The Ultimate South Carolina Travel Guide: The South Carolina Barbecue Trail Map, Kicked Up a Notch

My friend Dan Kenney, founder of the Annual Beer Snob Pig Picking and the Coach4aday blog, sent me a brochure and map of the South Carolina Barbecue Trail — a map with the location of (almost) every barbecue place in the state.  You should have friends like that.  You can send off for a map, pick one up at an interstate welcome center, or download a pdf of the map on line here  (link in the middle of the page).

The map is a great public service by the State, second only to their low gasoline taxes.  I hope other states follow their lead in barbecue mapping and gasoline taxes, not necessarily in that order.  You should know, though, that the map is unwieldy.  There are a whole lot of barbecue places in South Carolina — the map lists 262 — and the Barbecue Trail map is small enough to fit on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet.  You really need a large map, with insets, to deal with all the places.

In an effort to sort things out, the State has divided the state Barbecue Trail map into three regions, Mountain, Midlands, and Coastal.  The barbecue places are listed alphabetically on the map brochure separately for each region, and each barbecue place is numbered alphabetically within that region.  Got that?  In the Coastal Region, A & M Barbecue is 1 and Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q is number 82.  The numbers appear on the map itself at roughly the locations of the respective barbecue places.

I told you it is was unwieldy, but at least if you’re driving, say, on I85 in the Mountain region and you’re getting hungry as you approach Gaffney, the Peach Capital of South Carolina, you can look at the map and see that there are four barbecue places there.  Nice.  Except that, as regular readers and those who have eaten at Sticky Fingers know, not all barbecue places serve good barbecue.

As a service to humanity, I have cross-referenced the endless lists of barbecue places on the map with those listed in the invaluable True ‘Cue website for South Carolina.   I use the True ‘Cue site all the time.  These are places that dedicated True ‘Cue members have checked to make sure that they cook with wood, not gas or electricity.  Now, True ‘Cue members, try as they might, have not checked every barbecue in the State.  And, again, there’s no absolute guarantee that wood will produce good barbecue, see, e.g. 73 in the Midlands, but True ‘Cue narrows the field a lot.  Below, I have listed the numbers of the True ‘Cue places in each region.

I also have italicized and bolded, the numbers of barbecue places that are on the South Carolina Barbecue Association’s list of  barbecue places worth a 100 mile drive, another valuable resource.  (It’s not clear whether that means 50 miles each way, which is no big deal to someone who, like me, lives in a barbecue desert, or 100 miles one way.)  That way, you’ll know as you drive into Gaffney that you should head straight to GrandDaddy’s (23), which is on both the True “Cue and 100 mile lists, rather than one of the other three places in Gaffney.  For my own use, I have gone a step further and highlighted the True ‘Cue places on the map that Dan gave me.

Note that the map doesn’t list Maple’s in Sumter (which you’ll never find, anyway), McCabe’s in Manning (Midlands), Pop Pop’s Pit in Myrtle Beach (Coastal), RightOnQue in Charleston (Coastal), and Sandy Ocean in Bennettsville (Midlands), all of which are on the True ‘Cue list and all of which seem to be open, at least according to the internet.  And the 100 mile list includes Price’s Bar-B-Que in Gilbert (82, Midlands) and Bessinger’s in Charleston (6, Coastal), neither of which is on the True ‘Cue list.  That may be because no one from True ‘Cue has checked them.  Their web sites say they cook over over wood.

I’ll add links to the numbers as I add South Carolina Reviews to the Blog.  And I’ll update the list as I get more information from True ‘Cue, 100 Mile, or elsewhere, so check back before you travel.  And check in after you travel if you find another place that cooks with wood, or that’s stopped doing so, and I’ll  update the list and alert the True ‘Cue folks.  I may even add the names of the places and their cities to the numbers in the fullness of time, but I seriously doubt it.  For now, here are the numbers:

Mountain Region

4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 23, and 25-27.

Midlands Region

7, 9, 16, 18, 20, 22, 30, 48, 53, 56, 64-72, 74, 75, 76, 80, 83, 85, 87, 89, 96, 101, 109, and 115

Coastal Region 

7, 27-29, 38, 43, 44, 46, 47, 57, 59, 70, and 80.

Note that Rodney Scott’s new place in Charleston (59) is not yet on the True “Cue list.  No doubt it will be, but I’m not jumping the gun.  There is another new big name place in Charleston, Lewis’ Barbecue, that is not on either list, but then it’s Texas-style barbecue.  Mr. Lewis used to be one of the pit masters at, I think , Franklin’s and La Barbecue, so he has quite a pedigree.

Numbers 64-75 in the Midlands are branches of the once-controversial Maurice’s Piggy Park.  Maurice Bessinger was a vociferous segregationist long after everyone else had been to Damascus, and decorated his flagship restaurant, and possibly others, with Confederate memorabilia.   A lot of people therefore avoided Maurice’s places.  That should no longer be an issue.  Maurice has gone to his reward, and his kids cleared out all of the memorabilia.  Consistent with the spirit of Article III, section 3, clause 2 of the Constitution, and common decency, you can now eat at the various Piggy Parks, except for the one in Santee, which was really bad when Nancy and I stopped there five or six years ago.


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