Nothing has been quite as hyped in the Charleston dining scene over the last year as the coming of Lewis Barbecue. I'll readily admit, I was more than skeptical. However, my husband loves brisket, and frankly, we've yet to have good brisket in Charleston, so despite the stories of long lines and exorbitant prices, we decided to give the much-hyped Lewis Barbecue a shot.
Supposedly they had a parking lot, but when we arrived, it turned out the lot wasn't nearly as large as we expected. We lucked out and got a spot, but we were among the lucky few. Car parked, and key fob clicked twice to make sure the doors were locked, we followed the line into the door by the outdoor seating area.
We were immediately pleased to see that the bar area is actually the "waiting in line" area, too, allowing you to order a beverage to enjoy while standing in what looks like a very, very long line. We kept our tab open, as drink servers will come to your table, and even check on you while you wait in line, to see if you need anything else. I must admit, I was dreading the line, but this system made it the best it could possibly be. Before you leave the bar area, make sure to run a hand along the leather of the ridiculously nice bar stools. My first thought was, "I thought I knew was good leather was; I was wrong." Think that's hyperbole? Tell me in the comments if you've experienced the bliss that is enjoying a bar stool at Lewis Barbecue.
By the time we got to the front of the line, they had run out of sliced brisket. Although I totally get how that happens, we were still super disappointed. In the absence of sliced, we got chopped brisket, a few pork ribs, a single sized side of pork beans, and a single sized side of the green chile corn pudding. The meats are sold by the weight, but you can still order by count if you know you want two ribs and don't care what they weigh.
It's all served with sliced white onions and pickles. I like pickles, but my husband doesn't care for them, so when I saw this slew of pickles on the tray, I was like, "I will never eat all of those pickles!". I ate every last pickle, y'all. Every. Last. One. I could have eaten 10 more, easily. They are delicious, vinegary, and the perfect crunchiness.
The corn pudding was fantastic. I LOVE corn pudding, and had actually never had it outside of my own or a family member's kitchen, so I really enjoyed trying someone else's version. I definitely see making a my own version of green chile corn pudding at home in my future. The pinto beans were ... meh. They were simply just something to eat that wasn't meat. I wished we'd tried the bean salad instead -- next time, I suppose.
Okay. The Main Event: The Meat. I'm not even going to bother being poetic about it: the meat at Lewis Barbecue is the best damn barbecue I've ever had. My husband preferred the chopped brisket, but I loved both, including the ribs. Obviously it's not health food, but neither of the meats we tried had that greasy taste or mouthfeel that ( cough cough ) everyone else in town seems to think is good. The meat was moist but not oily. Any remaining fats were nice and crisp ( but not charred ). I'm not a huge barbecue fanatic, but after eating there less than 24 hours ago, I'm already wondering how I can convince my husband to go back again this weekend.
I will say that it's certainly not cheap to eat dinner there, but that's mostly due to the downtown-Charleston drink prices. I think the food was reasonably priced, considering that brisket ain't cheap and they aren't exactly just making hamburgers with their raw meat. The drinks ... well, I wasn't upset about paying $10 for a horchata ( it's delicious and takes effort/craft to make ), but I'm mostly a wine drinker, and there was a definite lack of cheap wine by the glass to drink with my barbecue. Same deal for beer -- lots of craft stuff ( mostly over $6 ), and then the option of one non-craft beer: Old Milwaukee for $3.
Yep, there will be a line, but it conveniently passes by the bar, and really doesn't take too long to get through. Order meat by the pound. Ignore reports of pricey food, but expect downtown Charleston prices from the drink menu. Don't miss the corn pudding or the brisket.
Brisket, Pork Ribs, Green Chile Corn Pudding
Creamy, cinnamon-y Horchata!
Whatever you want, but be prepared to see a bunch of downtown Charlestonians inexplicably in things like white silk dresses and linen suits ... to eat barbecue.
464 N Nassau Street, Charleston, SC 29403
Small parking lot, street parking in surrounding neighborhood.