13 April 2013

(South) Carolina barbecue

I'm on vacation in the U.S., visiting family in the Carolinas. I'll be back in France soon.

On Monday, while we were in Rock Hill, S.C., we were riding around looking for a place to have lunch. My mother has a lot of food allergies, so we have to choose restaurants carefully. My aunt doesn't like much — she's a very picky eater.

This is the smoker, sitting out near the street next to the restaurant.

We were driving along a long boulevard near Winthrop College and downtown when I spotted The Kickin' Pig, a barbecue joint. We hadn't found anything else. I said we should stop so I could inspect the menu and see if there was anything on it that everybody could and would eat.

It's like it should be in the plural — "Carolina Bar-B-Qs."

It turned out that at The Kickin' Pig, the meat is served "naked." That means it comes with no sauce on it. It is just smoked pork, plain. (My aunt kept saying "it isn't really barbecue if it isn't basted with vinegar as it cooks.") The sauces are on the table, so you can choose the one you like or try them all. There was a mustard-vinegar sauce, a hot and spicy vinegar sauce, a mild vinegar sauce, a spicy tomato-based sauce, and a mild tomato-based sauce.

The Kickin' Pig in Rock Hill, South Carolina

My mother and aunt could eat some "naked"  smoked pork, so we were in business. Actually, the meat was fairly bland, as you can imagine. It needed salt and sauce. The portion I was served for $10 was so copious that I took half of it "home" — we had a refrigerator and a microwave oven in our hotel room — and had it for dinner that night.

The snazzy interior at The Kickin' Pig, avec bar et billards

The owner of the restaurant came by and talked to us at our table for a few minutes. He explained that since his barbecue joint is located at the confluence of three major Carolina barbecue zones, he decided to give customers a choice of sauces rather than impose a single one.

Pulled pork, cole slaw, and frites

Eastern North Carolina prefers a vinegar sauce laced with crushed red chilli pepper. Western North Carolina likes a tomato-based sauce with just a little vinegar. South Carolina, around Charleston and Columbia, goes for a sweet mustard sauce spiced up with some hot pepper.

My sister snapped this shot of me leaving the restaurant with my carry-out box.

Two thumbs up. And several sticky fingers.


  1. That's just the kind of restaurant I love to come across when back in the states. Authentic American!

  2. I like the idea of a region divided into barbecue zones. I'd be from north western Carolina -- the other two choices don't sound nice at all.

  3. I love the inside of this typical restaurant and the close-up on the food.

  4. I like the barbie with real wheels... that means business.
    Pauline et moi would probably try all the sauces...
    that would mean three visits...
    he's a good business man!!

  5. It's lucky for you — and for us — that, as far as food is concerned, you didn't take after either your mother or you aunt! I really pity your mother, because it must be really terrible to have all thoses allergies.

  6. since i am now living in western NC, I am also enjoying BBQ....many places around here serve a variety of sauces....I thought I wouldnt like the mustard, cause I am not a "yellow" mustard person, but I actually dont mind it as it is a bit sweet....enjoy your BBQ buffet

  7. Love that Kickin Pig idea! I doubt if you'd be able to find that vinegar bbq anywhere in Alabama. You certainly got your money's worth and were able to please everyone's palate.

    The inside looks a bit tired, but the chef is classy to come talk to his clients.

  8. that plate pic got me - WOW! and gosh that huge smoker is just what i need! what a great time - glad you shared this with us.


  9. I never knew, until reading your posts about N. Carolina BBQ over these past few years, that there were other kinds of BBQ sauce than what I thought was typical (gloopy, thick, sweet, red).

    The Bandanas chain around here serves their BBQ like this restaurant does (with sauces on the side), and so does one of the famous Mom & Pop places in Branson, Missouri. I like the idea, too, because I can put just how much or how little sauce I'd like. I'm sure I would love the lighter, thinner, more vinegar-based type you so often mention.

    Keep having fun!

  10. I forgot to mention there is a BBQ place just a block from us (Jack's) that is supposed to be pretty good. Judging from the amount of business he does, I guess it's true.

  11. That plate of food looks delicious. Sad to say, I'd probably eat it all in one sitting...maybe with a couple of smoked Lipitor on the side.

  12. Laughing out loud, Dean. Smoked Lipitor! An idea conceived of only in America.

  13. Miam, miam !

    Do you mean that most of these restaurants serve meat already mixed with their sauce ?


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