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Nov 26, 2013 06:43 AM

Mustard Belt and Charleston, SC

Hello all,

I’m visiting family in South Carolina in January but making a few detours along the way for some South Carolina BBQ (mustard belt) and some good southern food in Charlestown. Here’s my plan so far. Let me know if I need to add/delete any of these places. I’m looking for local, authentic. Can be a hole in the wall or a nice place, don’t really care. The holes in the wall usually offer the most unique experiences. Thanks!!

BBQ King – Charlotte, NC
Jackie Hite’s – Batesburg
Pawley’s Front Porch – Columbia
Bessinger’s BBQ – Charleston
Hominy Grill – Charleston
Jestine’s Kitchen – Charleston
Bowens Island – Charleston
McCabe’s BBQ – Manning
Sweatman’s – Holly Hill
Scott’s BBQ – Hemingway

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  1. I would delete BBQ King and Pawley's. Otherwise, that is an excellent list.

    1. BBQ King is a fun experience (it's an old school drive-in), but the 'q is subpar (and it's not a mustard sauce, if thats important to you).

      The Charleston paper had a rather scathing review of Jestine's recently that would give me pause about going there.

      Sweatman's used to be great, but it changed ownership a while back and some reports have been less than positive. Scott's and McCabe's are excellent.

      20 Replies
      1. re: carolinadawg

        was actually going to BBQ King for chicken? I did a NC BBQ tour last year.

        Hmm... what did they say about Jestine's? i was also thinking about maybe Bertha's kitchen instead?

        1. re: Qball

          Best fried chicken in Charlotte is at Price's Chicken Coop, but it's take out only. Here's the article on Jestine's:

          1. re: Qball

            Jestine's has always been decent the times we've been.

            Bertha's is pretty good too, and Ms. Bertha is a doll.

            But I'd rather go to Addilee's on Bonds Ave. in North Charleston. It's not in the best of locations, but the food surpasses the other two. We go quite often. Ms. Annie is a sweetheart. :0)

            We skip Sweatman's. Even under the old ownership it just wasn't the drive from Charleston to us.

            McCabe's has been good the times I've been...actually darn good.

            Scott's is one of those places that people will say you "must visit". The pork is good, but don't load it up with his sauce until you taste some of it. His "secret ingredient" is a bit off tasting (to me). Next time I go I'll be carrying my own sauce to go on the pork (either one of my recipes or a bottle of Scott's...the OTHER Scott's...the Goldsboro Scott's).

            1. re: JayL

              I heard since the owners "little freak out close then reopen" that Jestines is a mess. I wouldn't my opinion it was subpar to begin with.

              I love Scott's but i don't eat sauce on my bbq. I strictly base my opinion on the pork, the way I was taught to judge.
              I am a fan of hominey grill but only when chef stehling isin house.
              Bowens is a great lowcountry experience.

              1. re: LaLa

                Scott's had a fire yesterday; not sure how they're doing. Probably OK.

                We really like Page's Okra Grill in Mt. Pleasant. Good country cooking, much better than Jestine's, and not at all touristy. My kind of place.

                1. re: Tiger66

                  Yes..I posted about the fire was contained to the pit.
                  I agree with Pages

                  1. re: Tiger66

                    That's not good about Scott's! I was looking forward to that place the most! hope they are back and operational by middle of January...

                    1. re: Qball

                      They were back in business within hours.

                  2. re: LaLa

                    "... I don't eat sauce on my BBQ..."

                    Never? That must really limit where you can eat, as most places serve 'q already sauced, with the option to add more at the table. Do you ask for a special order everywhere you go without sauce? Isn't the sauce part of the experience of enjoying BBQ? It is to me...

                    1. re: carolinadawg

                      Well I mostly eat bbq when I am judging it so no it is not usually sauced.

                      Of course you know by sauced I mean what people add on at the table but I know you are doing your normal little thing you do....

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        For "our" barbecue...the sauce is part of the seasoning.

                        Regional barbecue isn't competition the vast majority of cases.

                        Most of the vinegar belt barbecue will be seasoned with some sauce...the way it's intended to be eaten.

                        1. re: JayL

                          Like I said I was not talking about seasoning ..I was talking about the sauce people add at the table....but then you both knew that.
                          But it's true completion barbecue is a different thing..which I prefer

                          1. re: LaLa

                            But other readers might not have known so it is worth the mention.

                            1. re: JayL

                              Sure ...wrong of me to assume the two times I said was enough.....

                            2. re: carolinadawg

                              Okay...let's at least argue about something that matters,how about the fact mustard based is the third worst of the four sc BBQ styles.MUstard BBQ in made my inferior cooks who hide poorly cooked meat behind cloying mustard sauce.The only other sc BBQ style that is worse is further west along the savannah river that is aptly called tomato based.I think of this style as .99 a bottle hunts/Heinz BBQ! Up around Greenville we have a decent tomato vinegar style that is pretty good as long as the pork is respected by the cook and the sauce is kept thin.

                              now if you want the best, go east young man! :)

                              just stirin' the pot!

                              1. re: mollybelle

                                Okay mollybelle, this is something that does interest me. I ventured on a North Carolina BBQ tour last year and enojoyed the difference between the east and west. Both good in their own ways, but I don't think I realized SC had 4 different styles?

                                I knew about mustard (which I haven't tried yet) and the Ketchup style. Vinegar & Pepper I understand to be east. Wouldn't that be McCabes or Scott's?

                                What is the 4th style?

                                1. re: Qball

                                  Qball, from my old blog:
                                  Contrary to popular belief, there is not one, but four types of barbecue in South Carolina. The difference around the four is in the basting and finish, namely the sauce. The most well-known to the region is mustard, mostly inspired by the German heritage found in the state thanks to a mass movement during the mid-to-late 1700s. The taste can be described as a sharp sweetness chased by the mellow, meaty pulled pork. There's also a bit of tang from the mustard and vinegar generally found in the sauce, but nowhere as powerful as the most well-known Carolina style barbecue sauce, the vinegar and pepper. On paper, something so wildly sour in principle may seem a bit daunting, but that sharp vinegar flavor becomes surprisingly addicting after a few bites, almost sweet even. Vinegar and pepper is the oldest of barbecues, and the one you'll most likely find anywhere you go in the Carolinas and even Georgia or Virginia. In South Carolina, mustard is generally found in the lowcountry and midlands while vinegar touches more on the NC/SC border and much of the northeast region of the state.

                                  The other two forms of barbecue that can be found in South Carolina are the light and heavy tomato versions. Located mostly in south, southwest portion of the state, light tomato sauces are essentially vinegar and pepper sauces doused with ketchup for a slightly sweeter sauce. Heavy tomato sauce is predominantly a west SC thing, and what people generally attribute barbecue sauce to be with it's thick, smoky, molasses flavor.

                                  1. re: ForagingFoodie

                                    Thanks, I'm planning on Jackie Hite's and Bessingers for mustard and McCabes and Scotts for V&P. Don't think I'll get around to the other two. Although, if the 4th style is Lexington (JayL), I've tried that in NC.

                                    It seems to me that SC favors the buffet style BBQ. I didn't see that too much in NC. I'm looking forward to it.

                                    Also, looking forward to some good lowcountry in Charleston.

                                    1. re: Qball

                                      I was quite surprised by the polar when I moved up to NC for two years, being used to the buffet style here in SC. They are two very different bbq experiences in my book, especially when you are looking at sides and how they are treated. It'll be a fun trip for sure.

                                  2. re: Qball

                                    The 4th is sauce style is similar to what you would have found around Lexington, NC. The light tomato region is across the border from the same region in NC...just like the vinegar/pepper region crosses over to SC.

                                    I have yet to find a restaurant that makes a decent mustard sauce. I've had some really good ones, but none from the commercial crowd.

                  3. I would skip Jestine's due to recent drama and try Martha Lou's. I would also skip Pawley's Front Porch for Little Pigs Barbecue if you want to keep the Southern theme going. Pawley's has decent burgers, but not worth using a meal over. Shealy's in Batesburg-Leesville is also a good replacement for Pawleys.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ForagingFoodie

                      Thanks for the tips everyone! Sounds like I should nix Pawley's Front Porch and possibly Jestine's. Also BBQ King.

                      possibly add Martha Lou's or Bertha's.

                      Anything else I'm missing?

                      1. re: Qball

                        Agree on dumping Pawley's - unless you favor burgers, its a pointless place. Little Pigs has 3 sauce choices - and makes everybody happy. Bessingers (in Columbia) wouldn't make any list i have. and I live in Colatown.

                        Agree on Shealy's. Ask your server for a pulley bone basket. They are not on the buffet - must ask for them. For all of us who love fried chicken... its embarassing good.

                        Also second on Price's in Charlotte - and love the gizzards and livers.

                        Off the familiar grid in Charleston: Workman's Cafe, off the Folly Beach Road - look at article in CHarleston City Paper, great home style soul food with lots of low country touches - and Page's Okra Grill is good too. Agree on Bertha's and Martha Lou's and also Dave's for seafood.

                        tell us where you went and how you liked them. good eating!

                      1. If BBQ King is on your way it is in fact worth a stop for two reasons.

                        1. How often do you get to experience an actual drive-in? (unless you go to South 21 also here in Charlotte)

                        2. The "BBQ Chicken" is fantastic. Its fried chicken dipped in warm barbeque sauce. Maybe not the same level as Keatons but much easier to find :)

                        Not sure its worth a detour but like I said if its on your way go for it.