Charleston may have one of the best burgers in America at Husk, and nationally acclaimed cocktail bars, but if there's one single food that the Holy City really takes pride in, it's barbecue. Ask 11 people for their favorite BBQ spot, and you'll get 11 different answers for 11 different reasons. And they're all right. Whether you're a fan of mustard, tomato, vinegar, or white, here's where you can get sauced in Chucktown:
The Best Barbecue in Charleston
The goal at Swig & Swine is to marry delicious, smoky BBQ with cold craft beer, a favorite combination for those of us south of the Mason-Dixon. The menu is full of meats that are slow-smoked in a custom-built smoker, which you can see working hard whenever you pass by. Can’t decide between all the delicious options on the menu? Get the family platter, served with seven different types of meat, plus your choice of three excellent sides (I recommend the baked beans, mac and cheese, and pickled veggies).
Definitely off the beaten path on Johns Island, JB’s is literally a shack packed with some of the best BBQ in town. There’s nothing fancy about the place, but therein lies its charm. It likes to say, “the flavor’s in the meat, sauce is on the side,” and it doesn’t lie, but going sauceless would be unfair to the fabulous options, which are also great. Pro tip: mix the mustard sauce with Mama’s Sweet and Spicy. You won’t regret it.
Part of the Dukes' family of BBQ joints that span the state, this ‘cue spot requires a totally empty stomach to take advantage of the buffet lin-up. If nothing else, you should come here for mac and cheese alone. It’s creamy and delicious, and almost manages to overshadow the slightly smoky pork.
West Ashley (& other locations)
If ribs are more your thing, then head to Home Team BBQ. The ribs have been dubbed the “most life-changing ribs” you’ll ever eat. Prepare to leave the restaurant with a whole new outlook on life. They’re dry-rubbed and slow-smoked, so each bite is packed with flavor.
Bessinger’s is like two restaurants in one. First, you’ve got the buffet side, which is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and is loaded with BBQ and other Southern favorites. Then, you’ve got the basic order-at-the-counter sandwich shop, where you can get specialties like the Big Joe (chopped BBQ pork sandwich), served with signature steak fries and a giant onion ring (which is really more of an onion donut, on account of how sweet it is. Which is perfectly fine with us.)
If you’re willing to make the drive out to Moncks Corner, you’ll find some of the best chopped pork and catfish stew in the low country at Music Man’s Bar-B-Que. The atmosphere is family oriented and no frills, offering only two sauces for you to choose from. You should choose the vinegar sauce, because hot damn, that stuff is good.
Downtown (& other locations)
If you’re looking for a bar to watch the latest sports game over some quality BBQ, Cumberland Smokehouse is the place. Its chicken wings are kiler, and the ribs tend to sell out when they’re on special. The best thing on the menu, though, is the loaded duck fat fries, topped with pulled chicken or pork, smoked cheddar, jalapeños, and bacon, with a side of the white BBQ sauce.
Smoky Oak is a James Island favorite that is constantly packed full of people waiting to gorge themselves on BBQ. In addition to classic ribs and pulled pork, it offers more unique takes on BBQ, like wood-grilled quesadillas stuffed with hickory-smoked pork, BBQ chicken pizza, or the “Spudzilla,” a giant baked potato stuffed with beef brisket, cheese sauce, chili, bacon, and green onions.
Downtown (& other locations)
The newest member of the Charleston BBQ family, Poogan’s Smokehouse is one of Downtown’s best places to find some ‘cue. It already has name recognition from its ever-popular sister restaurant, Poogan’s Porch. The Smokehouse does a great job marrying upscale Southern cuisine with BBQ. Try the pork belly/pulled pork sliders with “Red Neck” kimchee and Duke’s mayo, served on Hawaiian rolls. You’ll see exactly what we mean.
Downtown (& other locations)
When a BBQ food truck takes over the space formerly occupied by a vegan restaurant, you can bet it's out to prove itself. Smoke BBQ’s menu is full of sandwiches (on buns from Brown’s Court Bakery) and tacos that are sure to please any barbecue fanatic. If you’re more of a purist, opt for the smoked chicken wings, which are fantastic. Before you leave, be sure to try a shot of the house-made cinnamon whiskey.
1. Swig & Swine1217 Savannah Hwy, Charleston
2. JB's Smokeshack3406 Maybank Hwy, Johns Island
3. Dukes BBQ331 Folly Rd, Charleston
4. Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ2209 Middle St, Sullivans Island
5. Bessinger’s Barbeque1602 Savannah Hwy, Charleston
6. Music Man's BBQ112 E Railroad Ave, Moncks Corner
7. Cumberland Street Smokehouse5 Cumberland St, Charleston
8. Smoky Oak Tap Room1234 Camp Rd, Charleston
9. Poogan's Smokehouse188 E Bay St, Charleston
10. Smoke BBQ487 King St, Charleston
This funky roadside spot offers a plethora of smoked meats for your BBQ eatin' pleasure. Sample all the finger-licking-good options like smoked pork belly sandwiches, St. Louis cut rib plates, and beef brisket by the pound. Don't forget to load up on delicious fried pickle and coleslaw sides. Best of all (and true to its name), Swig & Swine has an incredible selection of over 60 craft beers. Try them all. Just please, not at once.
Turn down for what? All you-can-eat BBQ, that's what. Chow down at JB's Smokeshack, a quirky roadside resto that serves up all things smoked and handmade. Go buffet style for lunch or dinner, or order a la carte from a smattering of meat plates, sandwiches and sides.
Fulfill your need for BBQ at this roadside buffet stop/drive thru restaurant on James Island. While the smoked meats are certainly on point, it's the sides that shine here. We're still dreaming about ooey, gooey mac 'n cheese, crispy corn fritters, and insanely savory fried chicken we ate here weeks ago. [Editor's update: we're still dreaming about these sides months later.]
This BBQ spot has to be one of the most underrated restaurants in Charleston. Fiery Ron's rotating weekly specials of smoked and cured meats are a steal—for lunch, you can get a sandwich or burrito with a side and a drink for under $10. Be sure to check out their happy hour deals for at least a dollar off all in-house beverages.
Bessinger's Barbecue is a hallmark of South Carolina cuisine. This family-owned roadside operation recently celebrated 75 years of churning out slow cooked, smoky meats for local masses, who flock to their restaur-o. BBQ baskets come with a sandwich of your choice (brisket, burger, chicken, turkey, or hot dog), steak fries, and a signature single golden onion ring.
This Moncks Corner spot just outside of downtown Charleston serves up BBQ realness "just the way God intended." Picture heavenly tender, juicy smoked brisket, slow cooked whole hogs, and all the mac 'n cheese you can eat. Dine in for buffet style or grab takeout if you're pressed for time.
This Southern BBQ restaurant and bar serves up classic eats that are sure to satisfy. The no-frills menu features loaded duck fat fries, pork rinds, fresh bistro salads, and of course, because we're in the beautiful city of Charleston, pulled pork barbecue. It's a bit off the beaten path, but the slow smoked meat served with three house made sauces is well worth the trip. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, plus the bourbon flight will hook you up with a darn good meal served just to your liking.
This James Island tavern is a perfect go-to if you're looking for a great beer and brisket combo. With more than 20 craft beers on tap and an extensive menu of bar fare, including hickory smoked sandwiches and meat platters, the Smoky Oak is a top Charleston spot for bro-ing out with your crew.
If you thought upscale BBQ was an oxymoron, think again. Poogan's serves only the finest, smokiest of ribs in only the classiest of settings (sans white tablecloths): an industrial-chic, loft-style resto in the heart of the French Quarter. In addition to BBQ, the menu pairs European eats and wood-fire pizzas with artisanal wines and craft beers.
This food truck turned brick and mortar has landed on downtown Charleston's lively King Street. Offering market-driven BBQ dishes finished with a chef-inspired foodie touch, this a go-to spot for those looking to mix up the typical barbecue routine. Check out its creative menu featuring smoked tacos, salads and hash fries for a dining experience unlike traditional smoked-meat platter options.