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BBQ in Charleston, SC: The Definitive Guide

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What’s the Best BBQ in Charleston, SC?

The simple truth is that you can’t go wrong with Rodney Scott’s BBQ or with Lewis Barbecue in downtown Charleston. No one is going to argue that these two aren’t elite, but that’s not all there is to the story. Read on…

If you’re looking for a true South Carolina barbecue experience, only one of these great restaurants will come close to providing that…and even that option is a more modern, one-sided take on what is a multifaceted history.

And if you’re just looking for the single best BBQ restaurant in Charleston, the surprising news is there isn’t one. There are several, each with its own specialty.

Is Charleston known for BBQ?

BBQ in Charleston, SC, has seen an amazing resurgence in recent years.

When we first started covering South Carolina barbecue in 2012, Charleston maintained its classic restaurants that had stood the test of time. And like any community, it had its share of mom-and-pop joints that came and went.

However, despite having already become a dining destination at the time, BBQ in Charleston, SC, was not yet experiencing the same evolution and acclaim.

Just a few years later, that began to change.

In 2016, Jim Shahin, “Smoke Signals” columnist with The Washington Post, wrote a piece entitled “Today’s South Carolina barbecue is chef-inspired, upscale — and the future.” He began the article with the following line:

“With apologies to Bruce Springsteen, I have seen the future of barbecue, and it is Charleston, South Carolina.”

“Historically, the so-called Holy City hasn’t been a barbecue town. Recently, though, its barbecue scene has been on fire.”

Today, those fires are burning even brighter.

Overall, BBQ in Charleston, SC, offers a range of options from bare-bones, old-school joints to those more modern, chef-inspired takes on our regional brand of barbecue. Frankly, there are lots of choices.

But what’s the right choice to make?

Let’s find out: (Note: these are presented in no specific order.)

The Definitive Guide to BBQ in Charleston, SC

This guide to BBQ in Charleston, SC, will be broken down into sections, each with its own page.

First, we'll look at those "must visit" locations that offer something special, either because of the sheer quality of their barbecue or because of their historic or representative importance.

Next, we'll examine each of the other restaurants in the area based on geographic location. Their exclusion from the "Best BBQ in Charleston" group is not meant to suggest they are not worthy of your patronage.

One final note: despite the title of this article, there are some restaurants we have left out of this "definitive" guide. You will not find a single national or regional chain in our directory.

If you're looking for BBQ in Charleston, SC, you ought to enjoy the local flavor.

Here's how we'll break down our Guide to Charleston BBQ:

  • The Best BBQ in Charleston
  • BBQ in Downtown Charleston
  • BBQ in Mount Pleasant and Beyond
  • BBQ on James Island and Beyond
  • BBQ in North Charleston and Beyond

All of these will eventually fall under the greater umbrella of a guide to help people find the Best BBQ in South Carolina.

We'll link to each section as each is published. To start, we'll begin with this section:

The Best BBQ in Charleston, SC

Is there really a "Best BBQ Restaurant in Charleston" that we could single out? Could we go out on a limb and say this place is better than every other?

Maybe there is and sure we could...and we'd probably get lots of visits to this site by doing so. But that would be at best misleading and at worst self-serving.

The truth is that the answer to the question "What is the best BBQ restaurant in Charleston, SC?" demands a full response.

So, here it is:

Just like there is no conclusive best movie ever made or greatest novel of all time, there is no best barbecue restaurant in Charleston. However, almost everyone has his or her favorite movie, novel, or barbecue joint.

Tastes are variable.

So instead of explicitly proclaiming a winner, we'll present you with some of Charleston's best BBQ joints and provide some background on each that might help you find the Best BBQ in Charleston for you.

Here are the best barbecue restaurants in Charleston:

No matter which of these places you decide to visit, we’re confident you will have a great experience.

Maybe you’ll choose Rodney Scott’s for his whole hog, vinegar-based barbecue, or Melvin’s or Bessinger’s for the wood-cooked, mustard-based experience, or you’ll try the new chef-driven options at places like Swig & Swine, Poogan’s Smokehouse, or Home Team BBQ, or you’ll step out-of-state and enjoy some Texas-style BBQ at Lewis Barbecue.

No matter which choice is right for you, these are the best BBQ restaurants in Charleston, SC.