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

Monday, October 1, 2012

Politics in the Pits

Smoke billows from the pits at Jackie Hite's Bar-B-Q. (Photo by Denny Culbert/ The Barbecue Bus)

Since 1966, James Lee “Jackie” Hite has served as the Fire Chief, Water Commissioner, a City Councilman, Magistrate, and Mayor (three terms) of Leesville, South Carolina. He also smokes barbecue. Thus he serves his people two ways, through politics and pork; “Once you been there,” Hite says “you can't get it out of your blood.”

He opened Jackie Hite’s Bar-B-Q, across the railroad tracks from town, in May 1979. He learned the trade from his father, a plumber, fisherman, and part-time barbecue man. During the annual Firemen’s Balls, while the people square danced in the streets, little Jackie would help his father with the hog smoking, staying up all night, watching, waiting, and doing what he was told. Today, the pigs are still hickory-smoked, the sauce, mustard and vinegar and pepper. 

He is 72 years old and underwent open heart surgery five years ago; his constituents are begging him to run for mayor again. He just might. As long as he doesn’t quit cooking barbecue.

— Rien Fertel/ The Barbecue Bus

460 East Railroad Avenue
Batesburg-Leesville, SC 29006
(803) 532-3354