Wednesday, September 7, 2016



It’s almost over 2.5 years ago. January 2014. I’m driving up I-26W to wherever… I travel that way frequently, and as we do while driving, am often thinking about other things.. I notice I’m looking at the billboards.. They do catch my eye…I remember and start to sing the 70’s song, “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs, messing up scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the si...igns?…”
They get a bad rap, billboards do…I actually find them somewhat interesting, and tell me stuff I wouldn’t know about. Especially that one fateful day that I see in big colorful letters and pictures from SC Tourism, the “SC BBQ Trail Map”…What was that? Trail map? BBQ?
So I get home and I, of course, Google it. And there it is. The BBQ Trail map. An advertisement from our state’s tourism office showing maps of all the regions of South Carolina. With what looks like hundreds of little green pop up balloons crowded all over the main map. It’s talking about traveling the state and visiting BBQ joints.…Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I love that idea! Who knew? Upon inspecting the main map closer up, they list 168 BBQ places! From the corporate chains, to the small family restaurant that’s only open on the weekend, spread out and separated by region and listed by number, making the task at hand much easier to read.
Now, I started liking BBQ when in my 20’s and while in the Army. My boyfriend took me to a place, which last time I checked, is still in business, Kings BBQ in Petersburg, VA.
Now, growing up, I’d had pork roast, but nothing like this... Remember, this is before The Great Food Explosion… The Food Network, and Google and “Foodies” and food magazines,etc. When you said BBQ in the northeast, they meant firing up the grill and cooking up hamburger, hotdog, chicken, or maybe, on a good day, a chuck steak.
Well, Billy (yes his real name... a true southerner) orders for me...While we wait I’m taking in and loving the atmosphere. The waitresses were mostly older, had on crisp, white uniforms with the little aprons in the front and the little white cap on their head. This was “out” of restaurant fashion by then, but not long enough to become “kitschy”.
And the place was brightly lit, clean, with lots of round dining tables, like we had in our 50”s kitchen…and with several wooden pig signs all over.
 What comes out is a plate with a pile of chopped meat with 3 veggie     sides. (I’m salivating thinking of it!) It was, by far, one of the most amazing things I had ever, and I mean EVER put in my mouth….
Succulent, smoky, chewy but tender, brown and crunchy bits meaty and fatty and the same time. Just incredible… the veggies were all good, but I just wanted to bury my face in the pork.
The BBQ was available chopped, on a plate, in a sandwich, by the lb to go….I visited King’s on several return visits to Petersburg to see the boy friend, or while driving back to NJ to see the family, and since it was right off I-95, I couldn’t miss it.. I had people bring me that bbq if they were going or coming that way…so if you are traveling I-95 north or south, please, do let me know!
So now this map and the possibilities are peaking my interest.. I tell my friend, Linda Mayo Perez Williams (she’s another transplant from parts north and south on the east coast) all about it and she says, “Let’s go!” to which I replied, “When?”
So that’s what this Blog is about. I’m a holistic hairdresser and consultant by trade, Your Grooming Guru, to be exact, and I love to eat, cook and try funky out of the way places. So Linda and I have decided that over the next 5 years, we will be the best part of Thelma and Louise and hit as many of these BBQ huts and homes as we can.. And explore our land as we go! Hang on for the tasty tour!

Chapter 5. November 2014, Wise's BBQ Newberry SC

I have a penchant for quite a few things.. Great food, of course,... my work, networking and hooking people up to each other, and obviously, from this blog, local travel. Especially the mountains.. I love the beach and the Low Country and  don't know If I'd ever leave, but when I drive up I-26 and see that 1st vista of the Smokey's near Tryon, NC, my heart sings!
I also like to write and I think it's a good idea to get things down on paper. So I had gone up to one of my favorite places, Hot Springs, North Carolina and The Sunnybank Inn (Elmer's Place...more on him later...) for a writing retreat, in August of 2013. The teacher was Carolyn Wallace and she was doing a 2.5 day workshop on Writing your Stories.  You know,  the memories that you want to get down as part of that never ending Bucket List. She was a very good teacher, and used lots of prompting to get us to think of the things that were and are important to us, but helped us find a way to JUST START WRITING., which can be the hardest part of any story.
I was so impressed with Carolyn and all I learned, that I had her come down to Charleston, to do a mini workshop for folks in my church. I signed a few friends up to go back to Sunnybank in November of 2014 for another of her workshops...
Yes, the BBQ part is coming, I promise.
So my BBQ cohort, Linda, being one of the participants, goes with me for the weekend. We're on the road and start thinking about food. We had been thinking about BBQ in the Upstate, since we hadn't ventured that way before. That just seems like too much travel for lunch, you know? And we haven't had  time to do a 2 day so far.   Now,  the owner of the Sunnybank Inn, Elmer Hall, makes excellent vegetarian breakfasts and dinners for folks staying in his hostel. So were thinking A) we're hungry and B) we'd better eat earlier than later, so we could enjoy our 1st dinner with the other guests and participants of the workshop.  
So we pull out the trusty technology and the SC BBQ Trail Map once again. We're on the far west side of Columbia, and I asked Linda if she had ever been to Newberry. I had on several occasions for performances at the Newberry Opera House. Totally Cute town! In fact, spent a couple of New Year Eve's there with family and a grandly talented friend, who's an opera singer by trade, and was hired as part of their NYE celebration! 
BBQ... yea.....
We look at the map and on the far side of Newberry, is Wise's BBQ. We look them up, and see that they are only open to the public on Friday an Saturday (catering is the rest of their business). For lunch through dinner.  Well aren't we lucky! Nothing to speak of on the outside, which can often be the case, but the chow made up for it, let me tell you!
We go in and there is a whole steam table for the buffett line... nothing in the steam table, mind you, but a lot of crockpots set up on the top! Like a Church Supper! From BBQ to ribs to bbq and fried chicken, to mac and cheese, green's, slaw, beans...all of it... 
And then we meet the Guy! The Guy who, " Just cooks, cooks cooks...that's all I do is cook!" He was so funny without meaning to be. He talked at the speed of a southern boy who hadn't had company in a while.  He also told us his life story and how he ended up in Newberry.. came down from the upstate to take care of family members, who have all died now, but left him here not knowing what's next. Oh, and he also sews.. all the curtains, aprons and other crafty items for sale in the restaurant.  I laughed ( almost snorted my iced tea) in between bites of succulent chicken and ribs and sides... 

His "cook, cook, cooking" paid off.. we had one of the best meals so far on this journey. I sure hope he figures out what he wants to do, but I also hope the Wise's take good care of him so that bbq stays some that will be hard to beat!