1313 Gemini DR
Holly Hill, SC
We will readily admit that we really only found out about Sweatman’s because Anthony Bourdain told us to go there. But that doesn’t mean the trip was any less difficult – literally half an hour from anything, Sweatman’s BBQ lies at an almost un-findable intersection in backcountry South Carolina. Even if you manage to find the place, it is only open Fridays and Saturdays. We had to make a very special trip – an extra few hours of driving from Charleston – just to get there. And it was worth every minute.
Sweatman’s makes its home in a large wooden cabin, attached to an equally large barbecue smoker. That fact should be a dead giveaway as to how the place operates: for two days each week, ten hours a day, Sweatman’s pumps out huge amounts of perfectly smoked pork – and only pork – drizzled with its famous mustard-based barbecue sauce (central South Carolina’s specialty). As a result, Sweatman’s can be packed during peak hours, with patrons coming from all over the state (much like us) for a generous BBQ helping. The service speeds this along: one dry-erase menu gives the limited options (sandwich or buffet, both pork and both with mustard sauce) to a fast-moving line of customers, whose orders are rung up on an aging cash register. L ordered a pork sandwich, M the buffet. For dessert, a cup of the famous banana pudding – described elsewhere as the “best 63 cents you can spend,” its creamy goodness definitely lived up to the hype.And so did the barbecue. Generally, when one place receives almost universally positive reviews, as Sweatman’s does, you almost have to be skeptical. Were we being set up for disappointment? We hoped not – and decided to see if Sweatman’s famous pulled pork stood up to reviews. Suffice to say the lines are for a reason. The barbecued pork by itself, both for the buffet and the sandwich, was impressively lean and fresh. It managed to be filling without being heavy, and lean without being dry.
Sweatman’s mustard sauce is definitely different than our previous narrow perceptions of a BBQ sauce – it was shockingly bright yellow and packed a mouth-puckering mustard and vinegar punch. The extra mustard sauce we picked up was probably not needed, but was definitely a welcome addition poured over the barbecue when we went back for (free!) second helpings. All washed down with a free cup of sweet tea, this was a South Carolina meal at its finest. Satiated and full after an hour of eating, we left the packed dining hall and walked to the carry-out entrance (equally packed with clients) to pick up some of the mustard sauce for the trip home. It stays good forever, and L and I are still using it bit by bit on chicken, pork, and whatever else strikes our fancy.