Hundred-Mile BarbecueAugust 8, 2012
The South Carolina Barbecue Association’s website, divides 70 of the state’s barbecue spots into one of two categories, “100-Mile Barbecue,” which the association’s judges call good enough to drive 100 miles for, and a second-tier designation, simply “Worth the Trip Barbecue.” Each featured restaurant gets a review from the judges, plus a short “judge’s verdict” to sum it up.
Among the 20 or so spots the judges claim worthy of the 100-mile group is Midway BBQ, tucked away in the rolling hills of Union County, SC, southwest of Spartanburg. Midway, originally founded by Jack O’Dell, has been in the same location since 1941 and is now run by O’Dell’s daughter and son-in-law, Jay Allen.
My recent 90-mile diversion to Midway sheds light on the accolades. After choosing from at least a dozen vegetable side specials and opting to pass over a few main dish specials for the barbecue, I settled on a mixed plate of pulled pork and hash—a South Carolina specialty —served with turnip greens and pinto beans, plus a handful of sweet pickles and two thick stacked slices of soft white bread. The greens and beans are steaming hot, deeply flavorful and a little tangy, seasoned with restraint to let the pulled pork and hash shine.
And man, how they shine. The hash is a complex and meaty slurry of goodness, bold and delicate at the same time. The pulled pork is pink, tender, and smoky, perfect on its own, or tossed with either or both of Midway’s two sauces: one tomato-based and one mustard-based.
When asked about the restaurant (and caterer’s) legendary reputation, Allen dismissively says, “It’s our pleasure¬—we love it.” That easy devotion probably helps explain the judge’s straightforward verdict in the South Carolina Barbecue Association’s review of Midway: “May even be 200-mile barbecue.”