Lake City’s reputation as a hotspot for the arts extends to its barbecue joints, too. A trio of establishments have made their mark on the town, drumming up a lot of buzz by mastering the fine art of smoking meat. The prospect of a stellar barbecue experience adds to the allure of visiting this small Pee Dee town renowned for its annual, world-class arts competition and festival, ArtFields. While the region’s specialty—– whole-hog ’cue—is a tradition, in Lake City you'll find delicious variations of the South’s most famous dish. So, walk around and take in all the murals, sculptures and galleries, then make plans for the grand finale: a big ol’ plate of barbecue with all the trimmings.
Piggyback’s Barbecue & Catfish
Piggyback’s was born in 2010 after its lip-smacking pulled pork sandwiches got rave reviews at a local festival. So, the owners traded in their food tent for a brick-and-mortar location on Sauls Street downtown. They should have outfitted it with a revolving door. As one of Lake City’s most popular eateries, Piggyback’s churns out hundreds of pounds of succulent smoked meats weekly and has become a bustling hub of local barbecue action. Its food truck is a big draw at area events, too.
Whimsical metal piggy art on the sidewalk and that telltale smoky aroma are signs you have arrived. Inside, the atmosphere is rustic with modern touches for a bright, roomy feel. Take a step back and study the menu on the wall—you’ll need a few minutes to decide what you want because it all sounds soooo delicious. Then, sidle up to the counter and let your pleasure be known. A member of the friendly waitstaff will bring your order to the table when it’s ready.
BBQ Bests: Smoked pulled pork, meaty ribs, barbecued beef brisket and smoked chicken make sturdy foundations for a platter. Ask for pickles, onions and white bread to accompany. Sinfully Southern sides include collards, macaroni and cheese, slaw, corn on the cob, fries and more. And the catfish can’t be beat, so get a snack-sized portion to go with your barbecue.
Shuler’s Barbecue of Lake City
A familiar name in the Pee Dee, Shuler’s has been serving its delectable barbecue in Latta since 1996. In spring of 2021, it began catering to the Lake City crowd at its new Turbeville Highway location. The red barn façade perfectly captures the Shuler’s brand: country-style eats in a warm environment.
Old-fashioned cooking is its calling card and it’s one that is a rousing favorite in these parts and beyond. Shuler’s is widely known as a “must stop” for anyone traveling I-95, so the Lake City locale is a welcome option for locals wanting to avoid the crowds. A buffet brimming with home-cooked dishes is a draw, but the barbecue is definitely the star of this show. Pork, chicken and ribs are slow cooked over wood coals, and the sauce hits all the right spots: sweet and smoky with a kick.
BBQ Bests: C’mon, pulled pork, chicken, ribs—it’s all top notch. Have a barbecue sandwich topped with Shuler’s marinated slaw for a special Southern treat. Enjoy a taste of Pee Dee tradition with accompaniments like red gravy and liver hash.
The wood-fired kitchen makes all the difference at this fun and scenic barbecue restaurant located on West Main Street. The hospitality here is second to none and embodies every cliché that comes to mind when you think of Southern friendliness – something to be proud of. The rustic, Western façade hints at something old, but this location is, in fact, a fairly recent Lake City development having opened in 2020. A deck and small lake with wildlife in the back make for fun family times.
The first thing you’ll notice, though, is the smoky aroma in the air. The dining room is wide open with gorgeous wood appointments and a decidedly Old West feel. Funky artwork on the wall is a riveting contrast to the rustic wood features. Walk through the dining room to get to a smaller dining area with views of the water. There’s even a small gift shop inside featuring hand-carved treasures from bowls to turkey trumpet callers.
But, of course, it’s the smoked meat you’ll remember most of all. In a bit of a twist for this area, Slabs specializes in Texas-style beef brisket. This is the real deal, too, and that’s apparent the moment you see your brisket being hand sliced in front of your eyes. Note the charred crust and inner pink smoke ring of the meat—a sure sign the “low and slow” technique has been masterfully applied. And when they say most everything here is homemade, believe them. Cinnamon rolls, baked beans, slaw, potato salad, cookies—you’ll want to get you some.
BBQ Bests: Brisket is the name of the game here and it is on point all the way. Crusty on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth tender on the inside, juicy and perfectly seasoned—a truly authentic interpretation of smoked beef brisket just as it should be. Pulled pork and ribs are tasty, too. But that brisket … dang.
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago,
where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.