The rumors of pitmaster John Lewis opening a Texas barbecue joint in Charleston started circulating a couple of years ago after a few sightings and guest appearances in the Holy City. And this summer it happened. After a few delays, the doors finally opened to the new place in late June in the increasingly hip North Morrison neighborhood. Lewis' building houses four custom built smokers and a sausage smoker that can cook 1,600 links at a time, all hand built by Lewis and his father. Wait times were long the first week but have since settled down. But if you’re waiting, visit the screened-in outside bar that serves up beverage director R.H. Weaver’s agua frescas and more. Chill down with a rum, coconut, and cinnamon Horchata, a refreshing tequila and watermelon Sandia, the cool and citrusy gin, cucumber, lemon and lemongrass Pepino, or grab a local draught beer or the Lewis Michelada. Once inside you’ll queue up to have meat hand-sliced by one of two meat-cutters stationed behind a long counter directing you to opposite ends. Lewis’ “life changing” beef brisket is definitely the star. The infinitely tender meat has a salty, peppery crust and shines with melted fat. But there’s also juicy smoked turkey, pulled pork, pork ribs and Texas sausage called “hot guts” available and priced by the pound (or hot guts by the link). After your tray is filled with your order of meats, choose your sides from mustardy potato salad, lemon slaw, cowboy beans, and rich green chile corn pudding. If you come to Lewis’ on Saturdays, Flinstone-sque beef ribs can be had. Meaty with dark crust and glistening fat they’re an impressive sight. A huge chunk of meat surrounding a smoke blackened bone that brings back time hidden evolutionary memories of caveman feasts. Bring a friend, they are car toppling huge. Try the El Sancho, a sandwich with pork or brisket and topped with hot guts and pickled red onion. Or, if you’re feeling crazy, make it “Loco” and get all three proteins. When you’re done, find a cool couch and ride out the meat sweats. —Robert Donovan Dish, Summer 2016
Brisket bad boy John Lewis specializes in brisket, pulled pork "hot guts" sausage, and traditional sides.