Rodney Scott’s pulled pork, at Scott’s Pit Cook Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, SC
When I was in South Carolina last October, I did what I always do when finding myself in a barbecue state – drive crazily from place to place sampling every kind of ‘cue I could get my hands on. My companion was the The Palmetto State Glove Box Guide to Bar-B-Que (1997), an out-of-print paen to a once-great barbecue state.
Go inside for the best South Carolina ‘cue — or simply go to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party this weekend in Madison Square.
I say once-great, because most of the dozen or so places I tried to visit on a day-long drive through rural areas were long-closed. It seems that the barbecue joints had been replaced by fried-chicken concessions, which are apparently much cheaper to operate as far as raw materials go. And the barbecues that were still open were mainly just big buffets with the smoked meat occupying no more than one percent of the surface area. And the meat didn’t taste very smoky, either, since most pits had been converted from wood to gas or electricity.
Back in Charleston I found myself in the company of the famous Lee Brothers, and I asked them what the best barbecue in the state was. I also contacted my friend Robb Walsh, a Texas barbecue expert who also carefully watches barbecue all over the country. The answer was the same: Scott’s Pit Cook B.B.Q. in Hemingway, SC.
The place was a couple hours north of Charleston, but I jumped in my car right away and sailed up there, through swamps and beach communities, past thick groves of cypress and ash. Hemingway isn’t near the shore, but in a farming area inland about 20 miles. The town (population 500) is economically challenged, though there is some pig- and horse-farming in the area, and a little light industry.
Pitmaster Rodney Scott (right) with a barbecue enthusiast who’d driven three hours from Raleigh, NC to sample Scott’s ‘cue.
Next: more pictures from Hemingway, SC
The ordering window at Scott’s
Scott’s is in a ramshackle country store just a few blocks west of the downtown crossroads. There’s an ordering window, a collection of groceries on shelves, and a seating area with three or four tables. A hand-lettered sign over the window advertises what is available that day, including whole pigs for take-away catering. A crew of very polite and gracious rural ladies prepares and packages your order.
Presiding over all is Rodney Scott, a youngish guy who believes that wood and long-smoking is the key to great barbecue. In despite of the decay of the state’s barbecue scene, he perseveres as if it were the last century. He is one of barbecue’s great heroes, and he will have a booth at this weekend’s Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. His life’s work is not to be missed.
In Hemingway, I had the pulled pork, picked from the whole hog and moistened with a vinegary sauce with some barbecue tidbits floating around in it. Extra sauce comes on the side. In this respect, his ‘cue harkens to the old-fashioned style of North Carolina barbecue.
The vinegary sauce
Next: More on Scott’s Bar-B-Que
For high rollers: the $6 ribeye sandwich
My pulled-pork sandwich was probably the best thing I ate in the entire state on that trip, though I did have some spectacular fried chicken, too. I also ordered a steak sandwich, served on two pieces of white bread. It was good, too, but I bet Scott’s not bringing that to Madison Square this weekend.
Stop by and try Rodney Scott’s ‘cue.
Yams for sale on the front porch of Scott’s
What you’re supposed to wash the barbecue down with
View of Hemingway, SC