Charleston has a famous food scene, but for years locals have been driving two hours north to get their barbecue in Hemingway, South Carolina, home to Scott’s Bar-B-Q and its internationally acclaimed whole hog platter. Forty-four-year-old pit master Rodney Scott learned to cook hogs at his father’s roadside restaurant and general store, also known as Scott’s Variety. The Buffalo Bill of barbecue, he’s taken an endangered tradition to places his small-town forebears never went—Belize, Uruguay, Australia—as his fame and fan base, which includes the likes of Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge and chef Sean Brock, have grown. As Hanna Raskin reported in the Post and Courier yesterday, Scott is now planning to bring a rural South Carolina–style barbecue joint to the Holy City, where he’s already a familiar face after years of marquee appearances at parties and festivals. “Charleston has adopted us,” Scott says. “Coming down to cook here, I became quietly addicted. I wouldn’t tell anybody back home how much I loved it, but… because of the people, and the food, it became the place I always wanted to hang out.” After months of discreet scouting, he’s planning to open shop by the end of 2016 in the former Chick’s Fry House—within a mile of the brisket at Lewis Barbecue and the pulled pork nachos at Home Team BBQ. We called him to find out how he’s planning to pull it off.
You’ve been cooking in Hemingway for thirty-some years. When did you decide to open a second joint?
I started thinking about it about five years ago, but earlier this year I decided to just do it. I said to myself, why not? I need to go for it. Everybody loves barbecue.
Where are you going to cook your hogs—and how? Cooking in the city might be a little different…
Our aim is to do exactly what we’ve been doing. There are different regulations within city limits, so we’re still trying to figure out if we can use brick pits. But the biggest possible change would be pits that are more like my [sheet metal] portable pits. Of course we’re still going to be cooking over wood, and we’ll probably transport some of that down. We may even bring down a log splitter and cut wood in back if the neighborhood doesn’t run us out. [Laughs.] My local hog provider here in Hemingway, he’s more than happy to deliver. He’s been knocking on my door like, “Hey, I can make it to Charleston.”
Will the menu be the same?
It’s going to be pretty much the same, but we’ll add a few things. I want to do more turkey, year-round. I might do ribs by the slab, because people love ribs. We get a lot of requests for them right now, but we only do the whole hog and they’ve got to catch what they can. We’re definitely thinking about mac and cheese, and maybe a baked potato cooked in coals the old-fashioned way. Of course the baked beans and the slaw are still going to be there.
How about beer?
We hope to serve beer. I spoke briefly about it with Sam Jones, and he told me how the locals felt about that. [Fellow barbecue titan Jones rankled some teetotaling customers when he put beer on the menu at the new Sam Jones Barbecue in Greenville, North Carolina.] I don’t think Charlestonians have a problem with beer, though.
I think you’re right about that. So are you moving to Charleston full-time?
I’m torn. My dad, Rosie, and my oldest son are going to step up and take care of Hemingway. I may be back and forth, but I’m pretty sure the majority of my time is going to be in Charleston.
You won’t have to drive two hours home after events anymore. What else are you excited about?
Oh, the people in Charleston. They’ve always been pleasant, friendly… You pass them on the sidewalk: “Good afternoon!”
And do you see more restaurants in your future?
Why not? Why not spread the love? I would love to open more restaurants, and to share the whole-hog experience the way we do it in Williamsburg County.