Tag Archives: South Carolina

South Carolina Barbecue at Melvin’s in Mount Pleasant

925 Houston Northcutt Blvd.
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

Every year or two we take a family trip to Charleston, South Carolina, and one of our chief goals is to eat as much Barbecue as humanly possible. This year our trip was curtailed due to graduation, but we still managed to get a little BBQ in during our short stay. Sadly, we were unable to make it out to Sweatman’s in distant Holly Hill, one of our favorite ‘Que places in the world. However, we found some BBQ joints closer to where we were staying, including Melvin’s. Melvin’s is part of South Carolina barbecue royalty, the Bessigner family, which has been running restaurants in the area for the better part of the century. We felt we had been spoiled by Sweatman’s amazing Mustard sauce, though we hear they have changed owners since our last visit.


Don’t let the location of Melvin’s in the outlot of a stripmall deter you. The restaurant may look a little too new, and perhaps even touristy, but the turnover is high meaning fresh food, and the smoker is legit. The menu at Melvin’s is surprisingly extensive, with chicken, pulled pork, brisket and pork ribs, sandwiches, platters and even burgers. The specialties are ribs and chicken, but we had to order our old standby, a pulled pork platter (which happened to be on special that day). We also tried some of the ribs and chicken ordered by the rest of the family, which are the restaurant’s specialties.


We judge pulled pork on how soon we reach for the sauce after sampling the meat. Good pulled pork should be able to stand on its own, without being doused in sauce. We thought the pulled pork at Melvin’s was excellent – it had tender meat, good moisture, but not too fatty, and a pleasant smoke flavor. The meat itself does not come with sauce – it is provided on the table – you have a choice of iconic South Carolina mustard sauce or a sweeter tomato-based vinegar sauce. We tried a little of each, but we had to go with the signature mustard sauce. However, we pretty much sopped up everything with the delicious golden mustard sauce which was the perfect mix of tangy, spicy and sweet. 


There was a wide array of side dishes but we went with our favorites again: macaroni and cheese and corn bread. Sadly, the mac and cheese was very disappointing: a complete mush with very little cheese. The cornbread fared better on our rating scale, but the Que was definitely the star. The ribs we sampled were also very tasty, if a little dry, we preferred the pulled pork. Our drink of choice, was of course, sweet tea, though we also ordered an unconventional-for-a-barbecue-place Oreo milkshake ($3.99 for a large). And as always, we had to splurge for some banana pudding for dessert! We were also pleasantly surprised that all of the sauces were for sale at surprisingly cheap prices, so we bought some mustard-based sauce to take home. Overall, Melvin’s is a great go-to South Carolina BBQ spot with some excellent mustard sauce in a convenient location. We still miss Sweatman’s but it helped ease the pain a little.

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A Quick Bite: Kudu Coffee House [Closed]

Kudu Coffee House
4 Vanderhorst St.
Charleston, SC

Charleston is a beautiful city, almost freakishly so – it seems like every elegant building is perfectly preserved in time (okay, maybe this creeps us out just a little). Amidst the grandeur, we noticed a relative lack of independent coffee shops. However, Kudu coffee house, an African-themed coffeehouse is filling the void.  What really sets Kudu apart is its extensive selection of single-origin coffees from all over the continent: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania. A must-get is their signature Meru Mocha – a drink made from chocolate, mint, espresso and steamed milk. Kudu’s decor is bright and sunny, with African art pieces, flags and plants gracing the walls. Kudu also boasts a cool courtyard, and free wifi. Even on a hot summer day, the place was filled with groups of people puttering away on laptops.IMG_1271

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BBQ Tour: Gullah Grub in the Sea Islands

GullahFlag-173x132Gullah Grub
877 Sea Island Parkway (Route. 21)
Saint Helena Island, SC

We spent one of our first days in SC visiting the Penn Center, a Gullah museum and research center dedicated to the African-American populations of the coastal lowcountry. The Gullah cultivated a unique culture with a distinct language, and of course a distinct cuisine, so we figured if we were in Gullah country we should definitely try some Gullah food.


Gullah Grub is located in an old wooden house on a somewhat busy road, right before the turnoff that leads you further out to sea (and the Penn Center). There’s no AC, but the place managed to stay relatively cool, courtesy of overhead fans working double time. As we entered we were greeted to a cozy interior dotted with knickknacks and mismatched tables and chairs – reminiscent of the living room of a southern Grandma. Perhaps best of all, as soon as we sat down, a plate of free cornbread (and excellent cornbread at that) was plunked down in front of us. Both of us ordered Sweet Tea ($2) to accompany our lunches, which came served in Mason jars with unlimited refills.

GGBBQThe menu consisted of mainly Southern favorites. Fried chicken and BBQ ribs seemed to be popular choices, but the menu boasted some more unusual items as well, including a fried shark-n-shrimp dinner ($17.50). Sharks are not uncommon in these coastal parts, we suppose.  Not in the mood for shark, L ordered the BBQ Chicken ($8.50). It came with a side of potato salad and a generous slathering of red, vinegary Carolina -style sauce. Despite the heat, M was feeling the soup, and he asked our waiter if he would recommend either the gumbo or the She Crab Soup. He replied that “Well, they are both good, but the gumbo is healthier.” M therefore, made a beeline for the she-crab soup ($6 for a medium bowl/$9 for a large). True to our waiter’s word, the She Crab soup was creamy, filling and delicious.

We had heard that the service was especially slow, however, our meal moved along at a good pace, even with a big party table ordering right ahead of us. The vibe of our late lunch was laid back and friendly, the food was good and this was the only place we’ve ever actually had drinks out of jelly jars. Eating in the little wooden house, sipping on Sweet Tea, we felt completely transported.

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BBQ Tour: Hudson’s in Hilton Head

1 Hudson Rd
Hilton Head Isle, SC

HudExRolling along on our roadtrip, we finally reached our destination – Hilton Head, South Carolina a resort town by the sea. And since Hilton Head is by the sea, there are no shortage of seafood joints of various stripes. Hudson’s is one such seafood joint, and it fits somewhere between a seaside clam shack and a Chili’s, if you can picture such a place. We arrived at Hudson’s with a group of 14 – and before being seated we hung around on the seaside patio, where a man with an acoustic guitar was playing Jimmy Buffet cover songs. Next to the outdoor patio, and flanking an outdoor bar,  was a gigantic pile of clamshells (below). So I guess you could say the place was a bit touristy. But as tourists, who are we to complain, especially as we were treated to a lovely sea-side sunset.

HudShellsThe interior of the restaurant continued the nautical theme, as did the menu, which was printed to look like a newspaper. We figured this place, if anywhere, was going to have some good seafood, so we decided to go all out and order nothing that could be found on land (a rule disobeyed by other members of the party – who were treated to some lackluster steaks). Before we ordered, several free baskets of hush puppies were placed on the table, which we quickly devoured. We started off with Seafood Gumbo ($4.25) and a Crab Cake (below, $10.99). Both appetizers were good, with the gumbo being pleasantly richer and spicier than expected. However, for 10.99 we expected the crab-cake to have less veggie filler and more crab. For our mains we ordered Broiled Shrimp ($17.50) and Stuffed Flounder ($20.99). both the shrimp and fish were obviously fresh, and were well cooked, but we found both to be too lightly seasoned. The little plastic cups of condiments were also a bit out of line with the price point.

CrabCakeHudOf our meal, the gumbo was a standout, as was the house-made Key Lime Pie ($6.50), which was a great way to finish the night. Service was actually very good, and it seemed that they had experienced their share of 10+ crowds before. The food was decent, but we found it all to be a bit overpriced. But in the end, the real reason you come to place like Hudson’s is not the haute cuisine.  As they say in real estate, location is key, and that is probably where Hudson’s shines the most. You’re paying a premium for the ocean views and the inimitable mountain of clamshells!

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Tea Tuesday: A bief history of Sweet Tea in the Southern US

Sweet Tea is the most southern of drinks. On the surface it’s just a standard iced tea chock full of sugar. However, south of the Mason Dixon line it’s a cultural institution. Slate’s Jeffrey Klineman’s notes:  “For me, personally—and I suspect I’m not alone—sweet tea is a primal link to my own Southern past.” Tea has a long history in the south, and South Carolina was the first place in America that tea was grown.


Sweet tea on the way to Charleston, South Carolina

Recipes for “Sweet Tea” date from the late 1800s, but the recipes called for green tea. A little known fact is that green tea was once more popular than black tea in the US. Black Tea did not become the most consumed variety until after World War IILuzianne Iced Tea is currently one of the most popular brands and we saw giant carafes of Luzianne in many of the restaurants we ate at on our trip. On the road, our sweet tea of choice came from the prolific southern chain, Bojangles, which you can find throughout the Southern states.

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