Holy Smokes Brought Pitmasters from All Over to the South Carolina Lowcountry

Monk: On a beautiful November afternoon, the Holy Smokes Barbecue Festival brought acclaimed pitmasters from across the US to South Carolina’s low country. In its second year, the festival moved to beautiful Riverfront Park in North Charleston amongst the remains of the old naval base. A beautiful setting for an alternatingly chilly and warm afternoon of barbecue, music, and good people.

The pitmasters were spread across four food “villages” and collaborated on dishes together. Walking in, the first villages you come across are the Traditional and Texas Villages. I started my day off at the Traditional Village with plates of whole hog two ways with cracklins, pit chicken, and a rib with side of hash and rice. The highlight for me was the whole hog and the hash and rice, both likely heavily influenced by Rodney Scott.

Fifteen minutes into the festival and I was already starting to get a little full. Uh oh. From there, friend of the blog Handsome Russ and I wandered towards the music stage and the Coastal Village. After taking in a few songs from Laurens, SC native (and Clemson fan) Warrick McZeke we tried plates of smoked oyster stew from Evan LeRoy and Matthew Register, smoked swordfish over rice from Elliott Moss and the Home Team BBQ guys, and shrimp and grits from Leslie Roark Scott from Ubon’s and local chef Jamie Hough. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the smoked swordfish and rice dish.

In addition to his fantastic oyster stew, a highlight of the festival was catching up with Matthew Register of Southern Smoke as well as his crew of Rodolfo and Cray. I spent a good amount of time chatting with those guys not only about barbecue but of course the usual soccer and college football banter. Great group of guys and I always enjoy catching up with them. I even got a chance to meet Matthew’s collaborator Evan LeRoy briefly and hope to get back to try out his barbecue again soon (my review of a visit during a smaller Sunday menu here).

From there, I really slowed down on food and focused in on the music stage where Asheville, NC’s Travers Brothership absolutely slayed the middle timeslot. As for the villages, I was in eyeshot of the New School Village and after an initial rush the lines mostly died down and the portions got bigger. By the time I stepped up, the smoked sirloin taco was sans tortilla (they had apparently run out) and I tried a fried hawg bawl, skipping the giant tri-tip sandwiches that were being put out as this particular village signaled that they were starting to get rid of food. Forgot to take any photos of my food though.

The Texas Village consistently had the longest lines and by the time I had worked up enough appetite to meander over as my fourth stop, they just had the cheese hominy sausages left, which packed a nice kick.

So I didn’t get to all of the food but next time around I’ll have a better plan going in. But all in all, the Holy Smokes Festival was a great success. In addition to chatting with the aforementioned Matthew Register and Evan LeRoy, I met Rodney Scott at his famed double burn barrel as well as Trey Dutton (and his wife Ellen) of Southern Keep, a childhood friend of Handsome Russ who makes some great-looking artisan jams and pickles in Charleston. I also picked up a beautiful handcrafted oyster knife from Middleton Knives, who was one of the vendors there.

Until next year, Holy Smokes!

Linkdown: 7/27/22

Native News

Phar Mill Brewing and BBQ in Harrisburg has an opening date for their downtown Concord location

Pitmaster Stuart Henderson from Noble Smoke captured in action

Lawyer Duane Bryant has opened DK Bones Barbeque in High Point in the middle of a food dessert

Lechon Latin BBQ makes Eater Carolinas’ latest Heatmap

Spectrum 1 checks in on Barvecue

Non-Native News

King BBQ from the owners of Jackrabbit Filly will offer “Chinese-style barbecue with a heavy influence of North Carolina”

World of Flavor with Big Moe Cason premiered on National Geographic this past Monday and the first episode takes place in Charleston and features visits to Rodney Scott’s BBQ and Lewis Barbecue as well as Moe cooking at last year’s Holy Smokes BBQ Festival

Congrats to Palmira BBQ on one year

Robert Moss reviews Palmira BBQ for the Charleston Post and Courier

Scotty’s Whole Hog Barbecue, which smokes eastern NC whole hog, is featured in this feature on Minnesota barbecue from Texas Monthly

Adrian Miller checks in on Jones BBQ for what is likely the last time in the Jones sisters era

BBQuest is coming back for a third season

Congrats to Panther City BBQ on their recent Guinness World Record

Palmira Barbecue – Charleston, SC

Name: Palmira Barbecue
Date: 4/11/22
Address: 99 S. Market Street, Charleston, SC 29401
Order: Whole hog barbecue, hash and rice, beans, slaw, and collards (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: As has been well documented, Charleston has experienced a bit of a barbecue renaissance the past few years. Swig N’ Swine and Home Team Barbecue have expanded onto and around the peninsula. Rodney Scott started his self-titled barbecue empire in Charleston in 2017 And now has locations in Birmingham, Homewood, AL, and Atlanta. John Lewis started Lewis Barbecue around the block from Home Team BBQ’s downtown location and Lewis has since opened his border cuisine restaurant Rancho Lewis. Then, in recent years, Palmira Barbecue entered the Charleston barbecue chat.

Hector Garate named Palmira Barbecue after his grandmother and his approach to barbecue reflects both his Cuban and Puerto Rican heritage. He got his start at pop-ups at local breweries, but last fall the Port of Call Food + Brew Hall came…er, calling. Port of Call is what I would consider to be a mini-food hall at the former Bubba Gump Shrimp Company location right off the market. It has a great biergarten-style courtyard with an outdoor bar, 2 more indoor bars, and 5 total food stall options: Italian, Greek street food, Asian Fusion, acai and poke bowls as well as a raw bar. I found it to be a great concept and while business was a little slow on a Monday evening I have been told it gets pretty packed on the weekend.

Palmira offers smoked whole hog every day of the week and on the weekends expands its menu to include some combination of beef cheeks, brisket, beef barbacoa, and house-made sausage. The approach is “farm-to-pit” and for the whole hog, Garate partners with Marvin Ross of Peculiar Pig Farms in nearby Summerville for the heritage hogs that he smokes. The result is flavorful barbecue that is pulled and mixed by hand. Garate spent some time in eastern NC, and perhaps some of that influences his whole hog. Fantastic stuff.

Garate also offers hash and rice most days, a dish that Hector apparently loves and eats daily according to his interview with the Tales from the Pits podcast episode earlier this year. For his hash, he smokes the pig head that goes into the hash and pours the meat gravy over Carolina Gold rice. I might go for a double order next time around.

The Cuban and Puerto Rican influence really came through for me in the sides. The beans have a “Puerto RIcan twist” in the form of I believe sofrito. The Palmira slaw is vinegar-based but nothing like you’d have in either eastern or western North Carolina. The collards pack quite a kick in the form of spice on the back end.

Big things appear to be on the horizon for Hector Garate and Palmira Barbecue. Instead of waiting for a pricey smoker to be built and delivered to him, Hector built his own smoker and will soon be expanding into smoker building for other customers – Cienfuegos Smokers.

Port of Call Food + Brew Hall is a fine start, but I can see Hector expanding to his own brick and mortar for a second location before too long. In short, based on my experience I expect to see more of Palmira Barbecue and its sustainable approach to whole hog and Texas barbecue around Charleston in the near future.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Hash – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Friday Find: Robert Moss talks barbecue history on Tales from the Pits

Monk: While the Tales from the Pits guys were in Charleston in early March, they recorded a podcast interview with Robert Moss, who lives in Mount Pleasant. In it, they nerd out a little on barbecue history, discuss among other things the Holy Smokes Barbecue Festival, and Robert also gives a few under the radar barbecue recommendations for South Carolina, North Carolina, and Texas.

Description:
We were thrilled to have the chance to sit down with Robert F. Moss during our recent trip to South Carolina for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Robert is a wealth of culinary knowledge and the research he’s done on barbecue history is second to none. Born and raised in South Carolina, Robert is an accomplished author who has had several books published on Barbecue, spirits, and other facets of culinary history. He’s an absolute wealth of information and in this episode we discussed topics ranging from modern barbecue, historical barbecue, and Robert’s daunting task of composing Southern Living’s 50 Best Barbecue Places in the South list. 

Tune in to hear some great stories on barbecue history and be sure to pick up Robert’s incredible books. Go to his website to sign up for his ‘Cue Sheet newsletter.

Robert F. Moss
Twitter: mossr
Instagram: robertfmoss
Website: robertfmoss.com

Thank you to Charleston Wine + Food for helping to facilitate our recordings during this trip
Website: charlestonwineandfood.com