Melvin’s BBQ Switched (Back) to Wood Smokers in 2015 and Hasn’t Looked Back

Name: Melvin’s BBQ
Date: 4/13/23
Address: 538 Folly Rd, Charleston, SC 29412
Order: Two meat combo platter with pork, turkey, slaw, and hash and rice (link)
Pricing: $$

Monk: Back in 2015, Melvin’s BBQ owner David Bessinger saw the light. As Robert Moss notes at the time in his piece for Southern Living, he saw the writing on the wall and made some changes to his two Charleston-area restaurants that had been smoking on Southern Pride gas-assisted smokers since the early 80’s. He switched to offset wood burners from Georgia-based Lang BBQ Smokers and hasn’t yet looked back. I had overlooked Melvin’s on several Charleston trips since 2015, which turned out to be a mistake after sampling their fare on a rainy Charleston weekday. Melvin’s has two Charleston-area restaurants: one in Mount Pleasant and this location I visited on James Island just a mile from the Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint that opened roughly 4 years back.

Melvin’s now has brisket on the menu, one of the big changes from 2015, but I stuck with pork and turkey with a side of hash and rice and slaw for my order. Cornbread is included with the combos and a pickle bar has an assortment of pickles and onions. All served on a Texas-style platter with butcher paper, a couple more of the changes from 8 years prior.

The pork was piled in a generous serving in the shape of a take out container, and on its own it was fresh and plenty smokey with chunks of bark chopped in. One of the non-Texas-influenced changes from 2015 was switching back to pastured pork, and while I didn’t taste their prior pork I have to assume it makes a difference. I sampled the spicy mustard barbecue sauce and while I’ll never be a huge mustard fan, I did enjoy this spicy version both with the pork and the turkey.

Opting for the lighter option of turkey instead of brisket, I was really pleased with Melvin’s version. It was perfectly moist and tender, with a nice peppery crust. Would definitely order again.

I was not getting out of Charleston with some hash, but was a bit let down by what Melvin’s served. It was a bit thinner in consistency than what I’ve tried (and enjoyed), and not as flavorful. Definitely a let down, and I had a better version of it a few days later at Swig & Swine (more on that soon). The slaw, too was also on the runny side.

Melvin’s has been family-owned by a branch of the famed Bessinger family for well over 80 years, since 1939. Had owner David Bessinger not had the foresight to switch back to all wood cooking, I wonder if they would have made it to the 80 year mark. In any case, I’m glad he did and that I finally took a chance on a joint I had wrongly be skipping over for the past few years. Give them a try if you’re in Charleston.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Turkey – 4 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

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