- South Carolina
With more than 200 barbecue restaurants, dozens of professional pit masters and four distinct sauces, South Carolina is prime territory for launching a barbecue-lover’s road trip.
Before hitting the road, know the basics: When South Carolinians say “barbecue,” they mean pork – most often, pulled pork that’s slow-cooked in a smoky pit. And depending on your location within the state, sauces could be crafted with mustard, vinegar or tomatoes and prepared thick and sweet or light and vinegary. Ready? Follow the South Carolina BBQ Trail to stops statewide, including these five classics.
In New Ellenton, line up for the buffet at Carolina Bar-B-Que. It’s heaped with baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese and irresistible hush puppies, which are golden-fried bites of cornmeal. But the main attraction here is pork shoulder – pit-cooked, smoked and served with two sauces. Choose between a mild ketchup-based blend and the spicy mustard sauce.
Enthusiasts wait all week for Hite’s Bar-B-Q in West Columbia to open. Fridays and Saturdays only, morning to evening, customers flock to the nondescript building to pick up take-out orders. It’s worth the wait for a barbecue sandwich or plate of ribs, slow-cooked over a pit of oak and hickory wood and served with rice, coleslaw and Hite’s famed mustard sauce.
Ribs ready to serve at Hite's Bar-B-Cue in West Columbia, South Carolina
Midway BBQ near Union is half-meat market, half-restaurant, signaling just how serious the family-run operation is about ingredients. Order hickory-smoked pork – either chopped or pulled – with original, mustard or vinegar-pepper sauce. Try Midway’s signature hash, a stew of slow-cooked beef flavored with butter and onion that locals love. Save room for traditional Southern side dishes, such as butter beans and sweet potato casserole, and decadent desserts like pecan pie.
Q2U BBQ Pit
A competitive barbecue team established Q2U BBQ Pit in Lake Wylie. Expect award-winning barbecue – including pork, ribs, chicken and brisket – and sauces, including a thick, sweet version and a spicy vinegar-pepper sauce. Smoked wings, barbecue nachos and pork rinds add even more flavor to the menu.
Q2U BBQ sandwich in Lake Wylie, South Carolina
At Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, tradition calls for cooking whole hogs over wood-burning pits. The cooking process is an unhurried art, carried out overnight. By morning, the meat is smoky, tender and delicious. Savor it Wednesday through Saturday, when the meat – and its crispy skin – are served with extras such as boiled peanuts. Order the pulled pork plate and a dose of the secret family sauce of the vinegar-pepper variety.