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Hemingway, SC


JeffC
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I guess this could have gone into the Charleston thread, but Hemingway is 82 miles away. Or the Myrtle Beach thread....but again, 60 miles away. It's 65 miles from my house, mostly through two-lane backroads. Hemingway only has one real claim to culinary fame.....Scott's Bar-B-Que, located on SC Hwy 261, at Brunson's Crossroad. Anyhow, after hearing word of mouth, the praises of more than one southern food writer--one of whom proclaimed Scott's (with understandable southern bias) to be the best barbecue on planet--and finally reading the New York Times artlcle linked below, I made a pilgrimage to this shrine of vinegar-based 'cue. The top-down drive through SC backroads was a treat in itself.

I'll just say it. This is one of the finest eating experiences of my life--the first bite, sans sauce, was a pork epiphany. The smoky, rich meat had a depth of flavor that that could make the gods cry. This is simply some incredible stuff--perfect, as one comment on the NYT article noted. I've never been good at describing food flavors...I just know what I like, and jeez do I love this stuff. I had them prepare me an order with sauce--fiery hot, from the bottom of the jug--and I giddily finished it off. All you get here is barbecue--chicken or pork, or, more recently, rib-eye--and a couple slices of white bread. No slaw, no hushpuppies....just the 'cue.

I bought four pounds of the pork, along with a half-gallon of sauce, for just under fifty bucks, tax included. Two pounds for me, two for my buddy who is a true Carolina barbecue-lover, having grown up in NC and eaten in almost every little roadside place in both states. He came over just a few minutes ago, ate a few bites, and proclaimed this stuff to be the finest he's eaten in his sixty-odd years. My wife, not generally a fan of such things, can't stop going back for "just another couple of bites".

Click here for the NY Times article

One caveat--they are only open three days a week (Thur-Sat). If you're a barbecue lover and you find yourself anywhere near this place--and by near, I mean one or two hours away--please consider a side trip.

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Thought I'd bring this back to the top. Since the original post, Scott's renown has continued to grow. Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's in Charleston recently described Scott's as his "most favorite place to eat in the entire world". He and Rodney Scott often cook together at competitions--they won Best in Show at the 2011 Meatopia in NYC--as well as for the fun of it. But despite it's growing fame, the only change at Scott's has been an extra buck a pound for the barbecue, and extra business day (Wednesday), and the addition of slaw as a side.

Seriously, this place is worth the extra effort if you are ever in the Charleston, SC area and have a few hours to spare....

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Your posts make me want to visit this restaurant in earnest.

It's not really a restaurant, but there are a couple of picnic tables outside. Most people just go back out to their cars and dig in. Scott's is an old-time roadside market that you find on the back roads in the Carolinas. When I pick up a few pounds for myself and friends, I always buy an extra half pound and eat it with my fingers while driving home--it really is "finger-licking good"....and a few napkins keeps things from getting too messy.

Tweaked, have you been there during one of your visits? If you ever go, I'd love to hear what you think. Scott's is 62 miles from my house and is about 50 miles from Myrtle Beach. One very important caveat--they are cash only. The nearest ATM is a few miles down the road in Hemingway...learned that the hard way the first time I went.

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Seriously, this place is worth the extra effort if you are ever in the Charleston, SC area and have a few hours to spare....

'Ever' has its limitations. Every year on my annual roadtrip to Sebring, their Wed-Sun limitation thwarts me, since those are precisely the days I need to be in Florida. Every dang year. I can't really complain about having Charleston or Savannah for "plan B", but this is frustrating.

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Tweaked, have you been there during one of your visits? If you ever go, I'd love to hear what you think. Scott's is 62 miles from my house and is about 50 miles from Myrtle Beach. One very important caveat--they are cash only. The nearest ATM is a few miles down the road in Hemingway...learned that the hard way the first time I went.

No I usually only go down to Calabash at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then there is too much going on to drive to Hemingway...but I will damn it!

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Thanks for the link! Nice interview....except maybe for the last part. Although I'd bet that Sean Brock (McCrady's/Husk) will be involved with his Charleston operation in some way, the thought of Rodney spreading himself too thin is a bit scary. I don't want anything to jeopardize the goodness of his 'cue! I was over there a couple of weeks ago and got to talk with him for the first time--he was sitting on the front porch of the store, just relaxing and watching the world go by. And it goes by VERY slowly out there...he's a genuinely nice guy and loves (and may be a bit overwhelmed by) how the world is discovering his barbecue.

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Scott's BBQ maybe the most primitive, primal food experience I've ever had.  People who have read about, or seen Scott's profiled on TV, know that at the beginning of the week Rodney Scott collects, chops, and cuts his own wood.  Wednesday thru Saturday he BBQs whole hogs.  The pneumatic wood splitter maybe the most advance piece of equipment used in the whole operation.

The back lot of Scott's is a dystopic wasteland of blackened and charred wood and twisted scrap metal.  In the middle sits a six foot tall, perforated oil drum.  Wood enters the top and embers are spit out the bottom "“ the mother of all chimney starters.

The smoke house is a temporary shed containing two rows of concrete bunkers.  The original shed burnt down last year.  On one side, hogs encased in chicken wire are slowly broken down over 250 degree heat for 12 hours.  No temperate gauges are used, everything is judged by sight, sound, heat, and years of experience.  Two carcasses hung over the coals, just about done, the meat was falling apart, barely recognizable as a pig.  A white bucket filled with red liquid, slices of lemon floating on top, and a janitor's mop waited nearby.  On the other side, split hog heads were slowly smoking.  A deep fat fryer turned pig skin into crunchy pork rinds.

On a typical weekday, Rodney and his crew might BBQ six hogs "“ two for the morning, two for lunch, two for dinner.  On a weekend, they might do eight to ten.  The process starts at 4pm the previous day and they work through the night.  After 15 minutes inside the shed, I stank of smoke for the rest of the day.

The main building is an old gas station garage converted into a country store.  Outside sits a table of watermelons on the porch.  Inside are a handful of tables and some selves selling nothing of note.  You place your order at the window counter.  In back sits a large metal table piled with pulled pork.  A couple of women were filling takeout containers.  An order gets you a white styrofoam container filled with a half-pound of tender, moist pork; a sandwich bag containing two slices of white bread; and a plastic fork.  It's a make your own sandwich kind of place.

The bathroom is upstairs, but you have to take the rickety wooden stairs out back.  A couple of doors with Private signs sat ajar, old mattresses sitting on the floor visible in the dark.   The floor creaks and you're not sure if it will hold your weight.  In fact, you're not really sure how the whole place is still standing, maybe it's all glued together with years of pork grease.

Rodney was very accommodating.  It seemed like he had accepted that his sudden foodie fame meant putting up with people like me, people who want a tour of the pits, ask the same questions, and take a bunch of photos.  Afterwards, we stood on the side of the road chatting, cars drove by honking their horns, drivers giving a wave, it seemed like everyone knew Rodney.  We parted ways, Rodney heading back to the pits; my brother, Dad, and I hopping back into the car with three pounds of BBQ and a two hour drive back to the beach.     

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