Piled High Platters

03 Jul 2024

Where to get the best BBQ in Charleston

by Pamela Jouan

Move over, summer grillin’—barbecue is the hottest plate this summer. Whether you prefer vinegar-based, tomato-based, or mustard-based sauces, Charleston has plenty of spots to satisfy your barbeque cravings. From joints to higher-end dining, here's a roundup of ten beloved spots, listed alphabetically, to let you decide on your favorite!

Bessingers Barbeque

1602 Savannah Hwy., Charleston



The Bessingers have made barbecue a family affair, known for their legendary mustard-based sauce, a “Carolina classic” since the 1930s. Locally owned and managed by Thomas Bessinger and his sons, Tommy and Michael, this landmark barbecue joint features slow-cooked meats in a wood-fire pit and offers outdoor seating. Thomas learned the secret recipe for the gold sauce—a mix of mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, sugar and spices—while helping his dad, Joseph “Big Joe” Bessinger, in the family’s first restaurant. The sauce is praised for its harmonious blending of mustard and vinegar tangs with a smoky wood fire flavor. Slather it on brisket sandwiches, wings, pulled chicken and more.

Home Team BBQ

Downtown/Mount Pleasant/West Ashley/Sullivan’s Island



With a “keep it local, make it fresh” philosophy, Home Team is a crowd pleaser. Started in 2006 by Aaron “Fiery Ron” Siegel, when he turned a mid-1900’s gas station in West Ashley into a fun barbecue hangout joint, today he and his partners, including executive chef Taylor Garrigan, have seven locations (not all in South Carolina) and a thriving catering business. A perfect spot to catch a game and enjoy locals’ favorite dry-rubbed smoked wings with Alabama White Sauce or a plateful of BBQ Nachos before tackling the “Board” with all your favorite vinegar-based ‘que!

King BBQ  

2029 Carver Ave., North Charleston



From the Wangs who brought us Jackrabbit Filly in North Charleston comes an ode to Chinese American cooking with a North Carolina BBQ twist, thanks to chef de cuisine/pitmaster Brandon Olson and his Lexington, NC roots. Brandon first flexed his BBQ muscles over at Home Team BBQ. Billed as “Chinatown BBQ made with Southern Smoke,” most meats are smoked over white oak, but ribs are lacquered in bright red sweet-n-sticky glaze and chicken wings are smoked and then crispy fried. Ducks get cooked in a rotisserie oven. Get your mustard-based BBQ sauce fix in the form of a Chinese hot mustard instead.

Lewis Barbecue

464 North Nassau St., Charleston



Odds are if you’ve been to Lewis Barbecue before, you’ve stood in line–and you know it’s worth it! Barbecue enthusiasts have been flocking here since 2016, the year after meat master John Lewis moved to the Holy City to introduce the Lowcountry to the great world of Texas barbecue. His parents gave him a New Braunfels smoker for his 18th birthday and he’s been dabbling in Austin’s longstanding tradition of the backyard barbecue ever since. Check out expertly smoked pork spareribs, beef ribs, “Texas hot guts” sausage, oxtail, and his legendary beef brisket. Outdoor seating is a bonus!

Melvin’s BBQ

925 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mount Pleasant &

538 Folly Rd., Charleston


Melvin’s BBQ is a family-owned branch of the famed Bessinger family that opened its first location in Mount Pleasant in 1982. It all started in the backwoods of Orangeburg, SC, when 10-year-old Melvin was taught how to make the “Golden Secret” barbecue sauce that his daddy Joe invented over 80 years ago. Melvin’s son, David Bessinger, brought back smoking meats over wood and added items to the menu like Texas-style brisket and burnt ends. It’s the perfect place to sample South Carolina’s iconic mustard-sauced pork and savory hash and rice. There is a convenient drive-thru as well. 

Palmira Barbecue

2366 Ashley River Rd., Building 1, Charleston



Another BBQ fusion concept has become Charleston’s newest hot spot. Owner and pitmaster Hector Garate’s interest in barbecue started at an early age in Puerto Rico, where he was born. There, he was exposed to whole animal cookery and today injects a cultural spin on his food as he specializes in smoking beef cheeks, rich barbocoa, whole hog and house-made sausages. He sources his meats from Brasstown Beef and Peculiar Pig Farms, who raise heritage breed hogs which he cooks whole on wood-fired direct-heat pits. Palmira, which is named after his grandmother, offers all three sauces: vinegar, mustard, and a Texas-red.

Rodney Scott’s BBQ

1011 King St., Charleston



Rodney Scott, arguably one of the country’s top barbecue pitmasters, earned his success through years of dedication. At his Charleston restaurant, the classic country BBQ vibe persists with a vinegar-based sauce slathered onto the meat slow cooked over hardwood coal embers. Scott started working the pits as a child, cooking his first pig at his family's store in Hemingway, SC when he was 11. When barbecue became the family business, he took charge. Cooking at a Charleston food festival was a turning point, allowing him to share his barbecue excellence today. Go whole hog pork, but make sure to try the sides of collard greens and mac and cheese too.

Poogan’s Smokehouse

188 E Bay St., Charleston



Poogan's Smokehouse offers an elevated barbeque experience with all the flavors and traditions of Southern barbecue. Opened In 2015, when the Poogan's Porch's owners decided to expand their offerings, their pitmasters use time-honored techniques to smoke meats low and slow, resulting in tender, juicy, and flavor-packed dishes like tender well-seasoned ribs and melty strips of pork belly, courtesy of the massive Southern Pride 500 smoker out back. The smoke flavor is not confined only to the meats: everything from vegetables to a smokehouse salad is covered in smoky goodness. Then go all out for their banana pudding dessert!

Southern Roots Smokehouse

2544 Savannah Hwy., Charleston

1083 E Montague Ave., North Charleston


Where there's smoke, there's fire—and at Southern Roots Smokehouse, that means a fun, lively scene with live music and great food at both of their locations. Their motto of “local meats and local beers” means a core local following as well. These spots best described as rustic and laid back. All meats get the wood chip smoker treatment and the sauces include Sweet Bourbon, Carolina Mustard, Hot Pepper Vinegar, Honey Chipotle and Alabama White. The brisket wrap gives the menu an updated and evolved feel. Save room for the Mississippi Mud Pie!

Swig & Swine 

West Ashley/Summerville/Mount Pleasant/Monks Corner



You can take the man out of New Jersey, but you can't take away his slow-burning love for barbecue. Anthony DiBernardo has always had a passion for cooking, consistently incorporating barbecue items into the menus of all the eateries along his culinary journey. This passion eventually led him to Charleston, where he opened the first Swig and Swine location in 2013. With a robust catering arm and a top-notch selection of bourbons, beer, and of course, barbecue, Swig & Swine checks all the boxes. Come for the “meat and three,” options including pulled pork, wings, and sausages, stay for the warm hospitality and unforgettable flavors. Swig & Swine recently opened their fourth Lowcountry location inside of Commonhouse Aleworks brewery in North Charleston's Park Circle neighborhood called "The Uncommon Swine."

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