Destination: BBQ

Scott's BBQ Plate

NOTE: I’ve stuck this, our first post, to the top of the home page. All reviews and comments below are in reverse order. That is, the newest posts are at the top. All posts can be found in the sidebar to the right. Enjoy…

Hello world and welcome to our summer tour.

Our family has decided to embark on a tour of notable BBQ joints in and around the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Destination BBQ is our simple blog designed to capture our experiences during each our of stops.

Who are we? We are the Rollers from Mt. Pleasant, SC: Jim, Heather, Christian, Chelsea, and Camden (and Dixie, too). We don’t pretend to be connoisseurs or experts in the field. We simply enjoy good food, and really like good BBQ. It is our intention to provide our subjective opinions of what we experience. Good, bad, or just ok. We’re not food critics, we’re not expert pit masters. We are who we are: just an average family. But if you want a true, honest, unbiased opinion of what we experienced on a given day, that we can provide.

So, tomorrow we begin.

Heather read an article in Southern Living about Scott’s BBQ in Hemingway, SC. (Supposedly, it is one of the best in the South. We shall see.) And this is what sparked us to begin our journey. So Friday, June 8, 2012, we set out for Hemingway on the first steps of a trip that will lead us we know not where.

Come along for the ride…

Update

It has been a long time since our last review. Summer came to a close, the impetus of the “Summer BBQ Tour” stopped, life moved on, and, well… the barbecue actually continued, just on a much slower pace, but, of course, the reviews did not. Apologies.

We have, in fact, tried out new places as life presented new opportunities.

In an effort to catch up, I will attempt to provide recollections of the places we’ve visited since our summer tour ended.  These will be in no particular order and it would not be fair to call them reviews. It has been too long and my memory is too weak for a fair review, but here is what I can remember:

1) Cannon’s BBQ in Little Mountain, SC. We stopped by Cannon’s on the way to my mother’s house in Inman. Heather had been reading reviews on the way up, trying to find a place, and she read that they cooked over wood coals that they burned themselves. That was reason enough for us to pick Cannon’s. We turned off of I-26 on exit 91 and headed toward Little Mountain, passing another BBQ place along the way, Farm Boy’s Barbecue. I don’t know if they were open yet, but there was NO ONE in the parking lot.  This was lunchtime on a Saturday. Seemed odd, but I won’t make assumptions. Anyway, we finally found Cannon’s a few miles later. It is a modified mobile home, I would guess, that sits right in a “five points” style intersection with roads converging from strange angles. The lot was largely unattractive, with an overfilled trash dumpster and wood strewn about an unkempt lot.  But we don’t care about looks. Some of the best barbecue (Scott’s, for example) is found in places the average Joe might fear to tread. Unlike Farm Boy’s, Cannon’s was fairly packed, a good sign we surmised. We entered the trailer and found the window to “order here” in the middle of the back wall. We asked for a pound of pork, a pound of ribs, and some hash to go, with their sauce on the side. We waited for a bit and then our order was ready. As I said, we were traveling to my Mom’s, actually going to meet the family for a Christmas luncheon, so we didn’t eat at the time. We put the goods in a cooler in the car and headed off. (Truth is we did all sneak a sample before putting it away.) We didn’t get to the BBQ until our trip home that night. Bottom line is we don’t remember much about the food 3 months later, and maybe that is the most telling feature on its own. What we do remember is that the pork was chopped, which we tend to dislike, and by the time we got to it, it had dried out. Not Cannon’s fault, it was many hours later. I don’t remember it having the “smokey” flavors one would expect having been cooked over coals. For what it’s worth, I do remember thinking the pork was good, considering the delay in our eating it. Camden remembers thinking his ribs (he always orders the ribs if available) were “weird” and that they fell off of the bone, which — supposedly — is a bad thing. The hash was good we agreed. The sauce… Well, I grew up in Cheraw, and one of my most striking food memories is of the BBQ our cub scout troop made (whole hog, wood coals) for the Methodist church fundraiser. (Really, we didn’t make it; someone in charge did… I just got to sample it.) It was a vinegar-pepper based sauce. THAT is BBQ to me. Cannon’s sauce is typical of the midlands: mustard based. We do like some mustard sauces — in fact, Heather makes a mustard-based sauce that is my favorite of our own homemade sauces, but I haven’t found one that I like that is strong on the mustard flavor itself. Both Cannon’s and Jackie Hite’s in Batesburg-Leesville, have a very concentrated yellow mustard flavor, almost to the point of wondering whether or not there is anything else in the sauce. We simply don’t care for it. We will eat it to honor their efforts, but we just don’t care for it.  In the end, we would suggest you give Cannon’s a shot, particularly if you like yellow mustard sauces.

Cannon's BBQ on Urbanspoon

2) Home Team BBQ on Sullivan’s Island, SC.  Camden and I visited Home Team on a weekend when Heather was out of town. Home Team is only about two miles from our house and is found right in the midsts of the “business district” of Sullivan’s Island. There are a number of great pubs and restaurants on the island: Sullivan’s is a personal favorite, Dunleavy’s has been in business as long as I can remember, and Poe’s Tavern is another great spot. I had great hopes for Home Team’s BBQ, however, it hasn’t earned such a lofty status with us. Please keep in mind that for us, as far as these reviews are concerned, it is all about the BBQ itself. We may mention the sides or the ambiance, but our bottom line is always based on the pork itself. For that, there is no reason to visit Home Team.

Camden, of course, ordered the ribs. I got a pulled pork platter. I will start with the ribs. They are simply awful, nearly disgusting honestly. I don’t know how anyone could like them. They are coated with what I am guessing started as a dry rub. It has no flavor and sits on top of the ribs like a layer of sawdust. That is the most honest comparison I can make. It doesn’t impart flavor, heat, or spice of any sort. It coats the tongue and masks any flavor the ribs may have picked up from the smoke. We strongly advise against ordering the ribs. Camden refused to eat more than one of them. He may have eaten two out simply out of feeling guilty for having wasted our money on them.

Fortunately, I recorded our impressions on my phone right after our visit. Camden had a ½ rack of ribs, baked beans, mac and cheese and cornbread. He said, “Honestly, the cornbread was the best thing on the plate, and then again, not so much.” I thought the cornbread was pretty good, myself.

Here are his thoughts about the ribs. “They had no flavor at all. There was no smoke ring, Dad. (I had said there was.) There was no flavor, whatsoever.” He even tried to rub some meat on the side of the ribs on the rub “to get more flavor in the meat….and, that’s not really what it did,” he said. I agreed that it didn’t have much flavor. “There was like… mostly a fatty taste,” I reported of the rib I tried. “It wasn’t like I was eating eating pieces of fat, it was just… fatty meat.” Camden said they probably don’t clean their meat of the extra fat and silver skin. “Everything is better than those ribs, even the Dukes BBQ is better than those ribs,” Camden finished.

As for the pulled pork platter, it was not nearly as bad as the ribs, but it wasn’t good BBQ either. “It was ok, better than your ribs, I think,” I said. “I had the collards which I really liked. They were sweet and smokey. I had a cucumber and tomato salad, which was fine, nothing special, It was just ok. Cleansing to go along with the fatty pork,” I continued.

As for the sauces: “They had a vinegar-pepper sauce that you should just pass on; that’s  not worth trying.” I reported. “The mustard sauce was awful. It was just like pure mustard. Not Dukes like mustard, though; it wasn’t very good. I didn’t like that at all. I didn’t try the ‘hot red’ sauce, but I did have the red sauce and it was the best of the three… or four, I guess. It had a vinegaryness to it. It definitely had ketchup in it.”

Finally, THE question for Camden:

“All in all, would you go back?”

“Definitely not…”

Was it worth the trip?

“No.”

“All of the two miles it took us to get there…”

“If you’re going to cook something with no flavor, do it at home in a skillet, or oven or whatever… If you live near the top of the state and your family lives here,  and they say let’s go get some Home Team BBQ, yell at them, ‘No, I’m not going there.’”

Out of the mouths of babes….

Home Team BBQ on Urbanspoon

3) Hudson’s Smokehouse BBQ on 378 in Lexington, SC. Apparently, there are a few Hudson’s BBQ’s in the Columbia area, so to be specific, we went to the one at 4952 Sunset Boulevard in Lexington. Heather and I were taking Camden and his friend Derek to the State Museum in Columbia. We knew since we were traveling that we would need to find a BBQ place to try out. As usual, Heather hit the internet, looking up reviews of various places in the area.  Because of both proximity and review quality, we picked Hudson’s. I’m glad we did.

Hudson’s is a buffet, not unlike most BBQ places. I have to honestly say at this point, I don’t remember the BBQ  or the sauces like I should. I do remember liking it enough as a whole that on another trip through Columbia shortly after our first visit, Camden and I made a point of going back for lunch.It is not great BBQ, like Scott’s or McCabe’s, but it was good enough that we went back when we had a chance, and that says something.

Unfortunately, I apparently didn’t record any of our thoughts on either visit as I typically do, which makes this recollection even more difficult, but the bottom line in most of our reviews is: Would you make the trip back?

We already have, maybe not specifically for the BBQ, but we made a point of going there instead of elsewhere on that journey, so it must be worth our recommendation.

Hudson's Smoke House BBQ on Urbanspoon

4) Southside Smokehouse and Grille in Landrum, SC.  This is going to be short because frankly I don’t remember too much. Heather travelled to NC for a funeral in Tryon, NC. A friend’s mother had recently passed away. On the way back, she decided to stop by Southside Smokehouse in Landrum, which is nearby, and bring some food home.

If I remember correctly, Southside had recently been taken over by a new owner (or chef) and she had revamped the menu. It seemed enticing and I remember Heather being somewhat smitten with the place.

She brought home a couple of styrofoam containers. I remember little about the food at this point, so I hesitate to comment. My best recollection is that the BBQ was ok, obviously not too memorable.  I would say I would like to go back to check out their entire menu, but I certainly wouldn’t drive from Charleston just for the BBQ.

5) Music Man’s BBQ in Moncks Corner, SC.  This recollection will be short as well. We travelled to Moncks Corner for to celebrate – if I remember correctly — a birthday and the 50th anniversary of US citizenship for Heather’s step-grandmother, Elizabeth Murphy. We found out when we arrived that the event was catered by Music Man. I know Music Man uses whole hogs, so I was happy to have a chance to try some new BBQ. That is the gist of my faint recollection. I remember enjoying what I ate. I remember having seconds. I don’t remember being overly impressed, but I enjoyed what I ate. Maybe life will lead us back to Music Man’s and I can write a more thorough review in the future.

6) A&M Brown’s BBQ in Moncks Corner, SC. This is an update to a previous review. We lost Mrs. Murphy on March 4, 2014, a bright soul who always made us feel welcome in her home and in her life. Her funeral was catered by A&M. We were impressed by the taste and quality of all the food, including the BBQ. Our previous review was not flattering, but this second opportunity left us with a different taste in our mouths. The hash was fantastic. The BBQ, too, was very good. I didn’t care for the mustard as much as the vinegar-pepper, but if you’ve read enough of our reviews, that will likely come as no surprise. I just wanted to take this opportunity to give A&M a second review, not because they were kind enough to cater the funeral but because the quality of the food was worth reporting.

———————

And that should catch us up. Going forward, I will try to do a better job writing actual reviews in a timely manner. I don’t know that we’ll dine on BBQ as frequently in such a short timeframe as we did that summer, but when we do, we’ll let you know what we thought.

Again, I’d like to say we don’t consider ourselves experts in any sense of the word. We are just a typical family who likes BBQ and we’re happy to share our experiences with you.

Enjoy….

 

Simple Truths

Note: I began this post at the end of the Summer of 2012 and found it waiting here to be finished and published. So here it is, the simple truths of BBQ:

As the summer draws to a close, we’ve come to a good time to reflect on what we’ve discovered during our “Summer BBQ Tour.”

While we don’t pretend to be experts on the subject of BBQ, we have had an opportunity to eat a lot of different BBQ in a very short time frame. In doing this, certain truths began to reveal themselves. These truths may be unique to our palates or they may be universal; that is not for us to decide. What we can do, however, is share what we’ve learned along the way. Here are the simple truths about BBQ as we see them:

1) BBQ was meant to be cooked over wood coals. Gas-cooked BBQ may be good, but it will never be exceptional. If you want exceptional BBQ, there is simply something superior to pork cooked over wood coals. It adds a flavor, an essence that the convenience of gas simply cannot provide. As the sign at Moose’s Famous BBQ says: “If you don’t smell smoke, the BBQ’s a joke.”

2) Great BBQ is not available on Monday. That is, if you want exceptional BBQ, you have to wait until Thursday (ok…sometimes Wednesday). Places that cook BBQ seven days a week do not make exceptional BBQ (and very likely use gas instead of wood). If you want great BBQ, look for it Wed/Thursday – Sat/Sunday.

3) BBQ was meant to be pulled not chopped. Chopping BBQ tends to make it ” “mushy” or “mealy” in texture. Pulled pork retains its texture and simply makes for a better product.

4) BBQ is better if it is not pre-sauced before it is put on your plate.  BBQ that sits in a sauce for an extended period of time tends to break down and become mushy, especially if it was chopped also.

5) Whole hog is better than pieces of pork. Real BBQ comes from a whole hog (cooked over wood coals).  Butts are fine for small scale cooking (in the home) but BBQ joints that use the whole hog have an distinct flavor advantage.

These are a few of the things we have learned in our travels. What are some of the simple truths you’ve learned about BBQ?

 

 

Scott’s BBQ Documentary

Ran across this documentary on Rodney Scott of Scott’s BBQ in Hemingway, SC, when doing some research online on Cooper’s Country Store in nearby Salters, SC.  Really great feature by Joe York of University of Mississippi’s Media and Documentary Projects, which I stumbled across on the Southern Foodways Alliance website.

Really does a great job of showing not only Scott’s love for what he does, but also all the hard work that goes into such incredible BBQ.

There is a reason one of the simple truths we’ve learned in our BBQ tour is that if you want exceptional BBQ, you have to wait until Thursday to start your search.

Worth a watch. Enjoy:

 

 

Jackie Hite’s BBQ, Batesburg, SC

August 2, 2012

Heather, Camden, and I decided to take a road trip to see a Braves game today and no such road trip would be complete without planning it around at least one BBQ stop.

Previously, we were going to take a road trip to hit up Carolina BBQ, Jackie Hites, and Belly’s all in one day. Unfortunately, the untimely death of our 19-year old son Christian’s good friend and the sudden opportunity for a close friend to receive a new liver, coupled with life in general, held us off of that trip and has slowed us down in making these trips lately.

Anyway, we checked our route to Atlanta and saw that Belly’s and Hite’s were not far off our path. Having only time for one stop, we decided on Hite’s. We had seen a video of Hite’s and knew Jackie cooked whole hogs over wood coals. Having not had any exceptional BBQ lately, we figured this gave us a good shot, so we settled on Hite’s in Batesburg.

Arriving  right around lunch time, we pulled into a parking spot under some trees at the back of the building and could see the flames of Jackie’s “burn barrel” prepping the coals to go in his pits. Great sign. One of the simple truths we’ve learned along the way is that exceptional BBQ begins with wood coals.

We entered and were invited to the buffet right away. That was an interesting twist; you pay after you have eaten, on the way out.

The buffet was not extensive, but not lacking either. Hite’s is a good buffet with ample choice: fried chicken, hash and rice, coleslaw, collards, salad, corn, mac and cheese, field peas, and more.

As you may know by now, our primary focus is finding exceptional BBQ, the rest is window dressing. “As for the BBQ?” I asked.

“Meh…” Camden said, immediately.

“Meh..” I agreed. “I didn’t really like it. It was so mustardy… it was like straight mustard,” I continued.

Heather said, “it was mustardy-vinegary, like mustard seed and vinegar, which is how mustard is made.”

Unfortunately, Hite’s BBQ was a disappointment for us. The pork is pulled and wood cooked, but served pre-sauced, which we have found generally to be a mistake. It tends to make the BBQ mushy (Hite’s BBQ was not) and hides the flavor of the pork.  Hite’s is, of course, a mustard-based BBQ.

“You just have to like mustard-base, which I always thought I did,” I said, but apparently our travels this summer have cemented the notion that a good vinegar-pepper remains my favorite (though Ray’s was exceptional and not vinegar-based). We have yet to find a mustard-based BBQ that we consider among the elite BBQ’s that we have tried.

Put it this way, we went to a BBQ place and Camden ate three pieces of fried chicken after having a single serving of BBQ. “It was great!” Camden said of the fried chicken.
Indeed, it was moist and tasty Heather and I agreed.

As for the sides, Hite’s delivered.

“The vegetables seemed to be local produce, cooked southern style, not out of a can. That is what he has going for him,” Heather said.

Indeed, the veggies were great.

I loved the collards and had two servings. They were sweet and smokey and delicious. I didn’t get any smoked meat in mine, but I suspect it was there. I didn’t even add any vinegar to them (my general preference).

The corn was amazing. It was like a creamed corn that reminded me of my grandmother’s, with a thick, milky base and delicious, crisp corn. Everyone really like it, including Camden.

Heather and I had a deep-fried, breadcrumb-coated squash that was quite good, firm and not greasy. While Heather said the field peas were not exceptional, they were good. The mac and cheese was also good, according to Camden. Heather enjoyed the green beans, but wondered why she didn’t sense any smoked pork meat in it.

The hash was different from any hash we have seen so far. It was a pale color, almost like a white gravy in color. Also, the texture was different in that most of the hash we’ve had has had finely ground meats, in a way similar in texture to good stone ground grits (though not as generally as thick). In these, I could see fine strings of pulled pork in the gravy-like sauce. It was ok, but we tend to prefer the tomato-based hashes we have tried. Neither of us had seconds.

Overall, our meal was good. I guess we just don’t care for the mustard-based BBQ sauce that was too “mustardy” for us. “You know, he’s cooking a good product,” I commented afterwards. I really just wish we could have tried the pork without the sauce being added ahead of time.

In the end, was it worth the trip?

We agreed that we wouldn’t drive from Mount Pleasant again just for the BBQ, the corn and collards, maybe, but not the BBQ.

These were the only photos we got. My phone was dead when we arrived. Camden shot these from his phone before we left.

Jackie Hite's BBQ on Urbanspoon

A&M Brown’s Barbecue, Moncks Corner, SC

August 1, 2012

Heather and I headed up to Moncks Corner today to start putting her classroom back together before the start of school. (One of those unofficial, unpaid workdays that teachers so often put in off the clock.)

I made her a deal. Manual labor in return for some local BBQ. I made good on my end. Her end, however, is debatable…

As we were leaving the school, we searched for local BBQ places. We knew about Moose’s Famous BBQ and Music Man’s. Unfortunately, Moose’s closed their Moncks Corner location in favor of a spot in Summerville. We actually stopped at Moose’s after a trip that eventually led us to Dukes of Summerville. Should have picked Moose’s instead.

Music Man’s, on the other hand, was closed (open Th-Sun). Mind you, today is a Wednesday. While you might be able to get “real BBQ” on a Wednesday, the occasions are rare. Today was no exception.

So, Heather called the only other place we found during our quick search: A&M Brown’s BBQ. A friendly voice picked up on the other end, announced they were open, and our destination was set.

A&M Brown’s is on Hwy 52, near the Tailrace Canal, in what looks like it could be an old converted service station.  Thought it was a bad sign that there wasn’t another car in the lot, but we didn’t get there until after 3, so the lunch crowd was long gone and the dinner crowd not yet gathering. We entered and found the small buffet and cash register to our left; most of the dining area is to the right.

We ordered two buffets ($24), got our trays, styrofoam plates and utensils and stepped right to survey the buffet. It had a number of options (rarely a good sign if you want great BBQ, by the way), including rice, red rice, cabbage, green beans, coleslaw, sweet potatoes, hash, two different BBQ sauces (mustard and vinegar), fried chicken, fried fish, and more.

The BBQ was pre-sauced, which is not uncommon but is a practice we don’t care for. If you are proud of your pork, you let it stand on its own. Sauce should merely complement the pork.

In our two trips each to the buffet, Heather got the vinegar BBQ, green beans, rice and hash, coleslaw and field peas. She also got extra servings of each of the sauces. I got both BBQ’s, butter beans, field peas, cabbage, and red rice. We both passed on dessert (a bad Jello-based banana pudding, and some cake-like squares).

Frankly, I liked the BBQ on first taste. I was starving at this point (having only had a coffee this morning and one of our homemade juice concoctions for lunch), but the mustard-based seemed to have good flavor. The pork was not cooked over wood (and therefore couldn’t be great), but it was at least pulled and not chopped. It was not “mushy” like so many pre-sauced BBQ’s can be.

On second taste, however, the quality of the mustard waned. The vinegar-based, like so many others we’ve tried now was a bit too vinegary and left you with nothing much more than vinegar.

To taste the sauces individually and apart from the pork was interesting. The mustard was actually quite good by itself. Heather actually liked the vinegar-based pork with mustard sauce added to it.

The vinegar sauce was different than any other vinegar we’ve tried. It was thin and dark with what looked like black pepper flakes swimming around in it. We believe it may have actually been made with a beef consumé of all things. Maybe not, but we wouldn’t be surprised. Even so, the vinegar was the foremost element, with nothing much else there to broaden the palate.

The sides were typical country buffet. We liked the butter beans and the cabbage. The field peas and green beans were standard fare; nothing special.  Heather liked her hash, which she felt had a kick of spice to it. The red rice was, essentially, flavorless.

The people we interacted with were very friendly and our teas were kept full – I usually drink 2-3 glasses of water or tea with my meals, so that was nice.

In the end, we’re left with the same notion: If you’re looking for great BBQ, start your search on a Thursday, avoid big buffets, especially if there are other meats on it, and look for stacks of wool or the smell of smoke. Then, you might have found good BBQ.

As for A&M Brown’s, if we hadn’t already been there, we couldn’t say it was worth the trip.

NOTE: Check out this update which includes a new tasting of A&M’s cooking.

 

A & M Brown's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Mamma Brown’s BBQ, Mount Pleasant, SC

July 27, 2012

Mamma Brown’s is bit like a long-lost friend returned.

For years, Mamma Brown’s sold a BBQ buffet in a building just around the corner from our house. While we didn’t eat there regularly, we did go there for a treat every now and again. Like lost friend, I remember him fondly, but his faults are not forgotten.

The Mamma Brown’s that was around the corner I remember as expensive, and frankly not all that great. But like most buffets, what is lost in quality is masked by the value of quantity. So it was with Mamma Brown’s.

Well, to everyone’s surprise, after 15 years in business, Mamma Brown’s shut its doors unexpectedly on Halloween 2010. Turns out the owner of the property chose not to renew their lease. (Only very recently has that property reopened and today an infrequent visitor might be surprised to see Santi’s Mexican restaurant operating on the premises.)

Fast forward to today and Mamma Brown’s has found a new home in a defunct KFC at the intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 41 in “north” Mount Pleasant. Heather was away this Friday evening, so Camden and I took the opportunity to try out the new Mamma Brown’s.

The first thing we noticed when walking in was the fact that Mamma Brown’s was a buffet no more. The KFC had been nicely remodeled and when we entered Mary Alice Brown herself stood behind the cash register awaiting our approach with a smile on her face. It seemed clear she was happy to be back in business. In fact, everyone we interacted with at Mamma Brown’s was very pleasant and the service was top notch.

We perused the extensive menu board behind her and finally placed our order. Camden ordered a half rack of ribs with mac and cheese and green beans. I ordered a BBQ plate with 4 sides: coleslaw, hash and rice, butter beans, and fried okra ($30.94). Each order came with two hushpuppies.

Interestingly, Camden, who is 12, actually remembered the hush puppies from the former Mamma Brown’s and said on the way he was looking forward to them. Me, I had forgotten about them completely. To cover it now, they were good. Big, not greasy, a bit sweet, not too dense.

We got our sweet tea, had a seat, and awaited our order, which arrived shortly.

Camden liked his ribs. They were plentiful, large, and meaty, coated with a red sauce.  I found them overcooked to the point of being dried out. Every bite I tried of the rib he gave me was dried out. That said, Camden did like his.

As for my pork BBQ, I ordered the vinegar-based and got vinegar.  I later said, “I thought it was close to Brown’s in its vinegariness.” That’s not a good thing, by the way. Let me say, that it wasn’t as obnoxiously vinegary as Brown’s, but it was more straight vinegar taste than any good vinegar-based sauce should be. Truth be told the BBQ “was okay,” but just  too strong a vinegar taste.

As for the sides, Camden said his mac and cheese “was awesome.” The green beans “was like sweet, smokey…. something like that,” he said.

As for mine, “I had the fried okra which was fried okra. Nothing special about it, but not bad. Just typical. I had the coleslaw, which was interesting. It was dry.. wasn’t watered down with mayonnaise. I liked it. I liked the coleslaw. I was different, but good. The butter beans were really good. I enjoyed those. They had good flavor, a smoked meat was in it of some sort.”

“I had the hash and rice. The hash was sweet, thick; it sat on top of the rice. There wasn’t much liquid that soaked through the rice.”

I thought overall that Brown’s was… okay. Camden gives it higher marks.

In the end, it is like an old friend returned: you are happy to have him back, but the nostalgia doesn’t overshadow the flaws that were there all along.


Momma Brown's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Hog Heaven, Pawley’s Island, SC

July 14, 2012

We decided to stop by Hog Heaven on the way back home from Myrtle Beach, where we had eaten at Little Pigs BBQ earlier in the day. Hog Heaven is an eye-catching establishment right on 17 just outside of Pawley’s on the way to Georgetown.

Because we had already had BBQ that day, we opted to pick up a pound to go, and, by now, Camden had grown hungry, so we picked up a half slab of ribs for him. Seemed a shame to pass it without at least trying their food since it was right there on our path. So consider this more a preview than a review.

As mentioned above, Hog Heaven is an eclectic-looking place on the roadside. As you enter, you see a lobby decorated with T-shirts and sauces for sale as well as a cash register for picking up takeout orders. Down a step or two into the dining area, there’s also a decent-sized buffet for those who are dining in. I could not see the items on the buffet, but I understand in addition to barbecue there is a really great fried chicken and, of course, a number of sides and desserts.

After waiting quite a while for my turn ( I was third in line when I entered and the cashier wasn’t the most efficient person in the room), I placed an order for the barbecue and the ribs and awaited their delivery. There was, indeed, a smell of smokiness to the room when I walked in, which is usually a good sign.

Eventually, the order arrived. I added a sampling of all their sauces to the order, paid ($20.40), and headed out to the car where a curious Heather and Camden were wondering what took so long. That explained, we hit the road.

The BBQ was pulled, not chopped. Good. It had a certain smokiness. Good. Flavor without sauce? Good.

I found their sauces to be their weakness. I didn’t find any of them to be great, but overall, I think Hog Heaven’s BBQ is worth another try one day.

As for their ribs, not so much. Camden ate most of them and as of this writing (two weeks later), he couldn’t even remember eating them. My recollection is just as sketchy, but I do remember thinking I wouldn’t order them again.

Again, we didn’t take in the full Hog Heaven experience, but if you’re driving by, we do feel comfortable suggesting that you stop in for a good quality pulled pork.

 

Hog Heaven BBQ on Urbanspoon

Little Pigs Bar-B-Q, Myrtle Beach, SC

July 14, 2012

Camden had a baseball tournament in Myrtle Beach this week. Today, the team made it to the championship round, then we went searching for some local BBQ.

We found Little Plgs was about 12 miles up the coast from our location so we turned right, rode up Ocean Blvd., and soon found ourselves at the small, nondescript gas station/strip mall which Little Pigs calls home.

We entered and approach a blonde woman who would seemingly have rather been anywhere else. After perusing the menu (and avoiding her vacant stare), we placed our order: two chopped pork plates with mild sauce, one with onion rings and slaw, the other with baked beans and potato salad. With the sweet teas, that added up to $22.06. (Camden wasn’t hungry and didn’t eat with us.)

We filled our teas at the drink station and awaited our order. Soon order 35 was announced and our lunch was at hand.

First of all, Little Pigs claims to make “Hickory Smoked” BBQ. If it is indeed smoked, it is not obvious in the smell or the taste. That said, the BBQ was okay overall.

“It was nothing special, other than that the sauces were good,” Heather said. “But it’s not about the sauces, it’s about the BBQ. It has a really good sauce, but the BBQ is nothing special. To me, when they chop it like that, it is almost to the point of mush when you add the BBQ sauce… to me it makes it mushy.”

In our experience so far, it has been clear that we favor pulled pork to chopped in most cases. This was no exception.

“I can see eating there if there were no other options, but I would not drive to it,” I said. “I certainly wouldn’t drive two hours to go there. If it was around the corner and I wanted to grab a quick lunch then maybe. Would do same with Bessingers, but I would say this is way better than Bessinger’s.”

As for the sauces, they had several to choose from and they did a good job with most of them. The mustard sauce was interesting with cracked black pepper and turmeric and something else. Yet it had a sweetness to it. The mustard sauce was the best mustard sauce we’ve had so far.

They also had a hot sauce. The hot sauce was was alright. It was their mild sauce with a spicy ingredient of some sort added to the mix. The vinegar sauce was… I would suggest skipping that one entirely.

As for their side, Heather said the onion rings were hot and not greasy, which poorly cooked onion rings have a tendency to be. The cole slaw was similar to KFC’s, with the finely chopped cabbage  and other veggies mixed with a tangy, sweet, mayo-based dressing.

I found the baked beans to be pretty good, not simply from an opened can. The beans seemed to be in a nice sauce that included brown sugar and a smokey flavoring (liquid smoke?). I also had the potato salad. It was a yellow potato salad with a mustard/mayo base. I enjoyed it.

Overall, Little Pigs is a fine place to grab a sandwich if you’re driving by, but we don’t think it is so good that you’d want to drive long distances for it.

 

 

 

Little Pigs Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Dukes BBQ of Summerville, Summerville, SC

July 6, 2012

This review was supposed to be about Dukes BBQ in Ridgeville. As you will see, it is not.

Heather, Camden, and I were eager to go up to Ridgeville to try out Dukes. I had heard good things about it, including the notion that they cooked over wood. If we have found out anything in our BBQ tour this summer, it’s that pig cooked over gas doesn’t compare; it simply doesn’t. That’s not to say it can’t be ok, or even good, I guess, but it will not ever be exceptional.

Another rule of the road we discovered the hard way: call ahead. I said this review was supposed to be about the Dukes in Ridgeville. It’s not.  And it’s not because… well, here is our story:

We set out for Ridgeville after Heather got off work on Friday. We trekked up Hwy 78 through Ladson and Summerville, passing three other BBQ places along the way: Kelly’s BBQ, Moose’s Famous BBQ, and we even spotted yet another Duke’s BBQ.  We happily pass by all three looking forward to the Ridgeville BBQ.

Well, eventually we arrive only to find a poster board attached to the door announcing their vacation plans for the week. Lesson: call ahead if you want to be sure they’ll be open.

So, we turn around and head back toward home, checking the iPhones for our best options. We decide to settle on Moose’s or Dukes. At the last minute, we chose Dukes.

Bad choice. Now, let me say that Dukes is fine. It’s decent food cooked by decent folks who are doing a decent job. Nothing at all wrong with it. The place is clean. It’s in a new building. The people are friendly.

It really would be better if they called it Duke’s Country Buffet. But you know, it’s called Duke’s BBQ, and if BBQ is your name, that is what has to stand out. Their’s does not.

We stepped in behind a family at the cash register, surveying the place. Nice, clean. Buffet against the back wall with a lot of selections. We place our order for three buffets ($29), step to the right and begin to fill our sectioned, styrofoam plates.

There are three different meats in the first section: two chopped pork, one of which is pre sauced and is a shade of orange, and what appears at first to be dark pork, but I later realize is beef. There is also barbecued chicken and fried chicken. There are a large selection of sides that follow: rice and hash, fried okra, fried corn nuggets, collards, lima beans, mac and cheese, black eyed peas, baked beans, pork skins, and more. The desserts included banana pudding, blueberry cobbler, peach cobbler, bread pudding, and more.

As you can tell, there is something here for everyone. As I said, call it Duke’s Country Buffet and you have a better sense of the place.

We sit down and dig in.

We can tell at the buffet that we’re not going to be impressed. There is no hint of smokiness in the air or in the meat, sure signs of gas-cooked pig. I will say the pork is tender, not overcooked, and moist, a clear improvement from our experience in Orangeburg. In fact, mine was better than I expected.

I had some plain and some sauced. The plain tasted like roast pork, nothing more. I did, in fact, think the sauced version was ok: a good mustard sauce, not too sweet, with some tanginess. It was fine.

Camden, who had the beef, said, “Just barbecue…,”with a tone and a breath implying it was nothing special… just bbq. “On a scale from good bbq to great bbq, that didn’t even register,” he followed.

Heather agreed. “It was a country buffet with barbecue on it. There was nothing that stood out that was worth driving to. It was just sort of… eh, you know; it didn’t do anything for me,” she said.

Dukes had four or five sauces:  mustard, hot mustard, orange mustard, and a vinegar/pepper. These were placed on the buffet to add as you went. I tried them all. Don’t waste your time with the vinegar. It might be fine on greens, but not pork. The only flavor is straight vinegar, nothing else. All the other sauces seemed like variations of one main mustard sauce. Like everything else here, it was fine. Nothing special.

As for the sides, we tried a good variety of items, and there is a lot to choose from. Heather “tired a little of everything: green beans, lima beans and stewed okra, but none of it was…” And the sentence trailed off. Camden had the mac and cheese, white rice and cornbread. He didn’t have much to say about them. I had the collards, hash and rice, cornbread, pork skins, and corn nuggets. They were all fine. Nothing wrong with them, but again nothing spectacular.

There were also a number of selections on the dessert bar. I tried the banana pudding and some peach cobbler. Heather got the peach cobbler and blueberry cobbler. The banana pudding began in a Jello box. Don’t bother. The peach and blueberry cobblers began with canned peaches and canned blueberry pie filling. Enough said.

We agreed that their fried chicken is very moist and crisp. Very good. Go for the fried chicken. Maybe for dessert…

As for the BBQ, go to Moose’s. We stopped by for a pound on the way home and found the inside of the building as smokey as the pulled pork we drove away with. We’ll head back there sometime for a more thorough review.

Until then, again, Dukes of Summerville is a fine country buffet with lots of choice. Go there for some decent country fixin’s, just don’t go expecting the BBQ to be exceptional.

Dukes Bar B Que on Urbanspoon

 

Ray’s Rib King, Yemassee, SC

June 30, 2012

UPDATE (10/20/12): I am sorry to report that Ray’s Rib King has closed. Ray remains in the catering business, however. I was alerted via the comment at the bottom of the page and confirmed the closing with Ray himself.  See Ray’s message to me posted in the comment below. Also, if you need a caterer, his contact information is below as well.

A friend once joked that if this blog ever got any traction that restaurant owners would be giving us free food to review. We got free samples today, but Ray of Ray’s Rib King had no idea about our endeavors. He is a man who is simply proud of his product and is eager for others to enjoy his work.

We did.

It is hard to impress upon you in words just how impressive Ray’s BBQ is. It is elite…exceptional. It is the best pure BBQ we have tried so far on our journey. Yet, it is different. Not necessarily better than Scott’s or McCabe’s BBQ, rather different but equal in its own way.

Ray creates what I guess must be a Texas-style BBQ. We are accustomed to whole hog, pulled pork BBQ with a vinegar/pepper sauce. For that style, Scott’s and McCabe’s stand alone so far. Ray’s is cooked with oak wood, and the sense of smokiness pervades every bite in ways more wonderful than we have known. No way to compare the two styles. One can only appreciate each as masterpieces in the sense that one might appreciate both Van Gogh’s impressionism and Dali’s surrealism: each masterful… sublime…yet too different in style to compare to one another. In the end, each deserves to be appreciated as elite talents. So it is with Ray’s…

Here’s our story:

I knew we’d be going for BBQ today after Heather got off work from the farm. I thought we might try Duke’s in Ridgeville, despite our less than stellar visit to its distant cousin in Orangeburg. However, Heather had spotted Ray’s in Yemassee in doing her research and suggested it when she walked in the door. So, off to Ray’s Heather, Camden, and I go.

Yemassee is a whistle-stop, pure small town South Carolina, no question. Its strongest connection to the rest of the world is the newly refurbished train station and the nearby rumble of traffic on I-95, and its biggest claim to fame may be its starring role in an upcoming Lifetime Television reality series The Week the Women Went. (Despite reports to the contrary, the show has not aired as of this writing, much to the chagrin of some in Yemassee.) While TV may provide this community some fame, Ray’s is the real star of the show.

We arrive around 4:30 and find Ray’s. It is housed in an unpretentious brick building within sight of the train station. It is not much to look at, and you might even hesitate to enter, but don’t let this stop you. There is one other car in the parking lot. We enter and the smell of smoke inside the rather warm interior is palpable. The room smells of a smokehouse and we know we are in for something special.

The interior is simply adorned with wooden picnic tables covered with red and white checkered tablecloths. There is a small set of warming trays with today’s sides in front; to the right is a large CRT TV set playing old episodes of I Love Lucy quietly in the corner. In a lower area to the left, the wall is hung with photos of each president who share the walls around them with photos of customers who have clearly loved the place.

We step up to place our order and are greeted with a friendly smile. Camden orders the rib plate with rice and mac and cheese. Heather and I order the chopped BBQ, mine with fries and collards, hers with green beans. We each get sweet tea. After eating, we would order one serving of bread pudding and sweet potato pie for dessert. Later, to go, we would order 1/2 rack of ribs and a container (1 lb?) of chopped pork. Total = $58

Ray, who actually came out and greeted us shortly after we entered, pokes his head through a “window” from the back and suggests we sit down in the lower area (three steps down from the main area) where it is cooler. We take his advice as the building is warm and the window A/C struggling to keep up with the 100° day.

As our meal is prepared in the back, our tea is delivered. We check out the photos on the wall, and I read the article posted nearby about Yemassee starring in the Lifetime reality show.

Camden receives his plate first. Two meaty ribs sit atop the rice and mac & cheese. The meat on the plate tells the story of the campfire smell which pervades the room. His ribs are topped with a light coating of a BBQ sauce. It looks fantastic.

Next, our plates arrive. We both thought we had ordered the chopped pork BBQ plate, but we must not have been clear as we received the chopped pork sandwich. Mine was a bun piled high with smoke-blackened pork complemented with a tomato BBQ sauce with crinkled fries on the side and a small dish of collards. Heather’s was the same without the fries and with green beans instead.

We dug in… Wow!

You sense that from the first moment you step into the room, but when your tastebuds get their turn….Wow…just wow!

“That was the best BBQ that I have ever had. It didn’t even need sauce,” Camden proclaimed on the ride home.

And it wasn’t just the BBQ: the sides and the desserts were extraordinary. More about those in a minute.

The BBQ:

Camden said, “God blessed him with the power of BBQ.” And so it is.

I commented that there was “no rub… it was all wood smoke flavor. Everything was exceptional. It was just delicious. Every… single… thing.” Heather completely agrees.

If we had to find a negative, here they are: Camden, from watching BBQ Pitmasters on TV, learned that rib meat should not fall off the bone; if so, it is overcooked. So, supposedly, Ray’s were overcooked, but as we all will attest, that theory did not detract at all from Ray’s product. Also, both Heather and I had small nubs of rubbery cartilage in our sandwiches. Insignificant distraction in light of the overall product.

As for the sides… simply fantastic. As for Heather’s green beans she said, “The green beans were fresh, not out of a can, and they were cooked in something I could have drank.” My collards were equally flavorful. I was doubtful on first glance, but I was wrong. Great taste. Even the fries were perfect: freshly cooked, hot, and salted perfectly. Camden’s Mac & Cheese was “just straight up delicious. It was crunchy on the outside then when you took a bite out of the inside, it was just a blast of flavor,” he said. The white rice, however, he said “was a little hard.”

As we were enjoying our meal, Ray came out to check on us. He sat down and joined us for a bit. He told us the story of how he got started cooking as a young man, his work as a judge in BBQ contests, and some of his favorite BBQ places (Cattleman’s in Jacksonville was his first response, and then, more locally, Belly’s in Lexington). He talked a bit about the Lifetime show they filmed there, and his wife’s recent back surgery.  He also mentioned that he didn’t know how long he’d be able to remain at that location as Yemassee is a small town, implying that business had been suffering.

During the conversation, he asked if Camden had shared a rib with us, which he hadn’t. “Because he is the friendliest person on the face is the earth, he came out and just started talking to us and went back in and got us a rib with no sauce on it without us even asking,” Heather said. He was solely motivated by his immense pride in his ribs and wanting to share that with us. It was, of course, divine. Smokey, succulent, rub-free, sauce free, superior to any rib we’ve ever tried.

He refilled our drinks and we ordered some dessert: bread pudding and sweet potato pie,  his wife’s recipes. Unfortunately, her peach cobbler was left to our imagination, as it wasn’t on the menu today as a result of her recovery. I think it was the best peach cobbler I’ve never tasted.

The bread pudding was a firm, warm, moist slice of heaven. I am not sure of the ingredients, but we feel certain there was peach, pineapple, and pumpkin spice (no raisins). It “was simply wonderful” I stated later.

“Oh, wow,” Heather exclaimed involuntarily as she took her first bite of sweet potato pie. It, too, was warm and flavorful with an ingredient she couldn’t identify. Was it a citrusy element? We’re not sure, but the pie was excellent.

Overall, we have to rate Ray’s Rib King among the elite of the places we have tried. If you are passing by on 17 or 95 at a time when they are open (Wed/Thurs 11-3; Fri/Sat 11-6), make a point of stopping by. You could not possibly be disappointed. Both the food and the people are superior to most places you might otherwise try.

Bottom line: Was is worth the trip?

Did we even have to ask? Absolutely…

 

 

 

Ray's Rib King on Urbanspoon