Recently, I decided it was time to get my pig on. I guess the cooler weather recalls the time when families used to butcher a hog or two to put away meat and lard for the winter. (My family never did this, by the way, our meat came from the grocery store. But still, hog-boiling time has a rustic ring to it.)
But back to the barbecue. I had heard from a barbecue source that I trust (he was born in the Pee Dee) that I simply had to try Hog Heaven in Pawleys Island. Since I was going to be in Georgetown for the weekend, I thought it was time to jump off the meat-free wagon in a big way. I might even go whole hog and have no vegetables.
From U.S. 17, Hog Heaven looks like many a barbecue joint from my youth - a small cinderblock building decorated with happy pigs (I guess these comic-book Porkies don't realize what's cookin' inside).
Inside, there is just some barebones decoration because the star of the show is the food. And on all points, Hog Heaven delivers.
First, I must note where Hog Heaven deviates from most classic barbecue restaurants - it has a full bar. (Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind a full bar ever, but it's just not part of the South Carolina barbecue restaurant tradition.)
But everything else about Hog Heaven is classic. The buffet offers pulled pork and an array of Southern-style vegetables. That means that plenty of pork seasoning finds its way into the vegetables as well as the meat.
Hog Heaven makes my favorite style of barbecue, vinegar and pepper, but offers other sauces on the table for those who prefer a little extra kick to their 'cue or want a tomato- or mustard-based sauce. (In South Carolina, you make instant friends and enemies just by telling folks your preferred flavor of barbecue.)
The barbecue even at a off-time for dining (3 p.m. Saturday) was moist, tender and flavorful, all the things you want. And like all good barbecue restaurants, Hog Heaven also offers fried chicken and it was superlative here - juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside with plenty of flavor and even a little spicy kick.
The veggies (I did try the cabbage and coleslaw) were well done and my dining companion liked the macaroni and cheese and even made a plate at the salad bar.
Hog Heaven is also known for its seafood - don't forget it's located walking distance from the ocean. On Friday and Saturday night, you can get all-you-can eat steamed oysters and shrimp with your barbecue buffet for $22. But for a barbecue lunch, you won't find a better deal than Hog Heaven at just $7.
Hog Heaven is at 7147 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island. It's open is open daily 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Call (843) 237-7444 for more information.