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Railroad BBQ

Railroad BBQ: Right on Track

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Railroad BBQ on Hampton Street in Columbia stands out as a local neighborhood restaurant that celebrates great Southern food and South Carolina’s unique place in history.

Its motto proclaims it’s “The best darn BBQ on both sides of the tracks.” By that, they mean they want to reach everyone, no matter which side of the tracks they live on.

The motivation behind such an inclusive motto is that Railroad BBQ comes from longtime Columbia-area activist and author Kevin Gray, who has a personal appreciation for the history of barbecue. The restaurant is a project he had long been planning.

Jessie Jackson visits with Kevin Gray at Railroad BBQ

At one point during its long development, the restaurant was actually called Top Notch BBQ. Gray later changed the name to Railroad BBQ in a nod to the Norfolk Southern tracks that run alongside the building.

Gray notes that it simply took a while for the restaurant to come together. He gutted the building and remodeled it, doing a lot of the work himself along with help from community members.

Black shirt reading Hash & Rice.

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Passing of a Legend

Unfortunately, Gray passed away on March 7, 2023, deeply mourned by both the community and patrons of Railroad BBQ, a testament to his vibrant legacy.

At 65, he wasn’t just a beacon of activism but also a culinary pioneer, blending his passion for social justice with his love for authentic Southern barbecue. His life’s work, marked by tireless advocacy and poignant literary contributions, found a physical embodiment in the restaurant he so lovingly crafted.

As a hub of culture and community dialogue, Railroad BBQ stands as a lasting tribute to Gray’s commitment to bringing people together. His passing leaves a void not only in the hearts of those who knew him but also in the very fabric of Columbia, reflecting the indelible mark he made on the city and its culinary scene.

Passing the Torch

There all along, however, have been brother and sister Brian and Camille Gray. The siblings now run the restaurant and plan to keep things delicious, just as they have always been.

Brian and Camille Gray, owners of Railroad BBQ in Columbia.

Off the Wall

While the food is foremost, the decor was far from an afterthought — the walls of the place are filled with hundreds of photographs, political posters, stickers, and other pieces of historical memorabilia and go a long way in establishing the restaurant’s overall vibe.

Interior of Railroad BBQ.

While the feel of a restaurant cannot be dismissed, ultimately, the food is what keeps people coming back. Described as having “a Texas and South Carolina swag to it,” Railroad BBQ offers all of the smoky meats barbecue fans adore.

On the Menu

On the menu, you’ll find slow-smoked, brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, and spareribs.

“In my first trip to longtime civil rights activist and author Kevin Gray’s restaurant,” writes FreeTimes reporter David Clarey, “I was roused by the classic selection [of a pulled pork sandwich]. It was juicy — at times the juices ran down the bun and onto my hands — had wonderful flavor and was topped with a freshening pile of slaw.

“I found the side of hash and rice to have good flavor, as well, and the mustard sauce had a uniquely thick texture and sweet flavor.”

If you really want it, Railroad BBQ offers three BBQ sauces: a South Carolina mustard sauce, a classic vinegar-based sauce, and a delicious tomato-based sauce. You’ll find something here for everyone’s tastebuds.

As they say on their website: “Drop on by, we guarantee that our smoked meat ‘ain’t nothing but the truth!'”

Catering Available

Railroad BBQ also offers catering services for various events, including weddings, corporate gatherings, birthdays, and other special occasions. Mouthwatering BBQ your guests will love.

If interested, contact Railroad BBQ for details either by calling (803) 708-5801 or by submitting a request through their website at www.railroadbbqsc/catering.

What Folks are Saying about Railroad BBQ

Google Review

Among the many Google Reviews, Local Guide Gregory A loved both the food and the overall vibe:

I was very very impressed from the time I walked to the main doorway.

Once inside I was in awe at the decor! Many memorable/historic pictures nicely hung all over the walls and embedded in the tables. Beautiful establishment!

I was warmly welcomed and given a small menu to order my takeout. They are only doing takeout during these troubling times.

I ordered The L&C which you get to pick two meats. Yes looking at this beautiful place made me hungry! So I proceed to order the pulled pork and beef brisket.

My two sides were the Mac & Cheese and the Vegan Black Beans.

I tried all three of their BBQ sauces (regular, gold and vinegar based). The meat was very tasty and tender. The Mac & Cheese was slammin!

I didn’t care for the Vegan Black Beans though. The beans were a little hard like but the flavor was good.

I will return especially once they officially open the place up for dining inside. I recommend this place for any BBQ fan to try.

So Get On Up and go check out Railroad BBQ now!

Yelp Review

Over on Yelp, Wayne O leaves you with a warning: get there before they close!

Great food, nice people, cool decor. That about sums it up but is you need more detail, here goes.

We ordered take-out last week for Railroad, and it definitely will NOT be the last time. We wanted to try as much as we could so we got the Tubman (ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken) plus a couple of extra sides.

It fed 4 adults with some leftovers (note: if you have big eaters results will vary). Perfect smoke and tenderness. No sauce needed but we tried all 3 and have no complaints there either.

Collards were great. No way you’ll be able to tell they’re vegan. Mac and cheese, baked beans and slaw all also good.

If I have one criticism is that I personally like my slaw a little finer chop, but that’s picky. It was still good slaw.

Hope these folks are around a long while, just be sure you order early. They’re only open ’til 6:00.

Menu for Railroad BBQ

Note: Menu prices and options are subject to change over time. Contact the restaurant for the most up-to-date information.

Menu for Railroad BBQ in Columbia.

Location, Hours, Contact Info, and More

Exterior of Railroad BBQ in Columbia.



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Contact Railroad BBQ

2001 Hampton St
Columbia, SC 29204

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Cards and Cash, Hash, Heavy Tomato Sauce, Mustard Sauce, Vinegar Pepper Sauce