I’ve been meaning to blog for days — weeks, even. But I’m so far away from South Africa, feeling disconnected from the multiple tragedies unfolding there, and it hasn’t felt like a good time to write about my frivolous adventures in the United States.
However, I can’t let another day go by without blogging about Scott’s Barbecue (BBQ) in Hemingway, South Carolina.
A couple of months ago, Thorsten and I watched the barbecue season of Chef’s Table on Netflix. One of the episodes was about a South Carolina pit master named Rodney Scott, who won a James Beard award and now runs a successful barbecue restaurant in Charleston. Rodney learned and perfected the art of whole-hog barbecue at his parents’ restaurant — Scott’s BBQ — in the tiny town of Hemingway, South Carolina.
(Many food historians believe South Carolina is the birthplace of barbecue. And while there are many different types of barbecue sauce, the vinegar-based pepper sauce served at Scott’s is widely considered to be the most authentic.)
I could tell from the show that Scott’s BBQ is a special place. The moment the episode ended, I was googling Hemingway to see how far it is from my mom’s house in Hilton Head, South Carolina. It was only a couple of hours’ drive.
Scott’s was part of my destiny; I could feel it. I would make my way there, one way or another, the next time I was in the United States. And I would blog about it.
Several weeks later, as if by magic, Mom and I pulled into Hemingway and parked in front of Scott’s. I alighted from the car, wiping sweat from my brow, and gazed up at the sign as if it were a mirage. It was exactly as I’d imagined.
Pork Barbecue Lunch at Scott’s
Scott’s BBQ is a dive and I don’t think it’s changed much over the past 50 years. The menu is hand-written. It’s cash-only and Mrs. Ella Scott serves as a human cash register, manning the end of the “Pay Here” window with nothing but a handheld calculator. Every person we met at Scott’s — customers and staff members alike — greeted us with a nod and a “How y’all doin’?”
Scott’s epitomizes the best things about the American South.
On the back wall is a large tribute to Roosevelt “Rosie” Scott, Rodney’s father and the Scott’s BBQ founder, who died in 2020. The bulletin board near the counter is plastered with family photos and snapshots of famous people who have eaten at Scott’s.
Mom and I each ordered a pork barbecue plate with two sides — baked beans and coleslaw for her, baked beans and potato salad for me — served up in a styrofoam container with a plastic ramekin of hot vinegar sauce and two slices of white bread. We took our food outside and spread it out on the wooden bench in front of the restaurant.
The meat was exquisite: juicy, lean, and exploding with flavor. It tasted like actual heaven. The sauce was hot and tangy. My baked beans had a chunk of bacon floating on top.
I suppose we could have used the bread to make a sandwich but neither of us got around to that. We shovelled meat into our mouths until we were stuffed and wrapped up the rest for later.
A couple arrived as we were eating. They looked as excited as Mom and I had been ten minutes earlier, snapping photos and chattering about what they would order. Their names were Michael and Stephanie, and they had also discovered Scott’s through Netflix and driven a couple of hours — from a town called Supply, North Carolina — for their barbecue pilgrimage. I had fun sharing my excitement with them.
Thank you, Scott’s, for the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted (by far). I will be back.
Great article. The place looks so authentic. I have forwarded your review to friends in NC.
Thank you! I hope they go.
That does look and sound yummy.
I think you’d like it 🙂
BTW you gave away that you are an American with the line…” It was only a couple of hours’ drive….”
South Africans would definitely not drive “only a couple of hours” for lunch. Lol
Hahaha. Well I omitted this detail but we were able to build this stop into our drive from Hilton Head to Wilmington, North Carolina, to visit my aunt and cousin. It wasn’t all that far out of the way. But I think even without the Wilmington trip we still would have gone 🙂
Looks delicious, and very similar to NC BBQ (minus the hush puppies), which is my favorite style. I’d totally have ditched the bread, too.
I LOVE hush puppies. I didn’t mention this in the story but we also stopped at Rodney Scott’s Charleston restaurant a couple of days later abc had hush puppies there – so good!
My southern college roommate used to rave about hush puppies and until I went to visit her one summer and get BBQ I though she was talking about shoes.
Albert is so wrong. For several years some years ago on weekends “we” would drive into the Boland, Swartland,Weskus, Bokkeveld even to find the local version of mom and pop’s diners, before foodism here became such a thing. One can still do this, I believe. Some years back SD* and I did a southeastern road trip, with the aim of an authentic diner and live music every day – S Carolina, Georgia and Florida in two weeks. Bliss.
* Supreme Darling
Sounds like a lovely trip!
Great stuff as usual Heather! This place does look interesting and I’m sure the food is good. It would have been nice to see you while in Sykesville. Stay safe in your travels.
Thank you for your frivolous post. After a very stressful, somewhat sleep deprived week in KZN, last week, it’s good to read about something other than the mayhem that happened. I am now going to watch Chef’s Table once I’ve had my dinner. Please continue with your frivolous posts, and I mean that sincerely!
Hi Rosemary, glad to hear you’re okay! I hope you enjoy Chef’s Table.
:)) It looks kinda familiar.
Haha, did you see the show?
Love this, you make me want to go to Hemingway, eat some BBQ, meet the nice people, and then come home to Joburg.
And… side note – Nicely done on using ‘plastic’ and ‘ramekin’ together, this is not common! 🙂
Hahaha. I love this comment 😊😍
Hmmmmmm! Mouth watering. Good to see Scott’s follows the true BBQ path of North Carolina of vinegar and pepper sauce instead of the inferior but still good South Carolina mustard based BBQ sauce, and thank God , none of that tomato based goo that Texas claims as sauce.
Hahaha. I know people have strong feelings on this issue! There was a barbecue map at the store and apparently the south-coastal region of SC also traditionally does the vinegar sauce. I like all kinds but this sauce was damn good.
Heather, I am so jealous!!!! Since watching the barbecue series on Netflix, all I have wanted to do was go on a road trip in the American south, sampling all the yumminess.
Now, I am sorry to have to ask this; but how does this barbecue compare to a South African braai? Is it even a fair question to ask?
Thank you for the post, it was a nice escape.
Oh that’s so cool! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who was captivated. I have to say, American southern barbecue is in another league than South African braai. It’s the sauces…I’ve just never experienced anything similar in SA.
Thank you for explaining. This has now become a bucket list item for sure. I love nothing more than traveling for food.
Me too 🙂
Heather, thank you for the shout out to myself and Michael. You are absolutely right! The BBQ was amazing. Not only did we eat there, we took some back home and plan to go again in the near future. It was very nice meeting you and your mom. Safe travels to you and yours!
Hi Stephanie, yay I’m so glad you saw the post! Our lunch at Scott’s already feels like so long ago. It was great meeting you and we loved sharing the experience with you guys.
“It tasted like actual heaven”
I really did.