BBQ Barn, 605 Atomic Rd., North Augusta, 803-278-7202
We're talking authentic barbecue and ribs hickory-smoked on two pits that can cook up to 2,300 pounds at a time. All smothered in your choice of five different sauces: spicy red, mild red, spicy yellow, mild yellow and their signature Georgia Red, a vinegar-based sweet sauce. And folks come from all over for their Happy Cake, Gooey Butter Cake and Coconut Cake (and more) for dessert.
Brown Derby Bar-B-Q, 1399 Belleville Rd., Orangeburg, 803-539-2722
Orangeburg's Brown Derby has been around for more than a half-century and is currently being run by the third generation of the folks who started it all. Their pit-cooked pork barbecue with ketchup-based sauce, pork ribs and barbecue hash are the most popular items on the menu, but locals swear by sides like home-cooked vegetables and cornbread.
Lone Star Barbecue & Mercantile, 2212 State Park Rd., Santee, 803-854-2000
Santee's Lone Star Barbecue & Mercantile is made up of four 100-year-old wooden buildings moved to the site to establish the popular restaurant and souvenir and antiques store. Open Thursday to Sunday, the popular buffet features pork barbecue, barbecue hash, fried chicken, cold salads, fresh country vegetables (be sure to try their signature tomato pie), desserts, regular daily specials and more. They offer two sauces: a ketchup-based spicy sauce and a unique sweet mustard-mayo sauce.
McCabe's Bar-B-Q, 480 N. Brooks St., Manning, 803-435-2833
Little McCabe's in Manning features big-time South Carolina vinegar and pepper barbecue. The buffet also offers up fresh vegetables, including famed Manning tomatoes in season. And arrive early to snag the potato salad and mac 'n' cheese-these specialties don't last long.
Scott's Bar-B-Que, 2734 Hemingway Hwy., Hemingway, 843-558-0134
Scott's is open Wednesday to Saturday, and Rodney Scott and his crew cook whole hogs and more overnight, selling the vinegar-and-pepper-sauced results the next day to a very loyal following. There's the famed pulled pork plate with the half-pound sandwich, but there's also half and whole smoked barbecue chicken, smoked barbecue rib eye steak (Saturdays only) and more-think boiled peanuts, pork rinds, locally made cane syrup and other local country variety store offerings.
Shuler's Bar-B-Q, 419 Highway 38 West, Latta, 843-752-4700
Shuler's is open for lunch and "supper" (that's dinner to some folks) Thursday to Saturday only, but it's well worth timing a visit. Located near Latta in a log cabin, Shuler's features a full country-style buffet, including popular desserts, but the pulled pork and ribs are the stars. They offer two types of vinegar pepper sauces with their pork: mild and spicy.
Barbecue who to know
Jimmy Hagood (multi-competition award-winning BlackJack Barbecue Cooking Team), Food For The Southern Soul, Charleston
Who taught you to barbecue? My insurance partner and business mentor, Nick Zervos. He is from Augusta, Georgia, and of Greek descent. He introduced me to the art of cooking Southern barbecue and to Tom Crowe, the man who built my first cooker (and several after that).
What makes your barbecue unique? I call it the Symphony of Flavors-our dry rub, injection marinade, charcoal and wood smoke and our sauces. They all combine to make a very pleasant experience.
What's your wood of choice? Pecan with a dash of white oak.
What's your favorite meat to barbecue? Pork shoulder.
What's your sauce style? Sauces are like religion, politics and college sports in the South; everyone has a stated and unbreakable opinion. Instead of being the referee, we offer three styles as table sauce: our BlackJack BBQ Tomato, Vinegar and Mustard Sauces.
What's your favorite barbecue side dish? My grandmother's coleslaw and my wife Anne Marie's grandmother's macaroni and cheese.
What's your accompanying beverage of choice? An Arnold Palmer-iced tea and lemonade.
Jeff Smith (frequent first-place competition finisher and two-time qualifier for the World Food Championship in Las Vegas), Smokin' Stacks, Aiken
Who taught you to barbecue? I was taught by my grandfather at an early age on an open pit made from concrete blocks. We cook whole hogs and use a fire barrel to burn down oak wood to get the coals that were placed in the pit. My grandfather always told me to put the heat on the hams and shoulders of the hog, and the rest will cook. I can hear him now: "Don't burn my pork!"
What makes your barbecue unique? Smokin' Stacks barbecue has come a long way from the time of cooking on the old pits. I think what makes the barbecue unique is the flavor profiles that are used today, not just salt and pepper and vinegar.
What's your wood of choice? A mix of hickory and pecan.
What's your favorite meat to barbecue? We're from the South-we cook pork. I do like to cook whole hog, but we cook Boston butts most of the time.
What's your sauce style? Smokin' Stacks uses a tomato-vinegar-pepper mix.
What's your favorite barbecue side dish? Smokin' Stacks makes killer baked beans.
What's your accompanying beverage of choice? Iced tea.
Brian Teigue (two-time first runner-up for SC State Barbeque Championship), Up In Smoke, Rock Hill
Who taught you to barbecue? I'm self-taught from cooking tons of barbecue in the backyard, making mistakes and adjusting as I went along. Our neighbors love us. They get to try all the samples and do taste testing. About five years ago, we started competing in the South Carolina Barbeque Association (SCBA) and took a few hard knocks before we really started to understand the art of great barbecue. Since then, we have taken first runner-up in the SCBA three years in a row. Up In Smoke barbecue team consists of my wife, Sherry, and me, so we get to enjoy cooking and competing together as a hobby.
What makes your barbecue unique? A good, tender, juicy, smoke-filled piece of meat.
What's your wood of choice? Hickory. I've tried all the others at one point in time, but always go back to hickory.
What's your favorite meat to barbecue? Whole hog or Boston butts.
What's your sauce style? I mainly use a vinegar base, but have come up with a very nice bourbon sauce.
What's your favorite barbecue side dish? I enjoy a good vinegar-based coleslaw.
What's your accompanying beverage of choice? Ice-cold Bud Light during the cook and a nice smooth bourbon after.