By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, April 25, 2012, Conway - Joe Potter at the new Twisted Pig BBQ east of Conway and west of Myrtle Beach has set a high bar for other barbecue restaurants to match for excellence in smoked meats.
Located at the former Hambone's at 1315 S.C. 90, Potter - a former Merchant Marine - refurbished the interior and built a dedicated new building out back for his baby - a shiny-new Ole Hickory Pit. Potter burns a blend of hard and fruit woods to smoke chickens, beef brisket, ribs and pork butts. If the wood fire's temperature dips below a predetermined level, a propane feed automatically injects a jet of fire to bring it back to Potter's specs.
The result is meat with a luxurious light smokiness that makes diners visualize the peach and pecan orchards from where the flavors originated.
Brisket is moist and firm, and cut in thin slices that easily fork apart. Long tender strands of pulled pork are tipped in dense purple-pink smoke rings, and ribs are championship-worthy, with light bark and juicy meat that stays put on the bones until your teeth gently tease it off.
So far, Potter says, he is going through 80 pounds per day of pulled pork and 50 of brisket. When restaurant operations are flowing smoothly, he plans to add party packs to the menu, plus on- and off-site catering.
It is, by far, the best barbecue I've had at any restaurant in the Grand Strand area. Pork is smoked for 18 to 20 hours, and brisket stays in the smoker for about 15 hours. They. Are. Scrumptious.
But don't take my word for it - I overheard more than one person say they visited Twisted Pig almost every day since it opened. We arrived at 11:40 a.m., and by noon the place was filling up fast with retirees, nearby locals, business people and whole work crews in safety vests and steel-toed boots.
Four sauce choices include Hickory Barbecue (sweet, dark and thick), Twisted Mustard (more full-bodied than others I've had), Vinegar and Apple Barbecue.
Other dishes also rock.
Appetizers are $3-7 and include Smoked Dry-rub Wings, Chicken Tenders, Fried Pickles and Fried Okra.
Pit Sandwiches ($5-$7) are Smoked Turkey on Texas Toast with Swiss; Beef Brisket on Texas Toast; Pulled Pork on a bun; Pulled Chicken; and Sliders - you get three - with your choice of meat.
Entrees come with two sides and cost $10-$18, with featured meats of pulled pork, brisket, smoked turkey, St. Louis-style or baby back ribs and a half-chicken.
Side dishes deserve their own commendations. Hush Puppies are light - almost cake-like - and contain corn kernels, and they're rolled in sugar. Baked beans contain three beans (pinto, kidney, lima) and smoked meat in a lightly sweet sauce. I can't wait to try their Sweet Potato Souffle; other sides include crunchy cole slaw, mac and cheese (with real cheese), green beans, a hearty-looking macaroni salad, fries, greens and sweet potato fries.
Three other menu items are hamburger, cheeseburger and smoked chicken salad. A server brought around dessert samples - banana pudding - which was rich and had just the right amount of soft cakiness in its Nilla Wafer layer.
Soon Twisted Pig's big country back yard will have live music performances. Inside, Potter's significant other, Cheryl Hull, is soon opening an ice cream and candy shop adjacent to the dining room called Sweet Cheeks Snack Shack.
Twisted Pig BBQ is at 1315 S.C. 90 just east of Conway, and the hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The phone number is (843) 347-3090.
I am now headed to the Top 10 Barbecue Restaurants page to add this one...