Seafood might be the star in Charleston, but the Lowcountry loves its barbecue. Friends throw backyard parties and cook whole hogs over pecan and hickory wood fires. Or we drive to country BBQ parlors open only two or three days a week for plates of pulled pork with sides like mac ‘n’ cheese, slaw and soft bread. Sweet tea by the pitcher is a must. In the city, most menus now include beer—sometimes even local, craft brews. But BBQ never gets too fancy around Charleston. One Friday night we watched a legendary Mississippi bluesman, T-Model Ford, play a concert near the steaming line of dry-rubbed barbecue—pork, chicken and ribs—at Home Team BBQ. That’s as classic as it gets. Check out a starting list of must-trys below, and if it was longer, it would include Swig & Swine, too, a West Ashley newcomer with smoked meats, beers, and baked, stewed, and pickled sides.
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
The founding pitmaster at Fiery Ron’s is a chef with big restaurant experience, and he’s featured live music since day one. Friends with kids love this place, particularly the Sullivan’s Island location with its huge waiting area where the parents can have a beer and kids can draw on the side of the restaurant.
Jim ‘n Nicks Bar-B-Q
Sure, the first of dozens of locations opened in Alabama in the 1980s, but Charleston thinks of this place as one of its own. I love to walk in off King Street and smell the hickory smoke. Plus, they throw a big, bluesy, southern bash every year during the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.
Smoky Oak Taproom
In a James Island neighborhood near the center of the island, Smoky Oak Taproom has dozens of beers on tap and cooks most anything over fire, including pulled pork, beef brisket, and beer can chicken. A lively, after-work hang-out, locals pack the place for the steaks, quesadillas, and crab legs, too.
Hello My Name is BBQ
Get this—a fried egg, pimento cheese, grilled okra, fresh tomato, pineapple, Sriacha mayo, Canadian bacon—the toppings for BBQ sandwiches and tacos here are like nowhere else in Charleston. Hello started as a truck that still rolls, but they’ve also got a brick-and-mortar shop at the foot of the Ravenel Bridge (Charleston side).
Melvin’s Legendary Bar-B-Que
Mustard-based sauce on the BBQ, that’s Melvin’s speciatly. Fast service, too, and southern sides including collard greens and fried okra. A granddaddy of the local BBQ scene dating back to the 1930s, the restaurant’s “secret-recipe” draws crowds. Southerners are particular about sauce, but if you love this one, you can’t get enough.