Folks in South Carolina speak highly of McCabe’s. It’s a favorite stop for people to grab a few pounds of barbecue on their way to the beach, and it’s on the list of South Carolina places worth a 100-mile drive for a meal and the Campaign for Real Barbecue list for South Carolina. It’s been in business since 1982 and Ms. Jessie McCabe, now 93, runs the show. Most of the employees seem to be family.
McCabe’s cooks whole hogs over a pit in a smokehouse off to the side and then pulls the cooked pork and serves it on a buffet.
They separate the skin — as we entered I saw a cardboard box piled high with skin but it disappeared before I could get to it. You get a styrofoam plate and a plastic spoon and then you get some pork and whatever else you want. The pork is pulled off in long pieces and is hardly chopped at all. That is my one whiny complaint with McCabe’s. Look at my plate.
Now note the size of the pieces of pork — the upper left. Now look at the tines of the plastic fork on the right. You see the problem. The pieces are too big to fit in your mouth, and the tines of the plastic fork, while capable of lifting the pieces up to my mouth, are utterly incapable of cutting the pulled pork down to a size consistent with a modicum of decorum during consumption. Life would be so much easier if they chopped the meat a bit.
Once, like me, you abandon your efforts to eat gracefully or, unlike me, look around to see how everyone else is handling the situation or maybe ask for a knife, the pork tastes delicious. It tastes even better with their barbecue sauce. It’s a red sauce with vinegar and pepper and some spices. No mustard. Nancy said that it was almost as good as Ollie’s barbecue sauce. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a truly excellent barbecue sauce.
I also got some purloo, green beans, greens, macaroni and cheese, and rice and hash. Rice and hash is very much a South Carolina thing. It basically is Brunswick Stew without the vegetables. Maybe some onion — especially after you leave the low country for the hills. As with so many foods, if you weren’t brought up with it, hash may leave you wondering why you put it on your plate rather than getting a piece of that fried chicken that looked so good. The barbecue sauce picks it up.
Nancy got pork, lots of slaw, some sweet potatoes and some purloo. She liked it all.
I asked if they cooked over oak, and Mr. McCabe (I guess) said they use oak and hickory and cherry and whatever else they can get. Another McCabe volunteered that sometimes they throw in an old broomstick. It is a very relaxed and friendly place, run by good people, one of the barbecue places that is true to its place and community.
I can see why people stock up on barbecue at McCabe’s when they’re headed to the shore for a week or two, or a day or two. And when they get to their beach place, they’ll have access to knives and be able to chop it up and eat some good barbecue without excessive reliance on their fingers. Next time I stop there, I’ll bring a knife. If I forget the knife, I’ll still love the pork. God gave me these fingers to use.
You definitely should try McCabe’s.
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