gallon of vinegar (and many other ingredients as well), but that's all. For those who might be looking for a mustard based sauce BBQ experience in the low country, I think the only thing you will find of value is a map to Columbia.

                1. re: gamebronc

                  Mustard sauce can be found in the Charleston area at Bessinger's and Melvin's.

              2. re: TBKlNG

                I happened upon this interesting BBQ region map for SC:

                http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2008...

                1. re: TBKlNG

                  I do work in Kingstree once a year, and this year happened to be there on a Friday, so I got to go to Brown's for the first time in about 6 years. Vinegar is definitely my favorite. Are you from that area?

                2. re: Suzy Q

                  Yeah...the best way I know to start a fight is to make a generalization about BBQ in SC. I would argue that more of the state leans towards vinegar now than any other sauce when it comes to to hole-in-the-wall places (which are the best). The chains tend to go more tomato/mustard but I don't really include them in the same category.

                3. I am from Orangeburg but now live in Columbia. All of the Orangeburg BBQ places are better than most of the BBQ places in Columbia based on my opinion. The best one in Columbia is Palmetto Pig off of Huger Street. In Orangeburg, check out Antleys BBQ on Sims St, or Dukes. There are several Dukes around but of the ones that are still around, I like the one on Whitman St.

                  Also, I went to Sweatmans in Holly Hill a few weeks ago on my way to Charleston and they have great BBQ too. Not a lot of sides, but all that is required for great BBQ is BBQ, hash and rice and cole slaw. Hush puppies are really required too, but Sweatmans didn't have any, but I forgive them since the rest of the food was great.

                  1. The mustard sauce is mainly found around Columbia.
                    Maurice's family also serves it around Charleston.
                    Once you get around Florence, you'll find a thinner,
                    mustard-vinegar sauce that isn't sweet like the other
                    mustard sauces.

                    The vast majority of SC bbq is cooked over gas, meaning
                    it's just roasted pork with "barbecue sauce" put on it.
                    That's not horrible, but it ain't bbq either.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Captain Morgan

                      "cooked over gas, meaning
                      it's just roasted pork with "barbecue sauce" put on it.
                      That's not horrible, but it ain't bbq either."

                      Amen Captain !

                      1. re: Captain Morgan

                        "The vast majority of SC bbq is cooked over gas"

                        I don't know where you're eating, but practically _all_ of the places I frequent in and around the midlands don't cook over gas- they cook over hard-wood coals.

                        And though I am a fan of Lexington-style BBQ, I have to say that Columbia and surrounding areas have it all over the rest of the state and any other state in the union.

                        We've got mustard, mustard/vinegar, tomato, tomato/vinegar, vinegar, pepper/vinegar and so forth. You'll not find variety like that anywhere else in the country.

                        If people would just get out every once in a while and go someplace that they've never heard of instead of sticking to the Shealy's (ugh), Maurice's (hulp) and Palmetto Pig (meh) triumvirate that seems to have developed; there might be some very surprised and pleased folks.

                        The midlands and South Carolina in general are a treasure trove of out-of-the-way, backwaters that feature lovingly crafted, classic Southern barbecue in oh-so-many varieties.

                        1. re: Animabandit

                          Sounds good! Care to share the names and locations of any of these out-of-the-way gems? Thanks!

                          1. re: Animabandit

                            SIX kinds of BBQ in South Carolina? Who knew!

                            There's nothing wrong with people liking what they like. If you have better recommendations, great - I'm with cdawg and would love to hear them. You're obviously living in the right place for you since you find South Carolina to be a "treasure trove of out-of-the-way backwaters" with "lovingly crafted" food, but why not take the opportunity to educate instead of denigrate?

                        2. Now, I'm not one to argue semantics, so I don't care what you call it if it's good - and the mustard-based BBQ was pretty good.

                          Since we had to stop at one with a drive-through (our dog was in the car and it was in the 80s), we went through the Piggy Park outside of Columbia (it looks like their "corp" headquarters was there, just for a little bit of an idea as to where we were). We had two sansdwiches, fries, cole slaw, and hushpuppies (no hash, I'm not that adventurous). We both liked the mustard base a lot, but it's still not as good as the vinegar base (NC-style, of course....).

                          Thanks for all your help - I think that we're going to try some more on the way back to FL....

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: jazzy77

                            This is a late contribution (and probably not much of one) but I have to wonder, jazzy77, why you continually refer to vinegar-pepper as NC-style. From meatn3's map above, the vinegar-pepper region clearly extends down well into SC. Is the claim that VnP originated in North Carolina? I have heard it called (often) "North Carolina Vinegar Pepper."

                            On another note, for those interested in sampling SC BBQ (of all 4, or even 6, varieties, including vinegar-pepper) in a sort of "one-stop" venue, there is the SC BBQ Association's competition, The Q Cup, which I attended last Spring out in Lexington. I hear next year it will be a bit further away, unfortunately, down on Hilton Head, in March, but I plan on going again if at all possible. The link is: http://www.carolinaqcup.com/

                            1. re: proclusian

                              Hey, I'm up for talking about Q anytime! The main reason that I talk about vinegar-being "NC-style" is because I have an extreme sense of loyalty to the eastern NC region - and especially it's foodways - because I consider that region home. That's all. I've no doubt that people in Georgia and South Carolina (and probably Ohio and Michigan) probably smoked some meat and threw some salt, pepper, and vinegar on it at the same time they were doing it in NC. ...And for what it's worth, most people know exactly what I'm talking about when I refer to it that way.

                              But, again, I don't get too caught up in regional anthropoligical arguments because good food is good food - and if someone who smokes an awesome bit of vinegary pig tells me their family's been doing it for centuries in that very pit well outside of North Carolina, then, in the words of Walt Whitman "I am large; I contain multitudes."

                              1. re: jazzy77

                                Thanks for the clarification jazzy77. Good food is good food indeed. As far as BBQ in South Carolina I've always liked Rays in Mount Pleasant--have you ever tried their BBQ? There is a lot I don't know about Carolina BBQ since I've only been in the state for a little over 2 years. But they prepare BBQ which is very tender and juicy and then you can add the sauce you like. He has two sauces which are my favorites and he calls them: NC Vinegar-Pepper and Spicy NC Vinegar-Pepper. But don't put the later on your BBQ unless you have a tolerance for heat to such an extent that you enjoy things like traditionally spicy Thai Larb Gai.

                          2. Woaaa wooaaa woaa guys...
                            Before you go bashing SC BBQ and saying that it is ONLY about mustard based sauce is obtuse and misinformed.... If you want to have some BBQ that will make you slap yo' momma,..
                            go to Bucky's BBQ in Greenville (Roper Mtn. Road) and ask the person politely for some chunky peices of 'bark' if you like the somewhat charred outside peices and the chunky juicy morsels of BBQ instead of a pig that looks like it experienced a direct hit from an A-bomb.. They have a myriad of sauces, of which my favorite is a hot vinegar based sauce that has fresh minced peppers in the mix. If you still have bad things to say about SC bbq, then it is what it is... But don't mess w/ Bucky, he's got it going on!!!!

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: emh2003deer

                              I actually don't have anything bad to say about SC BBQ. The two types (both mustard at Piggy Park and Duke's with vinegar later that same week) I had there were both quite tasty. So, I say that NC is the best as more of a nod to a regional rivalry rather than quality pig, but it's all meant to be in fun - although I know others take it more seriously.

                              This discussion, though, reminds me of when I was driving through SC one day - I was listening to NPR and these three older gentlemen devoted an entire hour of air time to why SC BBQ is the best in the world and the complete injustice of the national BBQ circuit in not recognizing the obvious superiority of the mustard-based sauces (and that is all they talked about - the mustard-based so blame them for my ignorance on the subject as I learned everything I knew from them!). IIRC, all three were retired professors from Columbia, and they were so ardent and so funny that I was convinced that I would seek out this poor underdog of a sauce as soon as I was in the right part of the state to do so.

                              1. re: jazzy77

                                That would have been Dr. Walter Edgar. On that same program he said that he would give just about anything in the world for a pound of McCabe's BBQ which is right here in good ole' Manning, SC. I ate there 2 weeks ago. For those traveling down I-95 it is off of Exit 122. Just go East on Hwy 521 and it will be just in town on the left.

                                1. re: GrillMaster

                                  I'm so glad that you posted this! My husband and I will be driving to NC this weekend along the I-95 corridor and will have to stop in for a visit!

                                  1. re: jazzy77

                                    You will get off on the Alcolu exit. When you get off of the ramp take a right and follow Hwy 521 for maybe 3 miles into Manning. You'll go through Pocotaligo Swamp (several bridges) and then enter Manning. McCabe's will be about the 4-5 business on the right. They are open for Lunch and Dinner on Thurs. and Fri. but just for lunch on Sat.
                                    I think you'll enjoy it.

                                    I almost forgot...one thing that I love about BBQ joints if the different protocols when you go in. At McCabe's you walk in, go right to the buffett, and they will take your drink order and bring it to an empty table where you'll go sit down with your food.

                                    1. re: GrillMaster

                                      When he used to have special outside events here in Greenville County, SC, my father would "send" to Manning for BBQ. Or to that place on HWY15. Later, I concocted a sauce that is loved far and wide that is vinegar-based. Maurice is okay for dipping fries and stuff in.

                                      Is the Central Coffee Shop still open?

                                      1. re: Lynsport

                                        Sadly, the Central Coffee Shop is closed. Fortunately, the building was lovingly restored into the new home of the Manning Times. I had many a good cheeseburger in there in its time.

                                        I went to the auction when they sold off all of the fixtures from the Coffee Shop a couple of years back. I ended up buying the marble slab that they used to make taffy on back in the 50's when they made all their own candy. I didn't really want it but couldn't pass it up for $50. The thing is every bit of 4'x8' and about 4 inches thick. They had to reinforce the floor to get it out of the building and pull it up on a rollback truck to move it. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it (its still in my garage) but it is a pretty cool think to have.

                                        1. re: GrillMaster

                                          I would love to have that slab. Wish I had known about the auction. 50 years ago, my family stopped in for the first time on the way to the beach for lunch. We stopped on every trip after. When I had a business meeting nearby in 2002, I got Mr. Metropole to help me get some locals involved. Now that my daughter lives in Charleston, we go there and then up 17.

                                          Those burgers were great - and that raisin pie...

                                      2. re: GrillMaster

                                        We tried McCabe's and it was really a treat. The pork was great, and the sauce was excellent. Thanks for the suggestion!