Monday, November 12, 2012

Barbecue's "Golden Secret"

Melvin's  barbecue sandwich topped with the "golden secret" sauce. (Photo by Denny Culbert/ The Barbecue Bus) 

Bessinger, certainly the most famous surname in South Carolina barbecue. Mustard sauce, Piggy Park. Icons of South Carolina history and culture and Bessinger family inventions.

One of fourteen children born to Mack Bessinger, restaurant patriarch Joseph Jacob, was known as ‘Big Joe.’ He moved from the family farm near Orangeburg to open the Holly Hill CafĂ© in 1939. There, together with the Sweatman family, he concocted a mustard-based barbecue sauce, owning to their shared German roots. That “Golden Secret,” as the Bessingers call it, became the state’s signature sauce.

Melvin Bessinger, like most of his ten siblings, followed his father into the barbecue business. In 1961, with another brother, Melvin opened his first barbecue restaurant in west Charleston. Three decades later, Melvin split off to found his own barbecue joint. Today, third-generation barbecue entrepreneur, David Bessinger, maintains the Bessinger family tradition.

— Rien Fertel/ The Barbecue Bus

Melvin’s Legendary Bar-B-Q
538 Folly Road
Charleston, SC 29412
(843) 762-0511

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Every Day of the Week

A sampling of the fare from the Brown's Bar-B-Q buffet in Kingstree, South Carolina. (photo by Denny Culbert/ The Barbecue Bus)

Thomas M. Brown, Jr. is a farmer. He plants soy, wheat, hay, and oats to sell on the market. Additionally, he grows corn, squash, zucchini, and broccoli, okra, butter beans, collards, and cabbage for his restaurant’s massive buffet line. At Brown’s Bar-B-Q, these fresh vegetables are served in season alongside pilau rice and white rice, macaroni, yams, barbecue chicken and fried chicken, barbecue turkey and baked turkey, barbecue ribs, smoked ham, potato salad, coleslaw, and, yes, chopped barbecue.   

A motorcycle accident left a teenage Thomas Brown with a broken leg. Confined to bed and with a hot plate set up within reach, he learned to cook for himself. In 1981, he started serving takeout plates—rice and gravy, yams, barbecue—from a window on the family farm. A decade later, he built the dining room, as large as the buffet table is long.

At Brown’s Bar-B-Q, dinner, or lunch, is like Thanksgiving eating enjoyed every day of the week. The fresh vegetables, the variety of meats; all the desserts that can’t fit on one plate. It’s hard to keep track of all the gravies.

— Rien Fertel/ The Barbecue Bus

809 Williamsburg County Highway  
Kingstree, SC 29556
(843) 382-2753

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rust Gravy in Orangeburg

Barbecue pork covered with Dukes' rust-colored sauce with slaw, crisp skin, and rust colored hash over rice. (Photo by Denny Culbert/ The Barbecue Bus)

At least a dozen barbecue establishments, covering nearly two-thirds of the State’s geography, operate under the Dukes name. Most South Carolinians across the Midlands and Lowlands claim a favorite. So, ask a local for directions to Dukes Bar-B-Que and you’re hazarding a geographic mixup.  

Earl Duke founded the original Dukes Bar-B-Que along Whitman Street in downtown Orangeburg. From their the dukedom spread, with family members and others opening locations. The first Dukes eventually passed to Harold Kittrell, formerly a carpenter, and then onto his son, Tony, the present manager/co-owner.

Dukes Bar-B-Que (note, never spelled Duke’s) still stocks a loaded buffet line with sides—green beans, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, slaw, potato salad, pickles, and bread—and the heavy hitters: rice, hash, barbecue chicken, fried chicken, and, of course, chopped shoulder and ham barbecue pork. The standout remains Earl Dukes’ sauce recipe: sweet, ketchup-based, thicker then most, and orange-yellow tinged, giving it a color and viscosity Tony Kittrell deems “rust gravy.”

— Rien Fertel/ The Barbecue Bus

1298 Whitman Street Southeast
Orangeburg, SC 29115
(803) 534-2916