A Charleston Barbecue Tour

Plan a visit to Charleston, SC, where the BBQ scene is booming

By Robert F. Moss

Poogan's Smokehouse has brought upscale barbecue to the heart of Charleston's East Bay restaurant row
Poogan's Smokehouse has brought upscale barbecue to the heart of Charleston's East Bay restaurant row (Courtesy Robert F. Moss)
In just the past year, Charleston, South Carolina, has started getting a lot of buzz for its flourishing BBQ scene. Back in August, Jim Shahin of the Washington Post came to town for a visit and asserted, "I've seen the future of barbecue, and it is Charleston, S.C." Just a few weeks after that, I wrote an article for the Charleston City Paper that charted the recent evolution of the city’s barbecue scene and foresaw a bright future, too.

When I interviewed John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue for that piece, he predicted that Charleston was on the verge of breaking out as one of the country's great barbecue cities. "It's going to be the same thing that happened to Austin," he told me. "Now Charleston is a barbecue destination. They'll get off the plane or off the boat and go eat barbecue."

So maybe its time to start planning a Charleston barbecue tour of your own. What you'll find is not just great barbecue but a diverse variety of flavors and techniques. There are plenty of practitioners of South Carolina's older, more traditional styles, so you can sample genuine Pee Dee-style whole hog and follow it up with a plate of pulled pork dressed in yellow mustard sauce with hash and rice on the side. Or, you can dig into inventive "new 'cue" fusions that combine slow-smoked meat with a lot of the fine-dining flourishes that have made Charleston such a popular foodie destination in recent years. You can even get authentic central Texas-style brisket.

To help you map out your itinerary, we compiled this list of recommendations for the hot spots to hit.