Pulling into Hite's BBQ, there's no question you're about to have an authentic South Carolina experience. Stacks of chopped wood swallow the open space behind the building. The smell of smoked oak and hickory fills the air, creating the most delicious aroma imaginable. And its simplicity only strengthens the unmistakable down-home spirit. No frills, no fancy signs - what you see is what you get.
At 10:30 a.m. there's already a steady flow of walk-in customers and the women behind the counter don't stop moving for a second - taking orders, preparing the pork or chicken complete with their famous mustard sauce and packing it all up to go.
But the real magic happens back in the smokehouse. Two long smokers stand parallel to one another while men move seamlessly around them - one shoveling wood and ember into the bottom of the smoker, one chopping meat and another stirring an enormous cauldron full of delicious South Carolina barbecue hash. The owner, David Hite, is laid-back, bright-eyed and welcoming in a matter-of-fact kind of way. He exudes generations of pit-cooking expertise and embodies his establishment in more ways than one. No frills, no fancy clothes - what you see is what you get.
Hite's grandfather began popular take-out restaurant in 1957, then his son took it over, and now David Hite, who started learning the business at the age of five, runs it the same way - he even uses the same smokers.
"This is the hand I've been dealt. It's all I know," Hite said. "I've been working here since I was five. My parents never said I had to work here. But why would I turn my back on something my family has built over all these years just to go work for someone else selling cars or something?"
And like many barbecue establishments in South Carolina, Hite's is only open two or three days a week. But with the loyal clientele and rush during the summer months, it's no surprise they maintain a great reputation and successful barbecue business. "On the Fourth of July, the line is out the door," Hite said. "That's the only time I need to use both smokers."
The mustard sauce recipe hasn't changed since 1957 either, and it's everything you want a mustard sauce to taste like - savory with a bit of bite, perfectly complementing the smoky flavor of the meat. "If you want something sweet, eat a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream," Hite said.
Using the same recipes and barbecue know-how for almost 60 years, Hite's old-school attitude is the reason it succeeds at something many modern restaurants fail to do every day - it stays true to itself and its customers with unwavering conviction. You can tell it's more than a business; it's a lasting tradition and the essence of family pride. In other words, what you see is what you get - and that's damn good South Carolina barbecue.