Charleston's barbecue scene is all over the map, literally. We have smoky pits putting out a range of styles that represent the slow-cooked pork as it is commonly prepared across our state and beyond. We have the traditional South Carolina sauces covered. There's plenty of spicy vinegar interspersed with various shades of tomato, or none at all, and you'll even find styles from North Carolina and Memphis brought to town by transplants. And then we have South Carolina's celebrated mustard sauce, a singular, distinctive taste unlike any other. No matter how you like your 'cue, from Mt. Pleasant to Hollywood, here are the places where the dinner bell rings loudest.
Johns Island. 3406 Maybank Hwy. 557-0426.
Lunch and Dinner, Closed Mon. & Tues.
Way out on Johns Island, this cute little country shack features both a buffet and a selection of plates for ordering in a cozy little one-room space with plenty of pig paraphernalia adorning the walls. The chopped pork is good, with several sauces featured, but they have won multiple awards in competition for the beef brisket, competently smoked and sliced; it is not featured on the buffet, but worth the extra expense.
One of a Kind Smokehouse
Hollywood. 6270 Hwy 162. 889-5975.
Lunch and Dinner
What do you do if you are from Summerville and want to make it big? You move to Hollywood, of course — Hollywood, South Carolina, that is. This homegrown smokehouse right off the main drag puts out some darn fine meats from their one-of-a-kind, custom-built smoker and has become known as one of the best barbecue joints in the Charleston area. Ribs, shoulders, salmon, sausages, chickens, and even ducks are slowly smoked over pecan wood and served here, where you can take it to-go or eat at one of the few tables inside. In addition to the meats, the sides are homemade and excellent as well. Finding it is easy. Just look for the bright yellow and green "Green Wave" colors (the owner is a proud Summerville High graduate) or roll down the car window as you head into town — you can smell the place for miles.
Mt. Pleasant. 1471 Ben Sawyer Blvd. 849-8802.
Lunch and Dinner
This mainstay of Mt. Pleasant has such a loyal following that people drive from West Ashley to eat lunch at the packed tables that line the buffet steam bar. Serving authentic Pee Dee/Eastern North Carolina vinegar and pepper on some very good hog, the team at Momma Brown's sticks to tradition and serves up the real thing. It's no wonder, since they are part of the ancestral lineage of Browns that made the Kingstree area famous for slow-cooked pork. If you're looking for old-style country barbecue with a spicy tang, then this is your next stop.
Mt. Pleasant. 341 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. 856-7427; Downtown. 235 Meeting St. 853-7427; Summerville. 1200 N. Main St. 871-7427; North Charleston. 7690 Northwoods Blvd. 797-7427.
Lunch and Dinner
Three guys, post-college bums by their own account, decide to create a rib joint in Mt. P, expand into Summerville and the heart of the historic district, and then get some college friends to open franchises in a budding empire that stretches across five states. It sounds like a recipe for disaster in the ultra-competitive world of Charleston cuisine but is exactly how Sticky Fingers got its start. Now a successful franchise chain, with even more corporate expansion on the horizon, these local transplants have gone national to bring their fine ribs and barbecue to the rest of the country — spreading Memphis-style pork, with Lowcountry flair, across the land.
Jim 'N Nick's BBQ
Downtown. 288 King St. 577-0406.
Lunch and Dinner
If you are stuck downtown and need a true barbecue fix, this King Street location serves up an acceptable plate right in the middle of the shopping corridor. It seems that the thousands of women flocking to the shoe stores and designer pocketbook boutiques drag their husbands along, creating a massive demand for quality urban barbecue. The place seems routinely packed, but the service keeps up nicely, the beer always comes cold, and the cheese biscuits are a can't-miss accoutrement.
The Hickory Hawg
Johns Island. 2817 Maybank Hwy. 557-1121.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
The Hickory Hawg, located in a strip mall out on Johns Island, serves Central North Carolina 'cue. Now, that just means "Yankee" to a lot of folks around these parts, but one taste and you may become an instant convert. Chopped meat, an acceptable hash, and an interesting slaw top the list of things to eat here, but the ribs are to die for. Succulent baby backs, slathered with the house sauce — signature N.C. vinegar and pepper sauce with a touch of tomato — fall from the bone in gelatinous glory, putting other local rib shacks to shame.
Music Man Bar-B-Que
Moncks Corner. 112 E. Railroad Ave. 899-7675.
Lunch and Dinner (Thurs.-Sat.)
We do not usually consider establishments all the way up in Moncks Corner to be in the "metro" area, but then again, not every place deserves the attention that the Music Man does. It may be a relative newcomer to the party, but the barbecue makes it worth a day trip from town. These guys do everything deliciously. They reside on a "sauce line," so both central South Carolina mustard sauces and Pee Dee vinegar and pepper types are employed here. Each makes for some of the juiciest, most delectable pulled swine in the Lowcountry, but the spareribs take the cake. They represent nothing less than some of the best that South Carolina has to offer, so moist and juicy that you'll think they're baby backs from an overgrown, mutant pig. They drip with goodness, as does the award-winning catfish stew at this must-stop pilgrimage spot.
Po Pig's Bo-BQ
Edisto Island. 2410 Highway 174. 869-9003
Lunch and Dinner (Wed.-Sat.)
Way out Edisto way, BoBo Lee dishes out upscale barbecue in a down-home setting. Diverse pig trinkets are packed into this location, along with one of the best country buffets around. Homemade veggies, 'cue, cold salads, soups, two kinds of hash (the liver hash is divine), and four different sauces make Po' Pigs worth a Saturday trip and a definite stop on any excursion to Edisto Beach. You can stuff yourself there or take it home by the pound — and if you're having a party, they'll come to you. They also have a new location in Columbia.