You make a plan and God laughs. I did a lot of research before the First Upland South Carolina Barbecue Tour using my once infallible Ultimate South Carolina Barbecue Guide, a list based on the overlap between the Campaign for Real Barbecue’s South Carolina page of wood-only barbecue places and the South Carolina Barbecue Association’s list of places worth a 100 mile drive. Alas, COVID shutdowns wreaked havoc on the list. Worse, most of the surviving places were only open on Friday and Saturday, and I had to pick Nancy up at the Savannah-Hilton Head airport second thing Friday morning. And two more places that should have been open had cut hours because they couldn’t find workers.
Additional research brought up Big T’s, a favorite of Robert Moss. I checked and found it on the SCBA’s “Worth the Drive” list. It seems that Big T’s wasn’t quite clean, and that the staff and some customers were unwelcoming puts it mildly. The first issue didn’t bother me, and I was skeptical of the second. Nor did the prospect of endlessly repetitive Gospel daunt me. And I saw that one of their two locations was on Garner’s Ferry Road, not far from Countryside Smokehouse, a 100-mile place. I could eat at Countryside and then pick something at Big T’s for supper. I had a plan and off I drove, still full, even with the heat and humidity, of the hash of human kindness after my great meal at Midway BBQ.
First stop, Countryside Smokehouse, which I was assured by Yelp would be open. It was not. Okay, off to Big T’s on Garner’s Ferry, which was supposed to be open. It, too, was closed. A passing Samaritan told me that the Gadsden location, down near the Congaree National Park (nee Congaree Swamp), was open, even though it was supposed to be closed. Off I drove. I was overjoyed to see this sign.
Even better, people were entering and leaving. Oh frabjous day! I entered and saw that while the place wouldn’t be badly hurt by a cleaning, neither would I by that point, and I’d dined on food fit for a king in places a whole lot worse. A whole lot worse. And you can see they had wipes available.
That the staff managed not to come up and give me a hug despite my blandishments did not bother me, especially since there was no indoor dining. There was, however, a television turned to a relentlessly repetitive cable news channel, and that had me longing for Gospel music.
I ordered a pork plate with hash and rice, and collards, and as an afterthought, I asked for the sauce on the side.
As you can see with your discerning eye, the pork came with sauce, and my “sauce on the side” was an extra container of sauce: they don’t sell it un-sauced.
I opened up the container on the hood of my car, and gave everything a taste before heading on to my hotel at the airport. I was thrilled and amazed to find that the sauced pork was excellent. Big T’s sauce lets the flavor of the meat came through loud and clear. I’ll need to update my list of the best barbecue sauces, especially since Big T’s Sauce is, or at least was, sold at local Piggly Wigglys and Walmarts. I should have bought some.
The hash was a good subdued version of the dish. If it contains any liver, the flavor is very subtle, and the flavor and texture pleasant. I personally would have liked a bolder hit of pepper and, indeed, a hint of liver, but I’m probably not the median hash eater. The collards had been cooked with sugar, but I recognized my need for an occasional vegetable, and ate them all once I got to my hotel. The pork held up very well against the delay, and the hash may have gotten even better. It certainly flavored the rice beautifully.
I highly recommend Big T’s, especially to those of you who aren’t scared off by a little atmosphere, and who can brave a few minutes of cable news. There are two locations, and the cooking apparently is done at the Gadsden site, so go there. Okay, and I admit that Gadsden is below the Fall Line, so I cheated on the Upland bit. You might take some black pepper with you for the hash, but definitely get some, and get some pork. And be sure to call before you go.
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