Located outside the downtown area of Charleston next to a grocery store, the first thing you notice while walking up to Rodney Scott's BBQ restaurant is the alluring smell of wood smoke and dripping pork fat. Clouds of smoke billow out of the vents, giving a hint of what's about to be presented to you on a tray. The customers in line are giddy, with most taking Instagram stories of the inside of the restaurant. I follow suit; I am star-struck to finally be able to try Rodney Scott's famous whole hog BBQ.
You see, in the world of BBQ, chef Rodney Scott is a legend. In 2018 he won Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, making him the second pitmaster to ever win the award. Then in 2020 he was profiled in Netflix's Chef Table and nominated for the Barbecue Hall of Fame. You better believe I was straining my eyes in line trying to see if Scott was working in the pit on a Sunday I visited. (Spoiler alert: he wasn't.)
Rodney Scott's BBQ, Reviewed
The restaurant is counter service, which means you have to figure out what you want to order before you get to the register. With all the delicious choices, it's hard to settle on just a few items. Since Rodney Scott is known for his whole hog bbq, I knew I had to grab the original whole hog plate to get the full experience. My dining partner grabbed spare ribs. Cornbread, macaroni and cheese, and hush puppies completed our order along with some fountain drinks to wash it all down.
Once seated you'll notice two different sauces at your table: Rodney's Sauce and Other Sauce. Rodney's sauce is a thin vinegar-based sauce teeming with cayenne, chile powder, pepper, and his secret ingredient, lemon juice which adds a brightness to the sauce as well as helps tenderize the meat.
His other sauce notably named, Other Sauce, is thicker and flavored with apple cider vinegar, ketchup, and Worchester sauce. While both were flavorful, I felt pulled to Rodney's Sauce due to the vinegar's depth of flavor and zestiness.
The food arrived after a few minutes and we dug in head-first, trying the pulled pork on its own before I added on additional sauce. Succulent and juicy, Rodney Scott smokes his pork for about 12 hours, turning it into a bite that begs you to close your eyes and surrender yourself to it. On multiple occasions, I had to stop myself from eating so fast so I could savor every bite.
The sides were exceptional as well. The hush puppies were crispy on the outside and airy in the middle, the cornbread moist, and the mac and cheese covered in a layer of melted cheese. My companion's spare ribs were tender and charred in just the right places.
We left with full bellies, licking our fingers of the remaining juices and sauce. More people were constantly streaming in, starting the cycle again. Sniff the air, take a photo, and fantasize about what to order while anxiously waiting in line.
I admit I was wary of the hype when planning my trip to Rodney Scott's BBQ restaurant in Charleston. I've seen so much coverage, that I was almost expecting to be let down. The minute I smelled that wood smoke my worries drifted away. This is a restaurant that puts flavor and food first, and for that, I can confidently say that Rodney Scott's BBQ is definitely worth the hype.