Hite’s BBQ, West Columbia SC

A couple of years ago, we visited Jackie Hite’s in Leesville SC and had a really good meal at their buffet. In 1957, another member of that family, cousin John D. Hite, opened a little weekend-only takeout shack about twenty miles closer to town. Hite’s BBQ is just a hop, skip, and a jump from US-1, and, like many restaurants with a lot of hype and a hint of legend about them, it gets really busy during the two days of the week that it’s open. It is still in family hands – John’s grandson David is in charge these days – but the business is still as no-frills as it was almost sixty years ago.

I asked one of the three nice ladies working the counter why, after all this time, they hadn’t added a couple of tables for people to eat indoors on warm days like this. “Because they’d never leave,” she replied. “Even out there on the picnic tables, people stay all day and keep coming back in for more to eat.”

My daughter and I were in town to visit the University of South Carolina, and I reasoned that she’d need to know where to get some lunch if she were to go to school here. “Dad, I don’t like barbecue as much as you do,” she reminded me. Well, then, I’d need to know where to get some lunch if she were go to school here and I would be coming to visit. And there are many barbecue places in Columbia. I’ll have to visit each one to decide which I like the best. I may have to visit each of them many times.

(Special note to readers with long memories: would you believe that those bampots at East Carolina not only didn’t send us any cute boys, they didn’t even mail us a catalog. It’s not too late, but the clock is ticking.)

Not only does my daughter have only a mild fondness for barbecue, should she come to Columbia, she would be in entirely the wrong sauce region. Mustard sauces rule in the midlands, and cooking the meat in the sauce, or with a gentle brushing of it, is the order of business here, and the girlchild has never liked mustard. As I’d have cause to mention later in the day, we can find mustard-based barbecue sauces all over the Atlanta area, but they’re in squeeze bottles on the table. It’s a whole different experience when the pork has been cooked pre-sauced. It is not, to be certain, my favorite variety, but I do enjoy it.

I was less taken with the hash and rice here. To the restaurant’s credit, they give guests a heaping serving of it, but what I received was really watery. I’ll assume I had some bad luck, because I really enjoy hash, and many other writers and hobbyists have praised this place, but it was assuredly not prepared correctly when we visited. The pork was much better. The mustard sauce is very mild and it’s applied quite sparingly for a midlands joint, just enough to punctuate the flavor of the wood-smoked pork and not overwhelm it. I enjoyed this a good deal.

Hite’s is a fine place to visit again, but perhaps next time I will stop by on a cooler day. Their picnic tables overlook a small pond, and my daughter enjoyed taking photos from our vantage point. We couldn’t linger too long, though, because we had to get to campus.

Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 340 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!

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