If any one that claims to know ANYTHING about Bar-B-Q and doesn’t know about the Bar-B-Q Border Wars…well, they really don’t know Bar-B-Q. In my travels over the years, for pleasure as well as for business, I have sampled several styles, flavors, and presentations of Bar-B-Q. From Virginia to North Carolina to Kansas to Texas and all states below the LINE (that is the Mason Dixon Line) each state lays claim to the best Bar-B-Q to be found. Now I am not going to even attempt to declare a winner in that war. But I do believe I can be a subjective judge when it comes to sampling the different flavors across the Bar-B-Q nation and give my opinion as to where I like it or not….and I plan on covering some of these in my next few columns.
My latest venture was a plan that fell right into my lap. I was reading the latest edition of the greatest Southern Magazine in print (NO not “Southern Living” but “Gardens and Guns”). If you aren’t subscribing you need to. Drop that fru ru “Southern Living” and move into what really is the SOUTH.
After reading the latest edition I read about an out of the way Bar-B-Q place that has been in West Columbia, South Carolina since 1957. The Hite Family has long been a player in Columbia. If you claim to know anything about South Carolina Q and particularly Columbia South Carolina Bar-B-Q, you know the King of Q in Columbia was for many years Mr. Maurice Bessinger (pronounced MO’ REESE). In fact Maurice opened his Columbia location around the same time as the Hite’s. Over the years Bessinger’s Bar-B-Q probably became more famous for his segregationist stances, his refusal to serve black patrons, and his insistence on flying the Stars and Bars over his stores. While Maurice was making headlines the Hite’s were building a great business below the radar!
Located in the same building they first set up shop in, the Hite family has survived all of these years as a carry out only. That’s right CARRY OUT. No dine-in unless you count the two picnic tables under the tree, which is how I found them for the first time on a COLD February day. On a weekend trip to Columbia to see the Wildcats and Gamecocks play basketball, I arrived several hours early to try out this new-found treasure. Of course I did not KNOW it was take out until I walked in. As tried to act cool and not make it look like I was a Hite Bar-B-Q virgin, I ordered a pork plate. Now around here you normally are asked, “What sides would you like with that, Sir?” I was asked nothing. What I got was pulled pork with mustard sauce, cole slaw, hash and two pieces of bread. THAT is a pork plate in Columbia. Well, as mentioned I was not trying to show my lack of local Q etiquette so I took my plate and walked out into the cold cold world (NO dining room?). Rather than let them look out the window and see me freezing as I sat in my car to eat my meal, I slowly pulled out and disappeared into the traffic. I am just glad they did not see me sitting in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station as I enjoyed my meal as best I could. Now the hash was fantastic and the pork was nice as well. I am still not totally sold on that mustard
sauce, but that will not stop me from visiting the Hite family the next time I am in Columbia. I do think I will make it back during football season next time so I can enjoy the “outside dining room/picnic tables” in a little more comfort.