Midway BBQ, Buffalo, South Carolina

Here’s a place that’s figuratively in the middle of nowhere that does a land office business. Get ready for a true gem — and a big surprise.

My first stop on Day 2 of the First Upland South Carolina Barbecue Tour was Midway BBQ in the town of Buffalo, South Carolina. You probably aren’t familiar with Buffalo. It had 1,266 residents in 2010, and the number has been falling. Buffalo isn’t really on the way to anywhere, at least by US highway. Still, when Midway BBQ opens at 10:00 am, a line forms quickly.

Off to an early start, I drove up at 10:35 and parked in a surprisingly large lot that contained a surprisingly large number of cars. Small as Buffalo is, Midway BBQ is a big place.

I got in line and looked around. Over the tops of heads I could see from afar the big menu over the counter, only part of which is shown here. It listed nine main courses, 16 sides, and a bunch of sandwiches.

I placed my order. I was tempted sorely by the chicken and dumplings, but stayed on target and ordered a chopped barbecue and hash plate, with green beans and pinto beans. I gave my name, got a cup of unsweet tea, and found a place to sit in the front room. (I should have chosen the larger, more gregarious back room.) In short order someone called “John!” and walked up with this tray. If I’d been a regular, they would have called “Mr. John.” Midway is down home.

not on pork but Two women who were passing by exclaimed, “Oooh, that looks good!” From that I deduce that they’d been there before. To the untutored, the hash — that stuff on the lower right — may look unappetizing. Let’s talk about the hash first. For those new to South Carolina hash, see my review of Henry’s, the post just before this one. Hash normally involves leftover parts of a pig. Midway’s hash may be unique in that it is based on beef — beef and butter and onions and salt and pepper (and just a bit of pork) cooked together for 12 to 16 hours in iron pots. The result is absolutely delicious, thick and peppery, and it turns out to be Midway’s most popular item.

My pork, alas, came sauced. It was a thickish ketchup and mustardy sauce that tasted okay, but it muted pork flavor. Actually, any sauce that fails to contain enough vinegar interferes to one degree or another with the flavor, while the acidity of vinegar balances the richness of the meat and enhances the flavor. That’s not just me talking. It’s a matter of science. I added some of their vinegar-pepper sauce and it helped. I should have said no sauce.  

The green beans were very good, especially with some of that Texas Pete pepper vinegar, and I truly enjoyed the pinto beans. I hadn’t had Southern pinto beans in ages, and I’d forgotten what a good meal they can make — just some turnip greens and pinto beans and good cornbread cooked in an iron pan with bacon grease. I used to order that a lot at Gershon Weinberg’s Old Original Smokehouse Barbecue in Anniston, Alabama, and in small towns across the South back when I was trying to save some of my government per diem.

Despite my disappointment about the pork, it was a wonderful meal, and I went back to compliment them on the hash. I also expressed my regret I hadn’t ordered the pork without sauce, and they explained that I’d made a rookie mistake: I should have ordered pulled pork. I ordered a small serving ($3.50), and received this —

It had a pretty good flavor, especially after I added some vinegar and pepper sauce, but something was missing. I subsequently read that Midway now uses a Southern Pride smoker, a gas smoker.  Sigh. People will backslide, but forgiveness is there for people who make hash like Midway. And word is that their chicken stew is just as good. Indeed, Midway proclaims itself as the Hash and Chicken Stew Capital of the World, and I won’t argue. I’ll definitely be back some time for some more of that wonderful hash, and some of their chicken stew. And some green beans and pinto beans.

There are additional reasons to go to Midway. They also have a big meat market with cuts that groceries around me don’t sell, like streak o lean, pork fat, and neck bones. Bring a cooler. And based on my experience, Buffalo lives up to its claim to be “the town where friendly people roam.” I had some nice chats with people there. You will, too, if you take my advice and go to Midway and sit down to some of their hash, and some vegetables, and some chicken stew.

***

And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

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