If you go to True BBQ in West Columbia just one time, chances are, you’ll return.
And when you do, chances are, owner Milton Zanders will call you by name.
“I think it’s important to know your customers,” Zanders said.
Zanders keeps things simple at True.
“All we use is salt and pepper, and we do it the old-fashioned way,” Zanders said. “My brother and I went to dad and granddad university. We learned from their ways. We use a combination of wood and coal mix to cook over and add a little salt and pepper to the meats – everything else takes care of itself.”
The restaurant’s staple items are its chicken and ribs, permanents on the menu. Other items include turkey wings, beef brisket and pig foot.
“You ain’t lived ’til you’ve had a pig foot in your mouth,” Zanders said with a smile.
All of the meat is cooked in the large open grill guarded by four white ceramic pigs just outside the front door.
While the food is a big draw, it’s perhaps True’s special line of barbecue sauces that people most identify with the restaurant.
“We call ’em the Three Ladies Sauces. Those were created by my brother – at the time, he was single,” Zanders said, laughing.
The mustard-based Pretty Lady Sauce was the first created and is the most popular, Zanders said. Sexy Lady, a tomato-based sauce, and Vinegar Red Sauce came next.
“We’re in the process of getting those products retail-ready,” Zanders said. “We just finished the label design, and we want to make sure that all of the requirements are met to sell it locally once all of that process is complete.”
How did True get its start?
After working with Bi-Lo for 12 years (and as store manager for 13), and with the Jim Hudson automotive group for 10 years, Zanders and his brother, Earnest (who recently opened Winnsboro House of BBQ), saw an opportunity to open a barbecue restaurant together in 2010, when the little building opened up at 1237 D. Ave. in West Columbia.
“And we haven’t looked back since,” Zanders said.
Who eats here?
With the somewhat cult-like drawing True BBQ has had, it seems hardly anyone in the area hasn’t eaten there.
In addition to the general crowd of locals looking for good ’cue, Zanders and his family also have welcomed a few celebrities – including Gadsden native and former New England Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour and Toni Braxton’s mother, Evelyn, who is also the aunt of Zanders’ wife.
What does the place look like?
A simple, small block building in the busy area known as Triangle City, True has a homey feel inside, complete with community seating at tables and chairs that feel like those at Grandma’s house.
“Our intention is for folks to feel the love when they walk in here,” Zanders said, “and then to taste it.”
WHERE: 1237 D Ave., West Columbia
WHEN: 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
COST: Barbecue pork and rib sandwiches average $6-$7; dinners, which include hash or rice and two sides, $10 for a small and $11.75 for a large.