Move over, pluff mud. The smell of smoked meat is set to displace you as Charleston’s hallmark aroma.
The source of all this heady combustion can be traced to a slew of recently opened barbecue operations in and around the downtown area. Since 2014, there’s been an explosion of restaurants with menus centered around smoky cuts of pork, beef and poultry. If you’re thinking “overkill,” you’ve not yet had the pleasure of sampling their wares. Once you do, you’ll be thanking the barbecue gods for your options.
The most recent jewel in the crown of this “elevated” smoked meat movement is Lewis Barbecue, where Texas legend John Lewis serves up some of the juiciest, melt-in-your-mouth brisket in these parts. As a result of all this activity, “pitmaster” is quickly becoming one of the hottest culinary career titles in the Lowcountry. When the state’s reigning king, Rodney Scott, expanded beyond his storied Hemingway joint to open a new arm of Scott’s BBQ on King Street in early 2017, Charleston was effectively transformed into something it’s never really been: a serious barbecue destination.
Pick your pleasure from the lauded newbies listed here, or map out your strategy for a comprehensive tour of Charleston’s smoked meat eateries.
Cumberland Street Smokehouse- 5 Cumberland St. Downtown
Opened February 2015
Meats: Hickory smoked wings, pulled pork, pulled chicken, burnt-end brisket (check for availability)
Notable sides: Duck fat fries, mac 'n’ cheese
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ- 126 Williman St., downtown
Opened March 2016
Meats: Smoked wings, pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, smoked turkey, sausage, St. Louis-style ribs
Notable sides: Smoked Chicken & White Bean Chili, Brunswick Stew
Lewis Barbecue- 464 N. Nassau St., downtown
Opened June 2016
Meats: Texas-style prime beef brisket, pulled pork, pork spare ribs, turkey breast, beef short ribs (Saturday only), Texas hot guts (house-made sausage)
Notable sides: Green Chile Corn Puddling, Buttermilk Potato Salad
Poogan’s Smokehouse- 188 E. Bay St., downtown
Opened October 2015
Meats: Pulled pork, chicken wings, St. Louis-style ribs, pork belly, smoked sausage, whole suckling pig (with 48-hour notice)
Notable sides: Bacon-roasted Brussels Sprouts, Hash and Carolina Gold Rice
Smoke BBQ- 487 King St., downtown
Opened June 2015
Meats: Smoked pork, smoked chicken, ribs, house-smoked pastrami brisket, Texas-style smoked brisket
Notable sides: Brisket Hash and Grits, Smoked-style Slaw
Swig and Swine- 1217 Savannah Highway, West Ashley
Opened June 2014
Smoked meats: Pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked turkey, smoked pork belly, smoked chicken wings, St. Louis-style ribs, house-made sausage
Notable sides: Beans with Brisket, Pickled Vegetables
Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 1011 King St., North Central
Opened February 2017
Meat: Whole hog pit-cooked barbecue, barbecue chicken, ribs
Notable sides: Perlo rice, greens, grits