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.

Scott's Barbecue in Hemingway
Scott’s BBQ on a hot summer afternoon.

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.

Scott's BBQ
Despite repeated attempts, I was never able to get a head-on photo of Scott’s without at least one car parked in front. The place is perpetually busy and as soon as one car moved, another one took its place. It was quite maddening.
Scott's smokehouse
The Scott’s smokehouse, where all the magic happens.

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.

Inside Scott's BBQ
The counter at Scott’s. Note the menu, which says you can buy an entire hog for $690 (totally worth it, if you have a few dozen people to feed). Scott’s also serves barbecue chicken and ribs.
Photo of Bernie Sanders at Scott's
Bernie was there!
Ella Scott
Ella Scott, who was pleased to hear I’d come all the way from South Africa to try her food.
Thomas from the smokehouse at Scott's
Thomas has worked in the smokehouse for 17 years.

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.

Pulled pork barbecue platter from Scott's Barbecue in Hemingway, South Carolina
I was too excited and started eating before I remembered to take a photo.

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.

Michael and Stephanie
I hope you see this, Stephanie and Mike. It was great to meet you.

Thank you, Scott’s, for the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted (by far). I will be back.

Heather eating barbecue
Photo: Jeanie Freeman
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