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Get Your Fixin's: The Best Barbecue Side Dishes

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Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Two barbecue plates with pulled pork, vegetables, hush puppies, tea
Pulled pork, rice and hash, perlo, sweet potatoes, green beans and turnip greens help round out a McCabe's barbecue dinner.

Barbecue enthusiasts may debate which of the four styles of South Carolina barbecue sauce is superior, but all can agree it's the supporting cast of side dishes - or fixin's as they're commonly called - that really sets off smoked meats. Farmers' market fresh vegetables, desserts made from scratch and sweet iced tea that flows by the gallon are part and parcel of the barbecue experience here.

The bubbling pots and clatter of pans in the aromatic kitchen of McCabe's Bar-B-Que in Manning have been tended to by the McCabe family for more than 30 years. The backbreaking work that goes into McCabe's memorable side dishes make it all the more amazing. That same family aesthetic is in play at barbecue joints across South Carolina where diners who leave with full bellies and big smiles become loyal customers.


Signature Sides

Diners eating plates of barbecue in dining room
Diners at Farm Boy's Barbecue in Chapin show up for their fill of barbecue and fixin's like catfish stew.

Deciding on just two sides has left many a diner in one of the state's many barbecue restaurants saying, "Gonna need another minute." Cole slaw may be barbecue's most famous sidekick, but the flavor-packed line-up also includes baked beans, collard greens, perloo (a rice dish akin to jambalaya), Hoppin' John, smoked mac and cheese, okra and more.

Farm Boy's Barbecue in Chapin makes a legendary catfish stew from a time-honored recipe. One thing South Carolina cooks have in common: They keep their secret family recipes close to the vest.


Hash Traditions

Barbecue plates with pork, beans, liver hash and rice.
Liver hash over rice is one of the fixings you'll find at barbecue houses across the state.

Several sides found in South Carolina barbecue joints are native to the Palmetto State. Hash and rice is one such dish. For the uninitiated, hash is a stewlike concoction of ground meats (usually including organ meats like liver) flavored with vegetables, condiments and spices. It is almost always served over white rice.

Filmmaker Stan Woodward, who created the documentary "Carolina Hash," writes in his book "Grits and Friends: Folk Heritage Foodways and Traditions in the South" how "barbecue hash" spread across South Carolina.

"A legion of excellent hash cooks developed in every small farming community - each with their own special ingredients and seasonings," he said. "These artisans became eventually known as 'hash masters,' for they and their crews began cooking communal meals for family and church reunions and holiday barbecues, communal gatherings where hash would be served to neighbors and friends."


Just Desserts

Bowls of desserts from School House BBQ in Scranton
Save room for pie, cobbler, cake, banana pudding and other sweet fixin's when you visit a South Carolina barbecue house.

Iced tea, arguably the most iconic symbol of the South, was first served in Summerville, South Carolina. In fact, the "Birthplace of Sweet Tea" can trace its historical tea roots so well, no other city has ever challenged Summerville for the title. This is the drink of choice for washing down plates of smokey 'cue.

Hope you left room for something sweet - cherry dump cake, peanut butter pie, cobblers made with in-season peaches and other fruits and, of course, banana pudding. There's no better way to round out a barbecue meal than with a homemade dessert.

You may stop at one of South Carolina's many great restaurants because you heard the barbecue is good, but chances are, it's the sides that'll bring you back. So come on in, and get your fixin's.

Discover Writer
Discover Writer
More from "Discover Writer"
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.