24 Don’t-Miss South Carolina Barbecue Restaurants, Ranked

Eating

Barbecue in South Carolina is a treasured culinary institution that showcases a distinctive style and rich historical roots. The state is acclaimed for its unique approach to barbecue with a focus on pork and a variety of flavorful sauces.

South Carolina features four principal styles of barbecue, each linked with different regions within the state. In the western part of the state you’ll find a partiality for smoky, slow cooked pulled pork, served with a tomato based sauce. In the Midlands the barbecue is distinguished by a mustard based sauce, providing a piquant and slightly sweet flavor to the succulent pork. On the coast, particularly in the Lowcountry, a vinegar and pepper based sauce takes top billing, adding a zingy component to the barbecue. Finally, the northwestern Pee Dee region often combines all three styles crafting a seamless blend of flavors.

What makes South Carolina barbecue distinctive is the array of sauces and prominence of whole hog cooking. While pork is a mainstay, the sauces, from mustard to vinegar based, provide a wide range of taste adventures for the barbecue fan. Whole hog cooking, especially in the eastern part of the state, is a labor intensive process that involves roasting an entire pig over an open pit to yield a smoky, scrumptious meat.

South Carolina barbecue is far more than just a meal; it is a peek into the state’s history, cultural diversity, and culinary ingenuity. It is a must for anyone exploring the world of barbecue.

Where Can I Find The Best Barbecue In South Carolina?

Not sure where to go? We got you covered. From Charleston to Columbia and all the small charming towns in between, this is where you can find the best BBQ in South Carolina.

A Guide to Our Rankings:

All South Carolina barbecue is delicious but, as with most things in life, not all are created equal. No problem. Here is our curated list based on four categories that will allow you to indulge in the best of the best South Carolina barbecue.

  • Destination: worth a trip from anywhere
  • Celebrated: worth a detour
  • Impressive: one of the best
  • Honorable Mention: worth a stop if you’re in the area

Destination Barbecue Restaurants

One Hot Mama’s American Grill

This family-friendly Hilton Head restaurant (with another location in nearby Bluffton) located on the south end of Hilton Island is known for their meats, smoked low and slow. They offer delectable baby-back ribs, authentic pit-to-plate BBQ, hand cut steaks, fried and hickory smoked chicken, world famous wings, salads, and more.

Executive Chef and Managing Partner, Orchid Paulmeier is the star of One Hot Mama’s in more ways than one. Not only is her award-winning barbecue the star of the menu, but Orchid herself has a claim to fame. As a Food Network Star, Orchid brings her expertise in Southern BBQ straight to your table.

She was named a South Carolina Chef Ambassador; this award is a tribute to her culinary talent and the quality of food that she serves at One Hot Mama’s. You will not go wrong if you choose to eat here: One Hot Mama’s defines the word “Destination.”

One Hot Mama’s American Grill
1 Greenwood Drive, Suite 7A
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
(843) 682-6262
https://onehotmamas.com/

Hite’s Bar-B-Que

Image from Official Website

Hite’s goes whole hog. Home to the glorious rib cut, this great mass of meat comes from the mid-section of a smoke-cooked hog. Tart mustard sauce, a South Carolina signature, sets this scrumptious protein aglow: an awesome hunk of meat.

You can buy skin, ribs, and chopped pork separate from each other. You may have to do that if you arrive late. BBQ devotees come early and often buy out the day’s supply of rib cuts. Don’t worry, though. Incredible as the rib cut is, each item, separately, will make your taste buds sing. You could almost make a meal of the skins themselves as they contain that much meat. Chopped pork and spare ribs exude porcine succulence with every bite.

Beyond hog and smoke-cooked chicken, Hite’s dining menu offers cole slaw, hash on rice, and banana pudding. That’s all.

There is no place to eat inside. Everything Hite’s serves is taken out, and much is sold by the pound, but you can buy a sandwich or a plate with sides. Indulge yourself at one of the few alfresco tables on the other side of the parking lot by a placid pond.

Hite’s has a limited hours operation. You buy from Hite’s only on Friday and Saturday. If you love BBQ, plan accordingly. This is one of the state’s greatest.

Hite’s Bar-B-Que
240 Dreher Road
West Columbia, SC 29169
(803) 794-4120
https://www.hitesbbq.com/

Sweatman’s Barbecue

Starting early in the 20th century, Sweatman’s became synonymous with great barbecue. The menfolk in the family hosted pig-pickin’s for relatives and friends, but in 1977, the family made it into a buffet-style restaurant in the South Carolina tradition. That means barbecue is served only on the weekend and that customers help themselves along a buffet line. The dining area is the former living quarters of the family home.

The buffet line where everyone helps themselves is a literal pig out. Help yourself to white rice and top it with savory hash. Select white meat, dark meat, and ribs. Complement that with pigskin stripped and fried into morsels with a mighty crunch. Enhance your plate with pickles and grab a couple of slices of white bread. Carry your plate and a glass of sweet tea to a table and dig in.

A barbecue meal in this smoky temple will leave you with inedible memories as sweet as the aroma of the pit-cooked pork.

Sweatman’s Barbecue
1427 Eutaw Road
Holly Hill, SC 29059
(803) 496-1227
https://www.sweatmansbbq.com/

Freeman’s Bar-B-Que

Freeman’s superlative barbecue pork is available in a sandwich or a platter. I absolutely recommend the latter, mostly because it is such a treat to fork through the luscious meat, but also because platters come with side dishes, which are superb. Hash on rice is noteworthy for the fresh, sumptuous nature of the hash made with both beef and pork. Mac ‘n’ cheese is a comfort-food classic, its noodles suspended in rich, eggy, custard-like cheese sauce.

Located on a rural road just across from Augusta, Freeman’s is a restaurant that oozes character, and once you walk in, hospitality reigns. Freeman’s has its fair share of regular customers, but also plenty of BBQ explorers.

Freeman’s is a Beach Island icon that embodies a soulful community spirit and is surely a South Carolina BBQ destination.

Freeman’s Bar-B-Q
1060 Sand Bar Ferry Road
Beach Island, SC 29842
(803) 827 1623

Mike and Jeff’s BBQ Restaurant & Catering

Must-eat pulled pork, smoky-sweet, mostly melting-tender with a few crunchy strips, it is mouthwatering enough to make sauce redundant. This is the must-eat on a short list of meats that also includes spare ribs and chicken. Just about every dish this kitchen offers personifies South Carolina upstate BBQ at its best.

Don’t miss the BBQ dog! This is a tantalizing pile-up that starts with a hot dog in a fluffy bun. The dog is slathered with mustard and chopped red onions then packed with a mound of pulled pork. Then comes some BBQ sauce, SC mustard based. This is truly a remarkable dish of toothsome flavor.

Sides are outstanding: beans are sweet and porky; mac & cheese is custard soft and super cheesy; and the sweet potato souffle could pass as a dessert.

Mike & Jeff’s is a small, delightful spot with a cozy dining room (much business is take-out) and a friendly staff. To eat here is to experience South Carolina BBQ at its best.

Mike and Jeff’s BBQ Restaurant & Catering
2401 Old Buncombe Road
Greenville, SC 29609
(864) 272 5225
https://www.mikeandjeffsbbq.com/

Celebrated Barbecue Restaurants

Rodney Scott’s BBQ

Rodney Scott is a smoke-pit celebrity. In 2016, he left the family business in Hemingway, SC, to bring his whole-hog barbecue to Upper King Street in Charleston. In 2018, he won a James Beard award.

Scott’s whole-hog BBQ has survived fame, popularity and the move from country to city. Pulled pork is especially impressive, served as a large, tender pillow of shredded meat without a trace of fat but so delectable that sauce can be an afterthought. Coming from the northeast part of the state, Scott makes a sauce that is vinegar based, thin and peppery. It’s tangy and when used sparingly adds a twist to what is subtle-flavored meat.

There’s nothing nuanced about the ribs. These are spare ribs not baby backs. They are chewy but in a tasteful way, yielding a powerful wave of flavor. Chicken, on the other hand, is uber tender but like the ribs, it glows with smoke-pit vitality.

French fries are nearly explosive, salted and peppered and hot from the kettle and even better when sprinkled with the vinegar based BBQ sauce.

Their ribeye sandwich, crafted from marinated steak, slowly smoked on the pit, is a must try. The banana pudding delivers the goods to conclude your meal in sweet glory.

Rodney Scott’s BBQ
1011 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 990-9535
https://rodneyscottsbbq.com/

Melvin’s BBQ

A South Carolina institution since 1939, Melvin’s BBQ is renowned across the South for its scrumptious St. Louis-style pork ribs, chicken, and “All Ham” barbecue. Its pulled pork BBQ, smoked for 24 hours over hickory wood coals, is a crowd favorite.

Smother your chopped pork in Melvin’s legendary Golden Secret Recipe (tangy mustard sauce) and taste Lowcountry BBQ goodness.

Enjoy signature sides like the enormous and irresistible onion rings, homemade mac ‘n’ cheese, slaw, fresh collards, fried okra, and more.

Melvin’s Legendary Barbecue
925 Houston Northcutt Boulevard
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 881-0549
https://melvinsbbq.com/

Big Boys Smokehouse

Image from Official Website

South Carolina is a galaxy of good barbecue and Big Boys Smokehouse makes some of the best. Pulled pork is copiously juicy and would be delicious eaten by the pound with no embellishment whatsoever, but the two available sauces are both hard to forgo. The mustard sauce is not too sharp, quite sweet, a little tangy (a perfect complement for the pork) and the red sauce…might be even better. It’s a peppery boost that brings the pork to another level.

Brisket, infused with smoke and literally dripping in juices, is a feast for carnivores, especially if you add some tingle with the mustard sauce.

Spare ribs are grand, too; lots of meat, tender and equally wonderful with either sauce…or with neither.

Big Boys offers regular and “premium” sides, the latter being pig feet and rice, hash and rice, or gumbo and rice. Anyone of these could be a whole meal. Regular sides include custard-rich macaroni and cheese and homestyle collard greens.

A decadent banana pudding and a spiced sweet potato pie top the dessert offerings.

There is no table service. Place an order at the counter and pay, then wait for your name to be called. Everything is served in disposable containers for eating at a handful of tables or taking to go.

Big Boys Original Smokehouse
8604 Farrow Road
Columbia, SC 29203
(803) 788-6822
https://www.bigboysoriginalbbq.com/

Impressive Barbecue Restaurants

Choo Choo BBQ Xpress

This perfect barbeque joint offers traditional oak wood smoked, slow-cooked, pulled pork, chicken and baby back ribs. The BBQ sauce choices are all amazing. Enjoy your meal inside the choo choo train or take it to go. Their lunch specials can’t be beat if you happen to be around during lunch.

Midway BBQ

Classic pulled pork, pork ribs, BBQ chicken, famous beef hash, and an exceptional chicken stew (not at all like chicken stew in most other parts of the U.S.).

Midway BBQ
811 Main Street
Buffalo, SC 29321
(864) 427-4047
https://midway-bbq.com/

Bessinger’s BBQ

Bessinger’s BBQ in Charleston is where authentic South Carolina barbecue shines with top quality ingredients and a personal touch. The Bessinger family has long been revered as the ‘first family’ of South Carolina barbecue, famous for their iconic mustard based barbecue sauce.

Bessinger’s BBQ
1602 Savannah Highway
Charleston, SC 29407
(843) 556-1354
https://www.bessingersbbq.com/

Shealy’s Bar-B-Que

This is a legendary landmark, famous for its all-you-can-eat buffet filled with barbecue, fried chicken, and home-cooked vegetables. The family-run restaurant has been serving patrons since 1969. Their pulled pork drenched in sweet, acidic, spicy mustard sauce is a standout.

Shealy’s Bar-B-Que
340 East Columbia Avenue
Batesburg-Leesville, SC 29070
(803) 532-8135
https://www.shealysbbq.com/

Big D’s BBQ Trough

A special all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet attracts hungry guests from near and far to Big D’s BBQ Trough. Go ahead and indulge in the buffet, which features everything from BBQ and fried chicken to biscuits, cornbread, and veggies. Save room for their famous banana pudding.

Big D’s BBQ Trough
2917 Church Street
Conway, SC 29526
(843) 365-7485
https://bigdsbbqtrough.com/

Henry’s Smokehouse

Henry’s Smokehouse lives by the motto, “Leanest Butt in town.” Its old-fashioned approach to Southern barbecue with hickory log smokers ensures that choice meats are cooked to perfection at low temperatures. Everything is hand-pulled, resulting in tender, moist and flavorful barbecue. On Fridays and Saturdays you’re in for a treat with the slow cooked brisket. Be sure to arrive early; it’s known to sell out.

Henry’s Smokehouse
240 Wade-Hampton Boulevard
Greenville, SC 29609
(864) 232-7774
https://www.henryssmokehouse.com/

Pistol Jo’s Cherry Point BBQ

Excellent barbecue smoked in an outdoor pit, utilizing primarily oak and pecan. Daily offerings include smoked pulled pork, smoked pulled chicken, peppered smoked turkey, and fried chicken. They offer weekly baby back rib and beef brisket specials. All sauces are homemade with the Sweet Cherry BBQ being a highlight.

Pistol Jo’s Cherry Point BBQ
2915 Okatie Highway
Ridgeland, SC 29936
(843) 645-4227

The Spotted Pig BBQ

A hidden gem off I-85, The Spotted Pig is a homey spot with great offerings. Homemade BBQ sauces drip off the succulent ribs, rounded out with sides like slaw, onion rings, and fried okra.

Dry-rubbed pulled pork has a smoky citrusy tang and their “Double D” sandwich will give you a sample of all the meats packed between garlic toast.

The Spotted Pig BBQ
15491 SC-11
Fair Play, SC 29643
(864) 972 9999

Carolina Barbecue Shack

Tucked away in their hometown of Greenwood, Carolina Barbecue Shack is the local go-to for quality barbecue.

They supply all the daily made sides and house-smoked meats you could ask for in a friendly, relaxed environment.

The pulled pork is tender and delicious, and they have multiple sauce options to spice it up just the way you like it. Add-ons here include hash over rice and a side of ribs, just in case you want to try it all.

Carolina Barbecue Shack
728 Montague Avenue
Greenwood, SC 29649
(864) 223-2202

Roy’s Grille

Hidden within a small Exxon station, this is a modest spot with a remarkable barbecue reputation. Chef Chris Williams takes pride in serving incredibly smoky, fall-off-the-bone ribs and pulled pork. While the menu is diverse, their specialty is unquestionably barbecue. The brisket is smoked for at least 12 hours, seasoned with their unique brisket rub, and sells out quickly.

Roy’s Grille
7971 Woodrow Street
Irmo, SC 29063
(803) 359-0994
https://roysgrillesc.com/

Honorable Mention Barbecue Restaurants

Duke Bar-B-Que
1298 Whitman Street SE
Orangeburg, SC 29115
(803) 534 2916

Music Man’s Bar-B-Que
112 State Road S-8-225
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
(843) 899-7675

Moree’s Bar-B-Que
677 Morrisville Road
Andrews, SC 29510
(843) 221-5643

The Dixie Pig Rock Hill
2007 Celanese Rd
Rock Hill, SC 29732
(803) 324-3116
https://thedixiepigbbq.com/

Bubbas BBQ Bash
827 West Blackstock Road
Spartanburg, SC 29301
(864) 582-7487
https://bubbasbbqandbash.com/

Palmetto Pig Bar-B-Q Restaurant
530 Devine Street
Columbia, SC 29201
(803) 733-2556
https://palmettopigbbq.com/

Barbecue is one Southern staple that South Carolina takes great pride in. Whether you’re searching for the destination’s best pulled pork, ribs, or brisket, you can satisfy your slow smoked craving for mouth watering ‘cue at one of the restaurants on our list.

We take you from the legendary to the tried and tested old reliables so that you can savor and enjoy the wide range of South Carolina barbecue. Just don’t forget the mac & cheese, collard greens, hash on rice, and banana pudding.