Name: Lewis Barbecue
Address: 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403
Order: ½ lb pork, 2 slices of brisket, 2 links Texas hot guts, corn pudding, potato salad (link to menu)
Price: $49 (for 2 adults and a toddler)
Monk: Back in December, when I had a week off from work between Christmas and New Year’s I contemplated taking a day trip to Charleston specifically for Lewis Barbecue. I had the plan set in my mind: drop off at daycare, drive the 3 hours to Charleston, hit up Lewis Barbecue (and maybe one or two others), and turn around and head right back just in time for dinner. Sadly, real life intervened and I just couldn’t make it happen. So to say this was my most anticipated barbecue visit of our vacation week in Charleston would be a slight understatement. Okay, maybe this and Rodney Scott’s BBQ were 1 and 1a, but still – anticipation was high.
Unlike Rudy, I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying La Barbecue in Austin back when John Lewis was the pitmaster and they were often mentioned in the same breath at the joint Lewis helped start, Franklin Barbecue. In fact, Rudy prefers La Barbecue over Franklin in his Austin rankings largely in part because the barbecue was of similar quality but the line was so much more manageable. That was back before John Lewis made the move to Charleston to open his own barbecue restaurant last summer, spreading his beef gospel to the pork-loving Carolinas.
To that end, the brisket at Lewis Barbecue was quite possibly the best I’ve had. One day I hope to spend more time in Texas but until that point this will be the standard bearer. Much as you would expect from a Texas joint, customers order by the pound and two slices weighed in at nearly ⅔ of a pound at $21/lb. Moist and peppery, each chunk of fatty beef melted in my mouth.
I’ve had sausage plenty of times but safe to say I haven’t had hot guts like John Lewis’s before. The beef had a nice kick and weren’t dry while the hog casing had a good snap to it. I don’t have a point of comparison, but in any case I loved everything about the hot guts.
I knew not to expect NC style pork (either eastern or Lexington) and the coarsely pork was definitely the least successful of the meats I tried that day. I didn’t regret ordering but next time I’ll try the ribs – either pork or the beef rib if I’m there on a Saturday – in lieu of the pulled pork.
Rudy: I have had La Barbecue as much or more than any other place here and I’ve had it both with John and without. Honestly, I can’t tell that much of a difference though I will say that I did not like the hot guts the 2 times I had them. I thought they had too much beef in them and seemed dry. I also thought the ribs were amazing, so you should definitely try them next time.
Monk: Duly noted, Rudy. When it comes to sides, neither Mrs. Monk nor I could get enough of the corn pudding. We definitely could have eaten another piece or two of that slightly sweet corn casserole. The potato salad was just fine.
Atmosphere-wise, Lewis Barbecue has knocked it out of the park. The inside is tastefully done with nods to Texas heritage. They have a bar that’s strategically positioned for folks in line to be able to grab a beer if the line is long enough. And they have a couple of outdoor spaces including a beer garden under a sprawling oak. Had we more time and slightly better weather, I could have easily spent a few hours in that beer garden drinking more Shiner.
Speaking of lines, Lewis Barbecue has made a commitment to cook enough meat to consistently stay open from 11am until 10pm six days per week (they are closed on Mondays). So while they may occasionally have long lines (they didn’t on this Tuesday for lunch), selling out of meat for the day and closing early isn’t something that’s likely to happen.
One thing I do have to acknowledge is the prices at Lewis. This is partly due to the Charleston effect (I noticed barbecue prices were 20-30% higher at each place I ate at that week) but that’s also due to how high beef prices have become.
Rudy: This would be my biggest complaint on the difference between Texas and North Carolina barbecue. If I go to lunch and get a barbecue sandwich, side, and drink, it will be in the $17-20 range. Brisket is so much more expensive than pulled pork. That is one of the reasons I have not eaten as much. The second is that it is so rich and fatty, I normally feel gross and have meat sweats even after a small portion.
Monk: Lewis Barbecue had top notch barbecue and a great space and was my favorite restaurant of the week, just barely edging out the place we tried the next day. More on that next week.
Atmosphere – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs