Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

South Carolina BBQ – Maurice’s BBQ (Santee)

Monday, July 10th, 2006

If you’ve ever heard about barbecue in South Carolina, you’ve probably heard about Maurice Bessinger and his bright yellow mustard sauce. The main Bessinger restaurant (“Piggie Park”) is in Columbia, but there are also some smaller satellite restaurants around the Columbia area and as far away as Santee, which is where you will find this particular place:

[Maurice's BBQ]
Maurice’s BBQ – just off Exit 98 on I-95

So, how is it? Can you really just pull off of the highway any time of the week and get some good barbecue – fast? We’ll see.

When we entered the restaurant, I got a bit worried. The staff was arguing about how few customers the place had. We stood in front of the register while this argument raged on – with the staff seemingly oblivious to the fact that they had customers – two of them! When the staff finally took notice (after two more customers had lined up behind the two of us), we were able to order some food.

Patty and I ordered two BBQ sandwich plates with “Big Joe” sandwiches. Prices were high. Ordering two “Big Joe” baskets will cost you as just as much as eating at a buffet like Antley’s. Our bill was about $20 including drinks. Here’s what you get with the “Big Joe” basket:

[Big Joe basket]
Big Joe basket: Fries, meteorites, and a small container of slaw

[Big Joe sandwich]
Big Joe sandwich

The “Big Joe” basket comes with fries, slaw, and meteorites. Most BBQ places don’t serve meteorites, so I assume that the dark rocklike things in our sandwich baskets are supposed to be hush puppies.

Burned up on re-entry

Nope. Those are definitely meteorites, and are completely inedible. They must be included for decorative purposes only.

So how’s the sandwich? For nearly ten bucks, it’d better be large – and it is. There’s a lot of meat inside a “Big Joe” sandwich. The meat has been cooked in Maurice’s mustard sauce. There’s not much sauce in the meat. If you’re not into South Carolina mustard sauce, that’s a good thing. Me, I grew up with the stuff – so I had to pour on more sauce.

The sandwich was okay – except for the large piece of bone (or something else just as hard) in the middle. Be careful biting into a “Big Joe” – since Maurice’s BBQ isn’t very good at picking the bones out of the meat before putting it into a sandwich.

[Hunk of bone]
Imagine biting down hard on this… ouch!

What’s the verdict? Simple – go eat somewhere else. Even if you’re on tthe highway, you’ll have a better experience eating at a buffet like Lone Star (same exit as Maurice’s BBQ). You’ll pay about the same amount of money for better food.

North Carolina BBQ: Holt Lake (part 2)

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

[Holt Lake]

The last time I visited Holt Lake Seafood and BBQ, I got the seafood. This time, however, I decided to bite the bullet and get a BBQ plate. There’s no buffet line (so no seconds), but I’d had a big lunch already.

I got the small BBQ plate ($5.25, with an extra $1.15 for tea) and two sides: baked potato and potato salad. (This makes me a potato addict, or so Patty says. What can I say, though? The potato salad here is really good.)

[BBQ plate]
The small BBQ plate at Holt Lake

As you can see, the small plate has a decent amount of meat on it. I’m not sure how much larger the “large” plate is.

BBQ at Holt Lake is (of course) pork, but this BBQ is cooked in a vinegar and pepper sauce. If you’re used to the smoked BBQ you find in many parts of South Carolina, this will be a bit of a culture shock. It’s the same style of BBQ you would find in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina.

I’m not a big vinegar fan, and I find some vinegar-cooked BBQ to be almost inedible. Holt Lake’s BBQ is slightly spicy, but the vinegar isn’t overbearing. (At some places in the Pee Dee, I’ve been tempted to bring pH paper to test the acidity of the BBQ!) If you are a vinegar fan, though, don’t worry. You can pour on more spicy vinegar sauce at the table, and Holt Lake offers their sauce for sale for $2.50 a bottle.

One other thing I should mention is the Brunswick stew.

[Brunswick stew]
The Brunswick stew at Holt Lake

There is a controversy over the origins of Brunswick stew – which I’m not going to get into in this post. Several states claim to be the first to make it. If you’re looking for something to substitute for hash and rice, though, this Brunswick stew is what you should get. While it doesn’t look exactly like the hash you’d get from a typical South Carolina BBQ place, it tastes almost the same.

So pig out!

North Carolina cuisine: Holt Lake Seafood and BBQ

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

[Holt Lake]

While I’m originally from South Carolina, my wife Patty is from North Carolina. So, when we go to see the in-laws, I get to experience a little North Carolina cuisine. One of the places Patty’s folks love to eat is a little seafood / BBQ place called “Holt Lake Bar-B-Que and Seafood”, located on Highway 301 South in Smithfield, NC.

[Holt Lake sign]
Holt Lake’s sign

As you go into Holt Lake seafood, you might need to wait a bit for your eyes to adjust. The place is downright dark on the inside. The picture below has been lightened up a bit, in fact.

[Holt Lake interior]
A view from the table

A few people who have read this blog before are going to be disappointed in me. Although Holt Lake is a BBQ place, I didn’t get BBQ this time. Holt Lake (unlike every other BBQ place I’ve written about so far) doesn’t have a buffet, and I’ve never really been comfortable with access to only a single plate of BBQ. Oh well. But Holt Lake does have a nice seafood special several days out of the week: All-you-can-eat baby flounder filet with two sides for $6.

Before you start your meal, you’re invited to fill up on hush puppies.

[Hush puppies]
Hush puppies!

The hush puppies are good, but save some room for the flounder! Here’s my plate – flounder filet with fries and potato salad.

[Rick's plate]
Rick’s plate

The potato salad’s very good. The fish was brought out nice and hot (extremely hot – watch out when you first get your plate). The filets are thin, and the fish had a good flavor. Unlike a lot of the places in our town, the food wasn’t overly greasy.

The waitress kept the fish coming fast enough, which is important when you’ve got an all-you-can-eat plate. Unfortunately, the all-you-can-eat is only for the fish, so you can’t refill your potato salad. Save it for last.

Patty had slaw instead of fries (which in retrospect was probably a better choice than mine).

[Patty's plate]
Patty’s plate

If you happen to be going to the outlet stores in Smithfield, Holt Lake is well worth a stop! They’re open Mondays for lunch and Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Read about the BBQ at Holt Lake

South Carolina BBQ – Lone Star of Santee

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

If you’re traveling down I-95 at the right time, you might want to pull into Exit 98 for some barbecue. There are two barbecue places right near the highway. One is a Maurice’s BBQ Pit Stop – if you want a BBQ sandwich in a hurry. If you have more time, though, you are better off going a little farther off the highway to the Lone Star Barbecue and Mercantile.

Lone Star is located a few miles from the highway on State Park Road. Here’s the sign.

[Lone Star Sign]
The sign

Pulling into the parking lot, you might at first be put off by the apparent condition of the buildings. That’s actually part of this place’s atmosphere. These are old buildings that have been moved to Santee and converted into a barbecue place.

[Row of buildings]
We’re going to eat in here???

In case you weren’t really sure where to go in, it’s the building on the left.

[Lone Star's entrance]
The main building up close

Walk inside, and you’ll see the buffet line and take-out counter.

[Buffet line]
The buffet line

It may not look like it in the picture (which was taken from all the way across the room), but the buffet actually has a pretty good variety of food. You can get hash and rice, green beans, bread pudding, fried chicken, slaw, squash, macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, and a couple of more-less traditional dessert items like banana pudding.

Once you’ve gotten your first helping of barbecue, you head into one of the other (connected) buildings to sit down. Here’s what you’ll see.

[View from the table]
A view from our table

The walls are filled with … stuff. Unlike the generic fake decorations you’ll find in many restaurants, a lot of the stuff on the walls actually relates to the area – local high school football schedules from the 50s, an old program for a Clemson football game, etc. Some of it you might not recognize unless you’re from the area, but it’s a nice touch.

You might notice the speakers at the far end of the room in the picture above. Lone Star’s dinner entertainment consists of live bluegrass (which they call “country music” here). I have to admit that I’ve never been a really big fan of bluegrass music myself, but it does add to the dinner experience at Lone Star. Thankfully, it’s not loud enough so that you have to shout at each other at the dinner table. Unless, that is, the kids at the next table decide they want to dance.

But enough about the buildings and the bluegrass – you probably want to know about the food. Here it is.

Rick’s plate of BBQ

Like Antley’s in Orangeburg, Lone Star offers pit-cooked pork barbecue with a mild mustard-based sauce. The sauce is very similar to Antley’s sauce, although Antley’s is a bit milder. Both Antley’s and Lone Star sauces have a milder (and better, in my opinion) flavor than Maurice’s BBQ sauce.

If I had to compare Lone Star and Antley’s, I’d say that the BBQ at Lone Star isn’t quite as good as the BBQ at Antley’s, but Lone Star has the better variety of food. With the exception of the hash and the slaw, the side items at Lone Star are a good deal better than Antley’s. If I was just going to eat BBQ, I’d choose Antley’s. If I was eating with someone who didn’t necessarily want to eat a lot of BBQ but wanted more variety, I’d take them to Lone Star.

Patty’s plate

Patty particularly liked the bread pudding, and so did the couple we went to Lone Star with.

If you’d like to go to Lone Star, remember that they’re only open a few days of the week: Thursday to Saturday for the BBQ, and a lunch buffet on Sunday. Since they have a website, you can just look on it for directions and hours.

And if you leave Lone Star early enough, continue down State Park Road and see the water.

Sunset in Santee

Shrimp and grits recipe

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

I’ve noticed that many people who get to this blog via a search engine are searching for “shrimp and grits”. So, in the interest of satisfying all those searchers, here is Patty’s recipe for shrimp and grits! I’ll add a picture of the finished meal next time we have it here at home.

Do first

Make enough for how many people are eating. Add salt to taste (use water to cook grits, not milk).

Add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese to grits while cooking so it will melt

Do second

In a frying pan, mix:

  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 TB Tabasco
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1/2 to 1 lb peeled raw shrimp

Cook 5-10 minutes, but don’t overcook the shrimp.

Stir in with shrimp before serving:

  • 1/3 cup milk or cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup diced ham (not luncheon meat)
  • sprinkle of parsley or chopped green onion

Do last

Eat and enjoy!

Eatery at the Depot – Branchville, SC

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Branchville, South Carolina, is a small town of just over a thousand people. Its claim to fame (if you can call Branchville “famous” at all), is that it’s the site of our first railroad junction. To remind us of that fact, Branchville has an annual Raylrode Daze festival. I mention this little detail because my grandmother wants me to go to this every year, but the festival is poorly timed for my teaching schedule.

Unfortunately, the railroad depot burned some years back. It has been partially restored, and is now the home of a museum and restaurant.

The restaurant is called the “Eatery at the Depot”, and we’ve been going there for a while when visiting my family.

If you didn’t know that there was a restaurant in the depot, you might miss it entirely. The small sign advertises “Railside Dining”. This is very accurate; trains occasionally go by and rattle the depot. It’s a bit of a surprise when you’re eating, but it doesn’t happen often enough to make dining at the Depot an unpleasant experience.

[Eatery at the Depot - Outside]
An outside view of the Depot

Inside the Depot, you’ll find the small, quiet (except for the occasional train), and dimly lit restaurant. I apologize for the dark and grainy pictures, but I didn’t want to disturb other diners by using the flash on my camera.

[Eatery at the Depot - Inside]
A view from our table. We were one of the first few groups to get into the restaurant the day these pictures were taken.

The restaurant offers a variety of food. You can get seafood, pork, chicken dishes, prime rib, or more traditional Southern dishes like … shrimp and grits. Patty usually gets the fried oysters (one dozen for $10.25), and I get the fried shrimp (one dozen for $11).

[Rick’s food - Eatery at the Depot]

Rick’s shrimp plate

[Patty’s food - Eatery at the Depot]
Patty’s oyster plate. This is one of the few times when she didn’t get garlic cheese mashed potatoes.

Both of these plates come with “Charleston Red Rice”, which both Patty and I usually avoid. Not that it’s bad, but there are things on the menu that we like better. In particular, Patty likes the garlic cheese mashed potatoes.

The main dish also comes with a small, rather unimpressive salad. Some lettuce, a small tomato or two, and a piece of bell pepper. The salad, though, is not why you would dine at the Eatery. The rest of the food (with the possible exception of the biscuit – which tastes like it was meant more for decoration than for eating) more than makes up for the uninteresting salad.

[Salad at the Eatery at the Depot]
Salad. Yawn.

The shrimp and the oysters we had were excellent, but one of my favorite things at the Depot is dessert. The portions are huge, and the desserts are very good. I’m quite a fan of key lime pie, and the pie at the Depot is great. The prices are even good, considering what you pay for “prefab” desserts at chain restaurants.

[Key lime pie at the Eatery at the Depot]
Two slices of key lime pie ($2.95 per slice)

I’ve tried only a few of the other desserts myself, but they’ve all been very good. Here’s the carrot cake. Yes, that’s one slice.

[Carrot cake at the Eatery at the Depot]
A single slice of carrot cake ($3)

Be there early if you want to get a good selection of desserts. Things like the key lime pie and the cheesecake sell out quickly. If you arrive after I do, for instance, there will probably be no key lime pie left!

Like Antley’s, the Eatery at the Depot is only open three days a week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – starting at 6 PM. It’s well worth the stop if you happen to be in the Orangeburg / Branchville area The Eatery is located at 7501 Freedom Road in Branchville.

South Carolina BBQ – Antley’s of Orangeburg

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Chances are, if you’ve heard the words “South Carolina” and “Bar-B-Que” mentioned in the same sentence, you’re going to think about Maurice Bessinger’s BBQ. Bessinger’s BBQ is pit-cooked pig, flavored with a strong mustard sauce. To people who live in the middle of South Carolina, Bessinger and his “Piggie Park” are synonymous with BBQ.

[Maurice Bessinger's BBQ Pit Stop]
Bessinger’s Orangeburg location

But there’s more to South Carolina BBQ than than just Bessinger’s, and you can find BBQ to rival or even beat Bessinger’s in other parts of the state. I’m from Orangeburg, and BBQ in Orangeburg is still pit-cooked pork. The main difference is the sauce – which is much milder than Bessinger’s yellow mustard sauce. If you’re in the Orangeburg area, you might want to stop in Orangeburg and eat at Antley’s.

[Antley's sign]
Patty and Rick’s grandmother Annelle in front of Antley’s

Walk into Antley’s and you’ll be in the buffet line. Unless you want a carry-out, the $7 buffet is the best way to eat. You’ll be provided with a plate, silverware, and a glass of ice. Sweet tea is available at each table, or you can get water or (horrors!) unsweetened tea. You can go to the buffet as much as you like, although you may have trouble eating more than one or two plates. If you’d like to make a sandwich out of the meat, bread it provided on the buffet.

[Inside Antley's]
A view from the table

What’s on the buffet? BBQ (of course), slaw, hush puppies, hash and rice, fried chicken, beans (green and baked), and sauce. This is, after all, a BBQ place. You didn’t come to eat seafood, and you won’t find it here. When you’ve piled up your plate, it might look sometning like this.

[Rick's plate]
Rick’s plate

I had rice and hash (What’s in hash? Don’t ask. Just eat it.), some green beans, a few hush puppies, and BBQ with sauce. The main attraction is, of course, the pit-cooked BBQ. The rest of the plate serves mainly to give your tastebuds a rest after eating the BBQ. You miight want to avoid the hush puppies, though – flavorless. The meat, though, is excellent – very tender and full of flavor (even if you eat it without the sauce).

Looking again at that picture, I might have been a little skimpy on the sauce. When I was a kid, I’d wouldn’t stop putting on the sauce until it was running off the side of the plate! (Danger: Do not try this with Bessinger’s sauce!)

If yuo want something cooler to go with the meat, you might do like Patty did and get a little slaw on the side.

[Patty's plate]
Patty’s plate – a little blurry since I didn’t use a flash

Want some BBQ to go? You can order it inside, or just go to the outside walk-up (not drive through) window.

[Outdoor menu]
Order at the walk-up window

We ordered two pounds of BBQ (which came with a pint of sauce) to take home, and got it within five minutes. The price wasn’t bad, either – $6 per pound.

Hungry yet? Antley’s is at 1370 Sims Street in Orangeburg, and is open from 11 AM till 9 PM. Be careful, though – like many small South Carolina BBQ restaurants, they’re only open three days a week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Now after writing all this, I’m hurgry again. Good thing we have that BBQ and sauce in the fridge!