Over the past couple of weeks, the eyes of the nation have been on the Palmetto State. If you’re a political junkie, you probably know about those perennial campaign stops where would-be presidential candidates shake hands and scarf down chili cheeseburgers. The Beacon in Spartanburg and Tommy’s Country Ham House in Greenville have been busy.
With all due respect to those legendary schmoozing places, there’s much more to the cradle of mustard-sauced barbecue and chicken bog. Just ask Florence, South Carolina, native Elliott Moss. The chef at Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville, North Carolina, traveled the state last year in search of inspiration for a menu that includes home-state favorites like catfish stew and barbecue hash. These are just a few of his favorite hole-in-the-wall haunts.
Bazen’s Family Restaurant
“When I was growing up, my dad would take me to a lot of what I call ‘Sunday buffets.’ Places where everybody goes after church. Bazen’s is carrying on that tradition. It’s just a good family buffet, serving a little bit of everything: smothered pork chops, stew beef, macaroni and cheese. The fried chicken is great, and the sides are scratch-made. It’s almost like grandma’s house.”
“I make sure to stop here every time I’m in the area. It’s in a part of the state where people still make things. It seems like they always have random things on the shelves, like locally made onion sausage. I always get hash. Dowd’s. It’s made in Newberry, and it’s popular. Every time I go in there, it seems like there’s somebody else in front of me grabbing a jar.”
Cooper’s Country Store
“There used to be a lot of places like this. It’s nice to walk in and step back in time a little bit. They sell cold barbecue sandwiches right by the beer, so you can grab a six-pack and barbecue to go. Country hams are always hanging. You can get batteries and screws. They have it all.”
“A lot of the barbecue buffets don’t use wood anymore. Sweatman’s is different. They’re still cooking with wood here. I can’t quite figure out the sauce. It’s definitely on the mustard side of things, but it’s so creamy and bright that it almost seems like it has mayonnaise in it. And I’m all about the drive. You turn a corner and see this beautiful building in the middle of nowhere.”
“There were a lot of places like this still around when I was growing up. 50s, 60s burger joints. Zesto is killing it in Columbia. It’s a small chain, actually, but this one is always packed. The food is solid, and the place runs like a machine. I get a fried chicken breast and a cheeseburger, with fries. I’ve got to have both.”