Name: Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que Address: 1427 Eutaw Rd, Holly Hill, SC 29059 Order: Barbecue sandwich with hash and rice and banana puddin’ (link to menu) Pricing: $
Monk: Holy crap, you guys. I mean, holy crap. Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que has been on my list for a few years now, considering how I tend to get to Charleston a couple times a year and Holly Hill is not super out of the way if you are willing to take the scenic route off I-26 just east of Columbia around Orangeburg. Based on my visit, its a detour well worth taking.
Sweatman’s has been around since 1977 and according to Grant’s story over at Marie, Let’s Eat! in 2016, the current owners Mark and Lynn Behr bought the restaurant from their friends and original owners Bub and Margie Sweatman in 2011. Thankfully, it appears they have continued the practice of cooking whole hogs over coals for 12-14 hours.
As this was going to be a late afternoon snack, I did not opt for the full buffet line, instead ordering a a sandwich with a side of hash and rice. The waitress obviously sensed a weakness for ‘naner pudding in me by suggesting I also get it, but it wasn’t too much of a stretch considering its only $1.50 with tax.
The main building of Sweatman’s appears to have had a larger dining room added onto it at some point over the years, and that thing was like stepping back into the 80’s in the south but in the best way.
I bit into my barbecue sandwich and darnit if it wasn’t a near transcendent bite of barbecue. The wood smoke shone through each bite and was accentuated by the sweet and tangy mustard barbecue sauce. This was different than almost every other midlands South Carolina mustard-based barbecue sandwich I’ve had where the shredded pork is drowning in the sauce. The sauce here still let the wood smoke be the star and was content to act as a supporting actor.
The hash and rice was the co-star, if my forced metaphor hasn’t begun to completely break down yet. I’ve only had one other “200 mile” hash and rice before and that was at True BBQ in West Columbia. This was on par with that. I still don’t have the vocabulary to properly describe hash and rice, but this savory-gravy-over-rice-dish is a must-order at Sweatman’s.
Briefly about that banana pudding – it was quite simply one of the best naner puddings I’ve had ever. I wish I had gotten at least 2 more for the rest of the weekend (slash the rest of my meal). What a capper to the meal.
Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que is absolutely worth the detour but be aware that its only open two days a week on Fridays and Saturdays. So be sure to plan your pilgrimage accordingly.
Monk: You may have been hearing about Dave Grohl’s barbecue obsession for the past year or so, but here’s an in-depth conversation between Grohl, Bon Appétit editor Adam Rapoport, and Joe House from The Ringer’s House of Carbs podcast. In it, he discusses how he got into barbecue through tasting eastern NC barbecue at a shack (he didn’t mention a name) near the Currituck Lighthouse after he bought a beach house in Nag’s Head in the early 90’s (13:40). He also calls out when he met Elliott Moss from Buxton Hall Barbecue, whom he called “a badass” (24:14) and Sam Jones, who he “treated like a Beatle” (24:35). Grohl also gets into his barbecue venture Backbeat BBQ that started from a single Lang smoker (35:02) and how he worked his way up to feeding nearly a thousand firefighters for free during last fall’s Camp Fire in southern California (39:40).
It’s one thing to read about Grohl’s passion for barbecue (or see him hanging out during the tailgate party that is Memphis in May), but it’s another to hear the passion in his voice when he talks about barbecue. Also, now we know that he likes to drink High Life when he smokes (49:55) but won’t turn down a Coors Light if the Rockies are blue. Pretty cool stuff.
Name: Central BBQ Date: 5/16/19 Address: 147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103 Order: Rib combo with brisket, pork, collards, chips (link to menu) Pricing: $$
Monk: I should have listened to Speedy…
Speedy: …a lesson you can never learn often enough…
Monk: Actually, to be more precise, I should have consulted Speedy’s review of the original Central BBQ location to help figure out my order and that specifically I shouldn’t have ordered the brisket. To not bury the lede, I found the rest of the meal a bit underwhelming as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
This year for the Memphis in May Barbecue Championship (aka Barbecue Fest), I wanted to actually go to a Memphis barbecue restaurant (or two) outside of the festival. So first things first, as soon as we (our current neighbors and former Memphis residents, Mrs. Monk, and I) landed we headed to Central BBQ’s downtown location for a late lunch before checking into our our AirBnB. And by downtown, this Central BBQ is directly across the street from the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and where the National Civil Rights Museum is currently located.
We waited in a brief line to place an order and then proceeded to the open air patio. It was already a hot day in Memphis, but the indoor dining room was still pretty packed for lunch. Usually a good sign.
I’ll start with the ribs, the meat that Speedy gave 5 hogs in his review and called “without hesitation that these were the best ribs [he’s] ever had…These are ribs that I’m going to dream about.” So, clearly the highest of praise from a man who knows his way around a rib. I…did not find them to be anywhere near that good. They were the best of the 3 meats I tried, but definitely not among the best ribs I’ve ever had. Not even close, really. I went for the dry rub ribs and while they were tender enough, I found them to be a bit bland, taste-wise.
The pulled pork was a bit dry and a slight notch below the just average ribs. It absolutely needed sauce and I wondered if it could have been from the previous day.
Now, the brisket. Or rather, the thinly sliced, dry roast beef-like meat served instead of brisket. Had I read Speedy’s review, surely I would have heeded his advice: “It was dry and lacked flavor, so just don’t order it, k?” So reader, don’t be like Monk and order the brisket. Listen to your friend Speedy, he’s a cool dude.
The collards were disappointing to Mrs. Monk (the collards aficionado), and I couldn’t agree more. The chips were recommended by our neighbors but I wished we had gone with a more classic barbecue side than a standard house made crunchy chip.
Speedy: In talking to Monk about his experience, I was disappointed to hear it. I myself am still a frequent visitor to Central BBQ, usually focusing on the ribs and wings. I don’t think I’ve had an experience as bad as Monk describes, but I have noticed some variability among visits. I also have concerns that the expansion of the restaurant (now open in four locations, with another opening in Nashville this year) has allowed quality to suffer. That said, its the most common barbecue joint I visit in Memphis (partly due to location, but also because I’ve had good experiences more often than not).
Monk: I was quite disappointed with Central BBQ and unfortunately, this would be the only Memphis joint I got to this weekend. I know Memphis has great barbecue joints and someday I’ll get to more of them (looking at you, Payne’s!).
Sean Ludwig (aka NYC BBQ) and Ryan Cooper (aka BBQ Tourist), the guys behind The Smoke Sheet weekly barbecue newsletter (and friends of the blog), join Kevin to discuss their barbecue origins as well as their newsletter. They then wrap up by each giving recommendations in NYC as well as Houston, where Ryan has been making a point to travel this year to explore the barecue scene.
In this episode I chat with Sean Ludwig & Ryan Cooper from The Smoke Sheet, the definitive weekly BBQ newsletter. We discuss all of the great content that comes into your email box every Wednesday as well as Sean and Ryan’s background in terms of BBQ and how they cover the world of barbecue by visiting BBQ joints and BBQ events across the US. We end with some restaurants recommendations in the regions they cover extensively.
Beaufort vs Beaufort: in the battle of the two coastal Carolina towns, barbecue probably isn’t the main reason to go, but each has their own longstanding joints in Roland’s Barbecue and Duke’s Bar-B-Que
Jimmy Courtney of Courtney’s BBQ in Clover, SC made this YouTube video explaining his barbecue process. You can read more about Courtney’s BBQ, a Lexington-style barbecue joint which has been open since 1999, in this month’s Charlotte Magazine Barbecue Issue. Hat tip to reader Robert Evans for this video.
We have had a few people ask us how we cook our bbq, so we wanted to take just a few minutes and walk you through each and every step of our process!
If you have any questions, please feel free to message us or leave them in the comments and we will answer them as quickly as possible!
Monk: For my second Memphis in May with the Cotton Pickin’ Porkers, they finished a very respectable 12th out of 35 teams in whole hog (just missing a call) in addition to 18th out of 118 in tomato sauce, 23rd out of 95 in mustard sauce, and 71st out of 145 in wings. Not bad for a group of guys that gets together once a year to do this festival, even if they’ve been doing it for the past 29 straight years (one of only a handful of teams that can claim that). In any case, Memphis once again proved to be a fun weekend of barbecue and drinks. Can’t wait for next year!