A Break from Road Food at the Pink Pig BBQ Hardeeville, South Carolina
Between my house in Charlotte, North Carolina and my parents’ house in The Villages, Florida are a whole lot of places to stop for lunch and hardly any at all.
There are a plethora of McDonalds followed by a good number of Burger Kings, Wendy’s, and Toxic Hells. A handful of Subways and Arby’s, the occasional Chick-Fil-A, and one Zaxby’s. These same choices repeated themselves when my parents lived in Ohio, minus the Chick-Fil-A and Zaxby’s.
Inside these grease pits of sustenance dotted along our nation’s highways is a scene as depressing and tired as the menus. Restless kids run amok, tossing around cheap children’s meal giveaways designed by marketers to lure in their weary parents’ wallets. It’s a scene that I dread with each upcoming road trip for the homogeneity with which American food and culture is becoming.
On our last trip to The Villages over Easter weekend, I had enough.
Somewhere along the way in the land of BBQ and fried chicken, there had to be Wandering Gourmand worthy road food not too far from the highway. I also had a hankering for some authentic South Carolina Gold BBQ (mustard based sauce) that I just couldn’t satisfy in Charlotte. So I did a little research.
I figured we’d be getting hungry right about the time we reached the South Carolina / Georgia border and used a few of web sites like Top 100 BBQ, Only in Our State, and Discover South Carolina to pinpoint The Pink Pig BBQ Hardeeville, South Carolina. This was easier said than done as most South Carolina BBQ joints seem to keep odd operating hours and days.
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The funky little restaurant, with dancing pink pigs adorning the walls and ceiling, blends influences from the South Carolina Gold BBQ Belt with Low Country BBQ.
As Hardeeville is in the low country, the Pink Pig also offers a selection of fresh seafood. While I’ve read the shrimp is quite good, I was there for the house specialty – the chopped pork.
The Boston butt is slow cooked over oak, hickory, and pecan coals in a shed directly behind the restaurant. It is then chopped and topped with “original” BBQ sauce – Gullah Spice. The concoction is a vibrant mix of vinegar and mustard with spices attributed to descendants of West African slaves. Many of those same flavors help define the surrounding Low Country cuisine of South Carolina and Georgia.
While I quite enjoyed the spicy take on traditional South Carolina Gold, I do recommend opting for your chopped pork without the sauce when the server asks so that you can properly try the other three BBQ sauces available. Low Country Fire is a tomato-based sauce with a good amount of kick, Honey Mustard is a weaker version of Gullah Spice, and Sweet Vermont is tapped from a maple tree.
I found the star of the show not to be the chopped pork, but the sauces themselves. The smoke in the meat was rather weak and the meat was a bit on the dry side. The sauces, however, brought the meal to life with vibrant kisses of sweet or heat, depending on what you like.
Along with your BBQ, do order the hushpuppies and Brunswick stew as your side. The hushpuppies were perfectly crisp and gleaming on the outside with a fluffy center flecked with kernels of corn. While I used mine to sample the four sauces, they also tasted perfect on their own.
The Brunswick stew was a zesty helping of tomato broth, southern-influenced vegetables, and pork. The side dish managed to define the Pink Pig experience by tying together the various influences found throughout the restaurant’s menu.
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While the Pink Pig BBQ Hardeeville was about 10 minutes off the highway, it was well worth the detour.
If you find yourself on 1-95 just north of Savannah in South Carolina, I highly recommend stopping into the Pink Pig. The friendly staff and laid-back atmosphere is a well-earned break from the highway traffic. The food is also better than any fast food you’ll find along the way.
The Pink Pig does not have a web site (which is why I didn’t link to one), nor do they accept credit cards (so plan according). Below is an address and map for reference:
The Pink Pig BBQ Hardeeville, 3508 S Okatie Hwy, Hardeeville, SC 29927, 843-784-3635