Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Duke's BBQ


This little out of the way place is perfect in the way you would imagine a tiny little BBQ joint to be. My dad and I went there this past Saturday and enjoyed dinner with ALL the fixings (including corn nuggets which are always a special little treat) and it’s a buffet style service, so the compulsion to eat every single item could be a problem for some. A two plate sitting is usually my max at a buffet these days so I piled up a little bit of everything. Hash, rice, slaw, cue, chicken, hushpuppies, and banana pudding are my staples but anytime full-cut green beans, black eyed peas, stewed tomatoes, corn, lima beans, collards, and the aforementioned corn nuggets are present, then they make an appearance on my plate.

Let me tell you about the cue.
The cue is a little dry, which is easy to expect when you have a buffet because it’s been sitting out under a heat lamp. Despite the dryness, the meat had a good smoky flavor and was a good canvas to display first the hue of red pepper flakes and then glisten of the Carolina gold sauces that Duke’s has as condiments. We were in a desperate race to get to Duke’s before all the ribs were gone and they were very good. I had two spare ribs with some of Duke’s smoky sauce topping them and they were tasty but also a little bit fatty. The cue and the ribs are a savory outstanding experience.
Duke’s has some of the best fried chicken. Remember that as well. I really enjoy any of the Duke’s BBQ joints around the low country, whether they be Ridgeville, Summerville, Hollywood, Ladson, or Walterboro (although I don’t think every Duke’s is related to each other).

Dukes Barbecue 949 Robertson Blvd.
Walterboro, SC 29488 (843)549-1446
Distance from home: 163.65 miles

Sunday, September 20, 2009

521 BBQ & Grill

April: We invited Joel Hamilton and Marina Bender along with us to this restaurant in the growing area of Indian Land, SC near Lancaster. Joel had been the one to suggest the restaurant as he had eated their before. We suggested that he serve as a guest reviewer for this place on the blog. His review is below. His narrative of the trip there is great and I couldn't agree more with his thoughts on the BBQ and hushpuppies. My only addition is to stay far away from either of the coleslaws. Both mayo and BBQ slaws are available and neither were very good. Otherwise, the experience was great and we will be repeat visitors despite the lengthy drive.
Lane: I always enjoy barbecue and finding new places. I am usually a stickler for continuity and, luckily, 521 was just like a thousand other barbecue resturants around. The newer places in this area such as Fort Mill Barbecue, Burk's, and now 521 BBQ & Grill are just that, new. They have a true distinction in style from more established restaurants like Courtney's in Clover or even the big chain Sonny's. And because they are new, they seem to try harder to become established and thrive in an economy where half of all new businesses fail. Good on them. Now on to the food: the ribs were succulent with a delicious balance of spicy and savory. The hushpuppies were crunchy and fresh, still warm from their golden bath of hot oil, and the cue was very tasty. Lately I have been including barbecue beans and barbecue slaw (or red slaw as it is sometimes called) to my entrees. On this night these sides did not disapoint at all. SPECIAL NOTE: THE RED SLAW IS VERY, VERY VINEGARY! HOT! BE FOREWARNED!

The whole week leading up to this trip to 521 was merely a countdown to the main event Friday evening when we were to meet with April and Lane for some BBQ! I had been to 521 once before for lunch over the summer and had been very impressed.
521 BBQ is on, well, 521 in Indian Land. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d fly right by and never even know what you were missing. Heck, even when you’re looking for it, 521 is easy to miss. It’s situated at the end of a little strip plaza on the south side of the more developed area of 521 right before you hit the no man’s land between Indian Land and Lancaster. Cruising up 521, we passed a horse and rider trotting along the side of the road. If these folks don’t do good BBQ, then no one should, right?
Well, we (ok, “I” actually…) almost flew right past it, but luckily Marina’s car has excellent brakes and we turned right in. It was refreshing to me to grab a good meal with a crew that gets as excited about food as I do! We were all ear to ear by the time we hit the door.
Anyway, 521 has a scattering of picnic tables, booths and tables and chairs in two dining rooms. Someone once told me that the best BBQ comes from establishments where the chairs don’t match. 521 provides some evidence to bolster that theory. Exhibit A: The menu has the type of disclaimer you’re actually glad to see, warning that they may be out of meat as it is smoked nightly! The tea on this night was strong and sweet and I downed a full glass before the food came. Lane and I ordered the combo plate: ribs; pulled pork; fries; red slaw and hushpuppies. Yes. It looked as good as it sounds, and yes. We were very excited.
I dispatched of the ribs first. Each one pulled apart rather easily but what stuck out was the sheer amount of meat on each bone. This was a well fed animal! The sauce was a sweet rib sauce and though there was plenty, they obviously know to let the meat speak for itself a little. The smokiness of the meat was not overwhelmed at all by the sauce. Two points for 521!
The pork comes sans sauce and really doesn’t even need it; each bite is tender, juicy and bursting with flavor. Not a single dry or chewy piece of pork in the pile. I ate about 1/3 of it plain before finally giving in and reaching for the bottle of sauce on the table. 521 has a spicy, Worcestershirish, vinegar sauce tingling with chili pepper that may not be for everyone but damn if it wasn’t for me! It really was a perfect compliment for their meat which disappeared rather quickly once it was doused in sauce.
The fixin’s were on par with anyone. The only complaint I have about the hushpuppies is that there weren’t more of them.
Bottom line? Tough to go wrong with a late evening, late summer cruise up 521 to 521 through the country with great company. The BBQ is top notch and the relaxed atmosphere invokes plenty of conversation. We stayed until they started sweeping, took the scenic route home and washed down our dinner with a fine, ice-cold bourbon at the Lovegrove's. After being away for most of the past three years, it sure felt good to be back.

521 BBQ & Grill 7580 Charlotte Highway, Suite 100, Indian Land, SC (803) 548-PORK
Distance from home: 18.12 miles