Occasionally I need to step out of the kitchen and head out on a road trip, and this is the time of year to do so.
Just remember to pack a small cooler with water or your favorite drinks and a bag of snacks for the journey and an extra, larger cooler for food that you pick up on the way.
My friend Noelle and I had a reason for a foodie road trip about a month ago. I had signed up to take dinner to a pregnant friend and thought a sunny Friday would be a perfect excuse to drive for barbecue.
Not just any barbecue, mind you. I’m talking about what I personally think is the best barbecue in the state: Scott Bros. BBQ in Hemingway.
I’ve talked about and talked up Scott’s in such a way that Noelle was eager to join my road adventure – provided that we could junk shop/antique hunt along the way. Oh, and we had to be back in Columbia before the dinner delivery time of 7 p.m.
With these guidelines in place, let me take you through our day...
Around 9:30 a.m.: I place my large cooler in the back seat of the Mini and am off to pick up Noelle.
Around 10 a.m.: We’re headed down SC 378 toward Sumter. There are some antique stores in the bend of the road right before you hit downtown proper. Two old homes that have been converted into shops.
Around noon: Depending on how long it takes you to drive to Sumter and wander around, or what you want to accomplish in a day, you can get a sit-down lunch at Hampton’s across from Toumey Hospital. We opted to just pick up some cookies from the bakery and head back on the road.
Picking up 378/76, we head toward Lake City.
Along the way, because this is going to be either a two-lane or four-lane experience from here on, I tell Noelle that my father remembers when all of this land past Sumter and almost to the coast was once farmland with fields as far as the eye can see, broken up by only a line of trees to separate property. Families grew corn, cotton and tobacco. Now, most of everything is wooded or semi-developed.
As if on cue, my father has called to inquire about our progress and “suggests” that maybe on the return trip we swing by Salters and pick up a country ham. Geez.
Around 12:30 p.m.: On the way to Lake City, we pass through Turbeville.
The town has gotten a facelift in recent years with a grand entranceway along Main Street. We opt to have lunch here, the two local offerings along the highway/main drag being the Chat N Chew or Becky’s (where Eddie’s Bar-B-Q used to be).
Becky’s boasts a big buffet of Southern classics: fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, bbq, rice and gravy, green beans, mac n’ cheese, fatback, and banana pudding for dessert.
Noelle and I are happy and content.
Around 1:30 p.m. We are also back on the road (378) to Lake City.
The “older” part of Lake City, the two blocks just past the railroad tracks, are a series of brick buildings that house clothing and antique shops and a restaurant and a bakery.
Noelle has found some deals in one of the shops and we both learn a bit about furniture construction and restoration while chatting with the owner of another.
Around 2:30 p.m: Headed toward Johnsonville on 378. We’ll make the turn on to 51 and head toward Hemingway and Scott’s.
Around 4 p.m.: Scott’s BBQ. Scott’s is not in Hemingway-proper. The place sits on the shoulder of SC 261. Literally. There’s only enough room to pull in head first or at an angle, so you are actually backing into the highway when you leave. Be careful. In addition to the traffic, while Noelle was snapping photos, I saw three deer run across the road.
Rodney Scott has been written up in the New York Times, praised by food critics, and the place has become a “must stop” destination for anyone who loves ’cue.
This is not a restaurant, a place where you come and sit for a full meal. This is a barbecue joint, plain and simple.
You come in and step to the right and place your order (no credit or debit cards): barbecue by the pound, chickens (half or whole), ribs and skins.
You can buy a loaf of white bread and a soft drink and either sit at one of the two indoor tables or on the benches out front and (as my dad has done in the past) make your own sandwiches while you watch the flow of traffic and customers come and go.
Scott’s hogs are cooked low and slow on the wood-fired pits behind the store. The sauce is a vinegar-pepper mix.
Noelle says that it’s the best barbecue she’s tasted since leaving Tennessee.
Around 4:30 p.m.: The car is packed with barbecue. In addition to buying my friend’s dinner, I had four other orders to fill once friends heard I was taking this trip.
I nudge the car back on to 261 to Kingstree. The idea is to head that way and then pick up 377 to Salters and Cooper’s Country Store, home of the smoked country ham.
Around 5:15 p.m: Cooper’s sits at the intersection of 377 and 521, on the way to the coast. The town of Salters is off to the side of the highway and coming up via 377 in a rain storm, I admit I got turned around a bit. Hey, if you haven’t been down the back roads in a while, it’s easy to do. Anyway, the sun broke through as we finally pulled in to Cooper’s.
Cooper’s also does whole hog barbecue, again, vinegar-pepper based. But we already have ’cue and we’re here for the ham.
The smoked hams are in the back next to the meat counter, inside their own screened-in area. Ask one of the guys at the meat counter to pull one down for you and slice it up.
While you wait, the meat counter at Cooper’s is a great place to hang out. Fresh pork, sausages, smoked bacon, jowls and trotters fill the case. Another customer asked when they would have headcheese available while I nudged Noelle and pointed to a sign that listed whole hog heads for sale.
Around 5:45 p.m.: Headed home on 521 to Manning. From there, 261 through Paxville (my grandparent’s home town), then Pinewood and Wedgefield before turning on to 378 to Columbia.
7 p.m.: After picking up some side dishes, mission complete. Barbecue, chicken and ribs delivered.
Now home to rest and plan another adventure.