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Barbecue is a Best Bet for Charleston Dining

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A bit like politics, religion and football, folks in the South are passionate about their barbecue.

“I equate it to college football teams. Everybody feels strongly about their favorite barbecue and everybody else is the enemy,” said Aaron Siegel, owner/pitmaster at Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ. “In general, it’s the type of thing people feel really strongly about. When you ask somebody about barbecue (restaurants), they are going to tell you one, maybe two, and that’s their place.”

Case in point when Traveler of Charleston recently polled its Facebook fans about their favorite barbecue spots and dozens of folks commented and shared the post with a shout out to their barbecue of choice.

Siegel suggests barbecue is so popular because it’s the “common people’s food. Everybody grew up eating some type of barbecue – whether it’s a place you went every Saturday with your family or a place you went on a trip or whether people in your family cooked it,” he said.

So visitors to Charleston need to understand the passion behind barbecue – among those who eat it and those who cook it. And don’t mistake barbecue for anything but pork that is cooked low and slow in a smoky pit. Siegel said visitors should look for that authenticity when seeking out a barbecue restaurant. Find those restaurants that specialize in barbecue – evidenced by their cooker out back and a menu that lets the meat stand alone as the culinary centerpiece.

And, Siegel said, doesn’t discount those places off the beaten path. “Some of the most Podunk places have fantastic barbecue,” he said.

Another subject of debate here in South Carolina is barbecue sauce: what kind, how much and whether to put it on while the meat is cooking. There are four types of sauces, all of which you’ll find in the state: mustard, vinegar and pepper, light tomato and heavy tomato.

Mustard sauce is unique to South Carolina and originated from German immigrants who settled in the middle of the state, combining their love of mustard with a love of pork, according to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.

The department of tourism also notes on its official barbecue website that vinegar and pepper sauce are popular along the coast and add some heat to the barbecue. “The acidity of the vinegar works magic with the pork. It’s also the oldest sauce, perhaps the oldest in the nation, and has been traced back hundreds of years.”

The light tomato sauce is basically a vinegar and pepper sauce with ketchup added for a little sweetness. The heavy tomato is also sweet and is mostly commonly found around the United States.

Try some of these local barbecue favorites:

Bessinger’s Barbeque
1602 Savannah Highway
Charleston, SC 29407

Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
1205 Ashley River Road
Charleston, SC 29407
2209 Middle St.
Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482

JB’s Smokeshack
3406 Maybank Highway
Johns Island, SC 29455

Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
288 King St., Charleston, SC 29401
4964 Center Pointe Drive,
North Charleston, SC 29406

Melvin’s Legendary Bar-B-Que
925 Houston Northcutt Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
538 Folly Road, Charleston, SC 29412

A little off the beaten path:
Dukes Bar-B-Q
118 N. Railroad Ave.
Ridgeville, SC 29472

Scott’s Bar-B-Que
2734 Hemingway Highway
Hemingway, SC 29554

Head to for more about barbecue and to download the South Carolina BBQ Trail map.

Did you have some delicious barbecue while in Charleston? Share a photo and your experience with us via Facebook, Twitter (@traveler_mag) or Instagram (@travelerofcharleston). Use hashtag #bestchsbbq

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We’re of course partial to Charleston, but here’s the truth. There are many similarities however there are some differences in our opinion: 

  • Both cities are historic and beautiful. 
  • Both cities are extremely walkable. Savannah, with it’s park-like squares maybe more walkable than Charleston. 
  • Charleston has a more established and food scene with many more options. 
  • Charleston has better hotels and shopping.
  • Both cities have equally good tours.
  • Charleston has better beach options. Savannah has Tybee which is great, however it’s 1 beach vibe versus Charleston which has 3 beaches with different vibes. Checkout this Charleston beach guide article:
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  • Savannah is more affordable.
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