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Best BBQ near Charleston

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I'm going down to Seabrook Island in a couple of weeks. What's the best barbecue place for either pulled pork or ribs near Charleston?

It can be in Charleston, or anywhere on the surrounding islands (Johns, James, etc). Somewhat family friendly would be a plus!


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  1. There is a famous place outside Charleston that hopefully someone will chime in with. Right now I can't think of the name for anything.

    Mt. Pleasant Mamma Browns and Maurice Bessingers on 17 South headed out of town.

    Edited because I remembered it is Sweatman's BBQ in Holly Hill.

    1. Have you done a search on CH? This topic is covered every few months.

      Our favourite when on Isle of Palms is Momma Brown's in Mount Pleasant, although we take it back to the house (it's family friendly, but bare). Melvin B's sauce is the preferred sauce.

      BH: I think you're referring to Sweatman's in Holly Hill; we haven't been yet, but will go in August.

      1. (links I forgot to add)

        Bub Sweatman's
        1313 Gemini Dr, Holly Hill, SC

        Momma Brown's Barbeque
        1471 Ben Sawyer Blvd, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

        Melvin's BBQ & Ribs
        925 Houston Northcutt Blvd, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

        18 Replies
        1. re: Caralien

          I've never been to Sweatman's, but Momma Brown's and Melvin's are bbq for yankees. Momma Brown's is especially inedible for my Southern palate. Even the vegetables taste like they came out of a can.

          1. re: tennreb

            My in-laws grew up in Orangeburg, SC, and Duke's is too far for the OP. Melvin is a Bessinger.

            What "real" bbq does your southern palate prefer near Charleston, SC?

            1. re: Caralien

              Home Team is the best I've had in Charleston, though I have not ventured to the surrounding rural spots. I'm pretty sure Momma Brown's cooks their "barbeque" in an oven. It tastes like it anyway. No flavor at all, and I've never seen smoke coming from the building. Nothing is as bad as the mush that Sticky Fingers turns out, though.

              1. re: tennreb

                I'll try not to discount "Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ" due to the variety of salads and the cuteness of using "chix" instead of chicken on the catering menu. Or that there's a chef instead of pitmaster. Apparently there's even a white sauce that accompanies the beef brisket on Saturdays. Blossom, where the chef hailed from, had really tasty and well executed food when we had dinner there a few years ago, but that was fine/modern dining.

                I may be completely biased against non-local bbq "chefs" (he's from Georgia) with CIA degrees who have worked in fine dining as well as at Aspen serving beef brisket at a hog country bbq establishment. If I'm on Sullivan's, I am more likely to be at Poe's for the fish tacos and burgers or Station 22 for the fried flounder and coconut cake. I haven't completely rejected this place and I'm sure it is very clean and has granite restrooms. There is no doubt in my mind that this chef can cook--I've tried his cooking--and know that dedication to a craft is a good thing. I'm even fairly certain that the food will be quite good.

                But I wouldn't go there for authentic SC bbq.

                1. re: Caralien

                  Have you eaten the bbq at at the restaurant in question?

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    (mods: please don't delete this post, as I have not been vulgar and this is not in the least bit inappropriate)

                    Carolinadawg: As I clearly stated, I have not yet eaten at Home Team and suspect that it is probably good. I just have plenty of other places to try first.

                    1. re: Caralien

                      As a Charleston local, I think Home Team is the best barbecue in town. If you're looking for that authentic dive where they're using the same family recipe for 100 years, then no, Home Team isn't it - but, neither are they the fine-dining modern cuisine that Caralien seems to think they are. The restaurant is a bluegrass bar in a converted gas station, and I don't recall seeing any granite countertops. Cement floors, Menu on a big chalkboard, stand in line to order.... it's pretty casual.

                      Also, you can get the white sauce any time. It's very good, though I'm a vinegar gal myself.

                      1. re: General Knowledge

                        One thing about Home Team is I have had their ribs twice and both times they were completely cold. I asked them to heat them up and when they came back they were still pretty cold. I also had a full rack there once and it was somewhat small. But the meat is tasty, they have a nice rub, and it falls off the bone. I wouldn't mind trying their other stuff.

            2. re: tennreb

              I agree about Momma Brown's. I liked the meat, the turkey was especially good, but I think there was only one side on the buffet that didn't taste like it came out of a can.

              1. re: lizzy

                I have never tried a side from Momma Brown's, so am not in a position to comment (when I eat bbq, it's generally a large plate of assorted meat)

                For sides, and the most incredible fried chicken, I overeat at Gullah Cuisine.

                Gullah Cuisine Lowcountry Restoration
                1717 N Highway 17, Mt Pleasant, SC

                1. re: Caralien

                  When you eat at Gullah Cuisine do you go for the lunch buffet? I only ask because I went for dinner and was not overly impressed, but everyone keeps telling me that I need to go back for the buffet. Thoughts?

                  1. re: lizzy

                    We go for the lunch buffet. Once we ordered from the menu (lunch), and kicked ourselves for being nincompoops.

                    Truth be told, I am not a fan of buffets anywhere else.

                    1. re: Caralien

                      Do they still have the buffet? The web site doesn't talk about it.

                      1. re: observor

                        "Today, Gullah Cuisine restaurant serves a lunch buffet featuring Gullah and southern-style vegetables including collard greens, okra soup, green beans, macaroni, succotash, cabbage, candied yams and other seasonal favorites. You can always find barbequed chicken, as well as her distinctive fried chicken, baked chicken and pork chops on the buffet."

                        Now I want really fried chicken. :(

                    2. re: lizzy

                      I had the buffet yestterday and it was absolutely fantastic. The food is so well made and made with clear caring that it was a real pleasure. Real chunks of banana in the banana pudding, everything tasting so real. The thing that I really can't get over is that the price is less than the price for the buffet at KFC! Everyone must experience this genuine food (but it doesn't fall under the purview of barbecue)

                2. re: tennreb

                  This Charleston native who has been attending pig pickin's all her life thinks Mamma Brown's and Melvins are good.

                  I don't understand what one has to do with a southern palate.

                  1. re: BlueHerons

                    Agreed. I'm another born and raised southerner who likes Momma Brown's. From what I understand from various quotes I've read from the owners, they appear to cook whole hogs using an open pit in an off-site location. I think they likely do use gas or possibly a gas/wood combo. There is little to no smoke flavor to their cue but that is not all that unusal for whole hog joints. They do apparently slaughter their own pigs, which is pretty old school. I've never had anything from their buffet that tasted like it was from a can, but I tend to concentrate on the cue, fried chicken, hash, red rice, beans or peas, slaw, hushpuppies, and fried catfish (on catfish night). All those items have been consistently good to excellent.

                    Now, my favorite BBQ in the immediate Charleston area is probably from the Hickory Hawg on John's Island. It never seems to get much press, probably because they do Lexington (NC) style cue in an area where loyalties seem to be split between V&P (the original Low Country style) and mustard (the style that migrated down the I-26 corridor with the various Bessinger brothers). HH cooks shoulders over all wood and finishes the chopped pork with a great, slightly sweet Western NC sauce (vinegar with tomato). They also have the best ribs I've had in the area.

                    1. re: Low Country Jon

                      Good to know

                      Hickory Hawg
                      2817 Maybank Hwy Ste 9, Johns Island, SC 29455

              2. Definitely JB's Smokeshack on Johns Island (Maybank Hwy).It is buffet style with pulled pork, bbq chix and fried chix (I know, BUT try the fried chix) Vegetables on the buffet are too numerous to type down all good but needing salt and pepper. Ribs are on the menu but not on the buffet, call first check hours and it might be cash only (I can't remember).A trio of sauces, vinegar, red and mustard.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Mickey D

                  MD: I had never heard of this one, but it does look promising enough to add to our BBQ to try list.


                  (why would this be on my definitely try list and not Home Team considering everything else I've written? JB's appears to be a local multi-generational family run business where BBQ is the only thing that's made, week in and week out. That makes it far more enticing to me than a BBQ place run by Trotter, Keller, Flay, Bourdain, or even Pepin, even though I know that whatever these chefs make would be very good).

                  JBS Smoke Shack
                  3406 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    None of these excellent chefs have a BBQ establishment in Charleston, particularly not on Morgan Island. Apologies for any confusion.

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        "JB's appears to be a local multi-generational family run business where BBQ is the only thing that's made, week in and week out. That makes it far more enticing to me than a BBQ place run by..."

                        Place "x", run by local pitmasters, is more attractive to me than any place "y", run by non-local chefs (place "y" is a hypothetical place; please reference the context)

                        I'm sure you have an opinion on BBQ in the Charleston environs; what places do you recommend?

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            I used to live in Summerville and have tried BBQ throughout the lowcountry. Sweatman's in Holly Hill is the epitome of S. Carolina mustard-style que, IMO. Be sure to try the hash and cracklins, too. (And their 'Nanner Puddin' ain't bad, either!)

                  2. re: Mickey D

                    JB's Smokeshack is wonderful, much better than Gullah Cuisine, which uses too much sodium. Also Gullah's chicken is oven-baked, while JB's is barbecued, and that is a big difference! The fried and barbecued chicken literally falls from the bone, moist and with a smoky taste (for the barbecued). Finally, I have had pulled pork that was moist and tender, with an al dente chew with every bite (and mild, sweet, vinegar, and mustard sauces available). Plenty of fantastic sides, including hash and rice, corn, cabbage, green beans, pinto beans, collard greens, black eyed peas, barbecued beans,. mac and cheese, okra, cole slaw, potato salad, tomato and cucumber salad, two kinds of pickles, and bread. And, for dessert, fruit salads and creamy banana pudding, chocolate pudding, and vanilla pudding (the last had a graham cracker and chocolate frosting crust.) Everything was wonderful, and only 8 dollars at lunch (.75 cents more than Gullah). Drawbacks, of course, the drive and there is very limited seating so one feels some pressure to leave to make room for others. Not the friendliest of folks, but so what. Wonderful, good food.

                  3. I recently tried Fiery Ron's Home Team Barbecue in West Ashley and Melvin's in Mt. Pleasant. Fiery Ron's I thought was very good, except the 4-bones I got had to be warmer....but very good smoke flavor that wasn't too much, moist meat that came off the bones in chunks, and a good solid spice rub. It tasted like it had been made with, corny as it is, care, definitely a long time cookin'. The potato salad was also very good, calories aside, with a wonderful tang, probably from lemon juice. I think I also had the baked beans, but they don't stand out. Cornbread I remember being rather dry. And reasonable price to top it off...10 dollars for four bones, two sides, and cornbread.

                    I was interested to go to Melvin's, since I had heard it had gotten a lot of awards. I was quite disappointed. It was 16 dollars for half a rack, a half pound of pulled pork, two sides and cornbread (and drink was included because it was their "happy hour") The meat had no smoke taste and I didn't taste much in the way of seasoning. It didn't really fall off the bone, either, but there was a lot of meat on the bones. It wasn't that hot either. The pulled pork wasn't bad at all, and it was quite hot and quite moist. The cole slaw tasted like it came from the supermarket and the beans tasted like they came from a can. I will say it was a lot of food, but the ribs were very bad, almost nondescript, which I found incredible since it had supposedly won so much attention.

                    Am interested to try Sticky Fingers.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: observor

                      Sticky Fingers is a chain, but their ribs are good. Home Team, not good. I consistently do not like their food. The sides are not good, they only have two sauces and they taste almost identical. They use a dry rub which is not my taste, and it is all over the chicken too. I like my ribs with a nice caramelized crust.
                      Mamma Brown's is good, Duke's, and JB's too.

                    2. No contest. Sweatman's.

                      Of course, Holly Hill isn't exactly in Charleston or on a surrounding island, but it is near Charleston nonetheless.

                      1. Hometeam is by far my favorite in Charleston! Despite the "cuteness" of the menu, all of the food is solid. They use a smoker and the pork goes for 12 hours as does the chicken which is by far my favorite (Hey, I am nosy and ask a lot of questions). They have several types of sauce including mustard, vinegar and the Alabama white. So as for authentic SC BBQ, slather on whichever sauce you choose. I don't think there is anything amiss with having a chef do BBQ as long as its done well, and BTW they do have a pitmaster as well. Also, bluegrass and lots of bourbon!

                        I know I sound like an advertisement but I am regularly disappointed by many places in Charleston so when I find one I like, I want other people to know.

                        I think JB's on Johns Island is kinda boring but good price for an all you can eat buffet. Plus it is close to you on Seabrook, I would do lunch there.

                        1. Sticky Fingers, downtown Charleston, for lunch:

                          8.95 luncheon ribs with beans and cole slaw, and a coupon for free chicken wings.

                          Place is nicely designed, rather large, and the service was excellent, incredibly friendly, especially for a tourist area, with a manager checking in at the end of the meal. I was impressed that people are so cheerful cleaning up disgusting napkins.

                          Chicken wings: touted as jumbo (:the largest you'll have") and hickory-smoked, the coupon gave 6 piece wings with entree. They accepted the coupon even with luncheon order, which is quite generous. However, the 6 piece wings came out to be 5 pieces, and the pieces were not actually wings but each were wing sections and drummettes, so that wasn't so generous. While they weren't small, they could hardly be called jumbo...I thought they were pretty regular in size. And not only did I not perceive any hickory smoke, but I am pretty sure those wings were fried. Anyway, they weren't bad, as a fried chicken wing is wont to be, and came with what the waiter said was a barbecue ranch sauce and celery (given their fried nature, it seemed blue cheese dressing was more appropriate).

                          I am sorry to say I don't feel adequate in giving an assessment of their ribs, as I had the luncheon portion and, with the size of it, there just wasn't a good enough sample to decide whether the ribs are good or not. Not that it was incredibly small, as it was good enough for the price, I just can't state for sure based on that limited sample. They were nice and hot, a seeming rarity in the rib world. I, perhaps in error, got them without sauce (dry), and I can't say the rub was incredibly impacting. Parts of the cut were moist, while others were incredibly dry, but this may be due to the luncheon size and cannot be taken as a good assessment of their ribs.

                          They have five sauces on the table, of which I liked their Carolina Sweet, which is their top seller. The beans were very tender without being mushy, and were quite thick in nature which made them rather pleasant, almost stew-like, with a nice smoky quality. The cole slaw was medium chopped, mayonnaise based, with strong notes of celery seed/salt. Good.

                          Free soft drink refills.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: observor

                            Sticky Fingers is a joke. Respectfully.

                          2. Melvin's is the fast food of BBQ. Sticky Fingers is a chain. Home Team is delicious but on its way to being a chain. Go to JB's. I lived on Seabrook for while and loved going there. In fact, I would drive out there from downtown when I lived there as well. Crazy nice people and crazy good food. Mmmmm.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: burke.becky

                              Hickory Hawg moved to North Charleston.

                              Hickory Haw BBQ @ 6150 Rivers Ave., North Charleston, SC 843 - 746 - 9506.

                              Hickory Hawg
                              2817 Maybank Hwy Ste 9, Johns Island, SC 29455