The Week that was Charleston, SC: Part 2

Part 2 of my week in Charleston, South Carolina...

The BEST LOOKING food truck I have ever seen has to be the Coastal Crust truck. (Pic from the Coastal Crust Facebook Page). I didn't get to eat any food from the truck, but I did catch both trucks driving around town. Generally, I don't judge a truck by it's paint job (I eat at taco trucks regularly), but locals tell me the food is equally as good as the facade.

I ate at both Melvin's and Home Team BBQ for ribs and collards. Collards were solid at both places, with sweet collard nectar coming through. I love collards.

Low Country Carolina BBQ is a big departure from the California style bbq I've had recently from friends. I think I'm coming to the conclusion that we Californians have our own style of BBQ.  Among the Elite BBQ in Fresno I’ve had from Fresno Bites and Tops BBQ there are differences from Low Country BBQ; cook times being one.

Carolinians will BBQ their pulled pork AND ribs for 12 hours or more. These longer cooking times cause several texture and flavor differences in the meat (more "pull", less "chew") when compared to ribs cooked only for 6 hours and foiled or rested properly. The cooking temperature of Carolina BBQ from the people I spoke with was always around 180 degrees, about where I like to BBQ. But from talking with Fresno Bites, 180 degrees is a little low for his style; Bites prefers over 220, but there are always factors to consider; like the fact Bites uses a Big Green Egg.

Sauces were remarkably different in Carolina. Each sauce I tasted was vinegar based and heavily seasoned with black pepper, with an option of a mustard based sauce. No combination of sauces in Carolina matched anything I’ve tasted from friends or restaurants in California. On a side note, there is a lot of sweet tea served at BBQ places in South Carolina, but I didn’t taste any sweet BBQ sauces.

The talk of “the best BBQ” is silly. There are different types of BBQ, different styles. A vinegar based BBQ sauce should be judged against other vinegar based sauces, not sauces created by friends in California, that’s comparing apples and pineapples. Carolina BBQ is as different from California BBQ as food from Puglia is from the food in Milan, they’re both Italian, but very different.

The unexpected hit at Home Team BBQ was crispy seasoned chicken legs. I’m thinking these legs were smoked for a little while; to dry out the skin, then deep fried, like you would a Pekin duck, without any breading or flour. Each chicken leg was then finished in a bath of dry spice rub. The spice rub seasoning was a hint sweet, salty and spicy. I didn’t detect any cumin in the finishing dry spice rub. I rarely eat chicken legs, but when I do, I’d prefer these.

Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) Restaurant, part of the Maverick restaurant group in the Historic District, served up a solid Reuben sandwich complete with in-house cured corned beef. The classic sandwich was rounded out with fontina cheese, special sauce, sauerkraut all between toasted rye. There were a lot of things I wanted to try on the menu, but when offered a Reuben, with in house corned beef, I'm obligated to order and I wasn't disappointed. And having a Reuben was a welcome break from two days of BBQ.

I never expected to attend a Bulldog tailgate outside of Fresno, but it seems The Citadel has an equally famous Bulldog tailgate tradition. I don't know if they were playing football and tailgating back in 1842, the year The Citadel was founded, but the modern tradition of pickup trucks, beer, and barbeque (I didn't notice any tri-tip) is alive and well in the Palmetto state. I especially want to thank my host and Citadel graduate Bill Lehew for inviting me to this Charleston tradition.

A great way to end the week in Charleston, South Carolina.