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June 25, 2012
Note: For a more recent review, check out Bessinger’s BBQ Revisited.
Good BBQ is only prepared on weekends. OK, maybe Wednesday through Sunday, but Monday is not a day to find quality BBQ. You need to know this.
Living in SC magazine’s readers have, apparently, proclaimed Bessinger’s BBQ the best in the state. That was not our experience.
Heather and I dropped Camden off for the Bishop England baseball camp and headed out to pick blueberries at Newton’s, a blueberry farm out past Hollywood, SC, going toward Edisto that a friend and former teaching colleague of mine owns/runs. Great blueberries, you pick or they pick. Think we’ve picked 8 gallons so far this year and will head back next week on our way to Savannah.
Anyway, back to the BBQ…
After picking berries, we headed back toward Charleston and decided to stop by Bessinger’s. Bessinger’s is part of a family of BBQ restaurants in SC: Maurice’s, Bessinger’s, Melvin’s, etc. They all are about the same, I suspect, famous for their mustard-based BBQ’s. We had been eating at “mom and pop” type places. Why not try a local hot spot that is more chain than mom and pop and see how it stands up?
It doesn’t. The BBQ was mediocre at best. You know by now, it is all about the BBQ itself for us.
Things looked promising at first. The place is crazy crowded for lunch at 12:30. There is actually split oak stacked in the back where we parked beside the “Barbecue Pit Room.” The restaurant itself is much nicer than any other place we’ve been: well designed, nicely decorated, etc., but as Scott’s revealed from the first bite: looks are not everything.
We waited in line. Stepped up to the cashier when called for our turn and placed an order for a single platter: chopped pork BBQ, two sides (we chose collards and baked beans), cornbread, one large onion ring, with a cup of water for Heather and a sweet tea for me ($14). It included a pickled cherry pepper and a single dill pickle.
First bite and we knew the BBQ was bad. It has become easy to tell. It is overcooked… mushy BBQ with no hint of why they have wood stacked behind the building. If it is cooked with wood coals, it is has lost any of that flavor.
There are two sauces to choose from: mustard and tomato based. I would say the mustard is the best mustard sauce I’ve had, tangy and not overly sweet. Must be because, as Heather said, “The mustard had more vinegar in it than the other one did.” It was the sauce we used to finish off the pork.
The second sauce was a ketchup-based sauce. We may have had two bites each with it. That was enough. Nothing there worth trying again. Honestly, I can’t even remember what it tasted like writing this entry three hours later.
The sides were equally bad. My first comment about the beans was that they “came straight out of the can.” They may have added a little flavoring themselves but were pedestrian at best. This is a BBQ restaurant, isn’t it? Where’s the smokey flavor the beans could have shared?
The collards were simply bad. The worst collards we’ve had at any restaurant not named Ryan’s. There was no hint of any flavor other than collards. For a BBQ place to serve collards with absolutely zero smoked meat in it, even just for flavoring, is sad. Don’t get the collards if you eat here.
The onion ring, we confess, was delicious. The cornbread nothing special. The sweet tea was a bit too sweet for me, but fine nonetheless.
Bessinger’s does a great business and we hope they continue for a long time, but we’ll not be heading back any time soon.
UPDATE (11/13/14): I have recently spoken with Michael Bessinger, who, of course, took exception to our original review. He pointed out that Bessinger’s has a proud 75-year history and intends to be around for another 75+. He said they work hard to make improvements and have done so since our original review in 2012. In fact, they have changed many things and reworked many recipes, he pointed out.
As with all of our reviews, first and foremost, remember we are reporting on a single event in time and anyone can have a bad day. We intend to visit Bessinger’s again soon and we’ll let you know how that visit goes. Regardless, know that we are impressed by Mr. Bessinger’s clear pride in his family’s business and his willingness to listen to both good and bad reviews and make changes when warranted. There is a reason Bessinger’s has been around this long and we invite you to find out for yourself.
Mon – Thur: 10:30 am – 9:30 pm
Fri – Sat: 10:30 am – 10:00 pm (Buffet: 5 – 8:30)
Sun: 11:30 am – 9:30 pm (Buffet: Noon – 8)
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