4 Hilton Head + Bluffton Barbecue Joints You Must Try
If the south’s only contribution to global culture was barbecue, that would have been enough to set our region among the upper echelons of foodie culture.
It was invented here, and it was perfected here. The subtle art of low heat, smoke and choice cuts when applied with the practiced skill of a southern pitmaster, becomes nothing less than art. And while the experts will no doubt wage wars of words over who does it best, from the sweetness of Kansas City to the smoky pepper notes of the Carolinas, we are merely content to sit on the sidelines and enjoy the fruits of this debate.
Hilton Head Island and Bluffton may not have a dog in this fight – there is to our knowledge no Hilton Head-style barbecue – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some world class barbecue being served up south of the Broad River. Working our way from Coligny Beach to the May River, here are four barbecue spots you must hit up when you’re in town.
Photo courtesy of Smokehouse via Facebook
As far as Hilton Head goes, this place is old school cool. Starting out at the old location by Coligny Beach, The Smokehouse has been the island’s go-to for damn tasty barbecue for 18 years.
The great peacemaker in the regional barbecue wars, The Smokehouse welcomes every style from the rich juiciness of Texas brisket to the savory hickory of South Carolina. Their menu crosses the divide with delicious ease, a deep roster of barbecue favorites that has made The Smokehouse a perennial favorite in the island’s annual Kiwanis Club Rib Burn-Off.
34 Palmetto Bay Rd., Hilton Head
Hilton Head Island may have a reputation for posh, upscale luxury. And for the most part it comes by that reputation honestly. But the locals know that some of the best food comes from the places where pretense takes a backseat to flavor. Bullies is just such that place, from its plastic-plate service to its gas station location.
But don’t be fooled by the lack of polish – chef Bob Sutton is putting out some deliriously delicious barbecue from this humble restaurant. A word on the merits of slow cooking: the ribs here bathe in hickory and mesquite smoke for 6 hours, and the butt and briskets for 14, before they touch your plate.
3 Regency Pkwy., Hilton Head
Choo Choo BBQ
Photo courtesy of Choo Choo BBQ via Facebook
Head down Burnt Church Road, past where the pines give way to long front yards and double wides, and you’ll eventually stumble across a curious site: a bright red caboose, planted in a stretch of gravel parking lot just by the treeline, billowing smoke that triggers a Pavlovian hunger response.
This is Choo Choo BBQ, tucked away in the backroads of Bluffton and offering up equal parts mouthwatering barbecue and local lore. The caboose, formerly located on S.C. 46 on the road to Savannah, was where Bluffton’s poet laureate Oscar Frazier once served his famous barbecue. Today, Choo Choo carries on his legacy with oak-smoked goodness.
Choo Choo BBQ
129 Burnt Church Rd., Bluffton
Yes, I know you’re supposed to take the picture, then eat. But I was hungry. Photo by Barry Kaufman
We’ve saved what we can call confidently the best for last.
If there can be considered a Bluffton style of barbecue, Ted Huffman and his lovely wife Donna have come to define it through a devotion to wood-smoked tastiness that few can replicate. You’ll never find a bad forkful thanks to Ted’s meticulous selection of fine cuts of pork, and the experience is just as memorable as the food, thanks to Ted’s signature sense of humor.
Stop by and grab a Fat Bastard, a smorgasbord of flavor that lets you sample everything in the smoker: a half a pound of pulled pork, three ribs and half a chicken.
11 State of Mind Street, Bluffton