John Lewis gives some insight into his process for his brand that he’s brought to the lowcountry of South Carolina. From his famous hot guts smoked in a vertical smoker to his pastrami brisket, ribeyes, and oxtails smoked in his custom offset. He then uses those meats in inventive sandwiches like their version of an Arby’s beef and cheddar or a pastrami brisket reuben as well as his smoked prime rib special and a Tex-mex inspired oxtail dish. Lewis even gets into his love of hatch green chiles and how they are incorporated into a lot of his dishes as well as how makes his own tortillas because there are not tortillerias in SC that meet his standards. Recently, Lewis announced that his Juan Luis concept is taking over the entire food hall space formerly occupied by Workshop.
Description: Pitmaster John Lewis is known not only for his mouthwatering South Carolina brisket, sausages, and ribs, but also for his dedication to “perfecting” the art of barbecue by customizing his own smokers. He’s also known for getting creative with brining, rubbing, and smoking techniques.
Monk: You may recall we previously featured a video from The Adventures of A+K on their east vs west NC barbecue tour, and in this video they visit Lewis Barbecue as part of their Charleston vlog and try a Texas tray of brisket, hot guts, and ribs with a side of the awesome green chili corn pudding. That starts at 4:54.
Description: We ventured 2 hours up the road from Savannah, GA to Charleston, SC, another beautiful and charming southern city. We spent our first time in Charleston exploring the city a bit, but more importantly, eating tons of Southern food.
Name: Lewis Barbecue Date: 8/1/18 Address: 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403 Order: 1 pound brisket, 2 hot gut links, 6 bones pork ribs, corn pudding, collards (link to menu)
Speedy: Later in the day after my trip to Rodney Scott’s BBQ (and after visiting a brewery of course), some of my fam and I decided to visit another new-ish Charleston joint I was pumped about – Lewis Barbecue. After superb visits to both Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue (where John Lewis did stints), my expectations were super high. Finding a true Texas joint in South Carolina is definitely a treat.
The atmosphere at Lewis Barbecue is awesome. There’s an order counter, a bar, a fair amount of indoor seating and ample outdoor seating. Upon arriving, you order and just like in Texas, the meat is cut and weighed right in front of you. Even though we were still full from our earlier lunch, for our second lunch we made sure to order the brisket, pork ribs, and hot guts.
Monk: I was quite jealous when I heard Speedy and crew were doing Rodney Scott’s and then Lewis back-to-back. You may notice that most of my comments below are just agreeing with how good the food is at Lewis, and I hope I get a chance to get back there again soon (Labor Day weekend, perhaps?).
Rudy: I’m jealous too that you were able to visit Lewis Barbecue. When he was the pitmaster at La Barbecue, that was the best brisket and maybe best ribs I’ve had, so I’ve missed him in Austin and have been wanting to try his place in Charleston.
Monk: Just throwing this out there…Barbecue Bros company retreat in Charleston next year?
Speedy: I’ll start with the brisket, as that’s the flagship meat. In short, it’s the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas. We got a mix of fatty and lean, and both cuts were smoked to perfection, seasoned perfectly. I liked the fatty better than the lean, as I felt the lean was a bit dry. Unfortunately, this brisket did not enter into the holy quadrumvirate with Franklin, La Barbecue, Killen’s, and Pecan Lodge, but it’s certainly in the next tier down. A must order.
Rudy: Like I said before, his brisket in Texas is the best I’ve ever had (although Franklin and Pecan Lodge are very very close) so I am not surprised that it was great, but am surprised that it did not break into that group.
Speedy: I was a little surprised too, Rudy. It was still darn good and very close, but maybe it was just a slightly sub-par day or that I usually don’t order lean at all, but it just lacked that extra something special.
Monk: While I have a few more Texas joints (notably, Louie Mueller) under my belt from my trip earlier this year, Lewis Barbecue is still the best brisket I’ve personally had at a restaurant. Note that I have yet to visit any of the spots mentioned in Speedy’s quadrumvirate. Also, based on the lack of spell check squigglies, “quadrumvirate” is apparently a real word and not something made up by Speedy.
Speedy: The hot guts took things to the next level. I like smoked sausage, but have always considered it a second tier barbecue meat. Well, John Lewis is challenging that. The sausage had a perfect snap and great flavor, with just a bit of a kick. I’m not sure the sausage could have been better.
Monk: I didn’t know that you were biased against sausage, Speedy. Six-plus years into this barbecue blog and you still manage to surprise me.
In any case, I too loved the hot guts.
Rudy: I’ve had the hot guts two times and really didn’t like it all that much. I think they are all beef and I am not a huge fan of that because I think it can sometimes dry out or crumble. It could have also been because I had heard so much about them and went in with huge expectations. But most people rave about it and you guys are no different.
Speedy: The ribs were also enjoyable – served with just a light glaze, these spare ribs were big and meaty, rich and tender. There was a hint of sweetness associated with the glaze, and you could clearly taste the smoke, but I would have liked a little more rub under the glaze to add a little spice and seasoning. Still quite good, but if you’re going to skip a meat at Lewis, this is the one.
The sides at Lewis Barbecue are worth more than a casual mention – they are really really good. Particularly the corn pudding was amazing, so don’t skip it.
Monk: The corn pudding was both mine and Mrs. Monk’s favorite side from Lewis as well. Jon G’s Barbecue has their own version of a corn pudding inspired by Lewis and it’s nearly as good. The takeaway here is that more joints should add corn pudding to menus.
Speedy: The meal at Lewis Barbecue was really great. Eating it in the same day as Rodney Scott’s was a real treat (as well as a challenge in terms of stomach room). Both joints are must-visit if you’re in the Charleston area and offer great insights into different styles of ‘cue.