Texas-Style brisket is taking over Charleston, SC.
Pulled pork has long dominated the barbecue scene in the Carolinas. Whole hog or shredded pork shoulders smothered in a vinegar/ketchup/mustard-based sauce is just the way things are done here.
John Lewis didn’t let that stop him from bringing beef to the game, and we are all better off for it.
Lewis Barbecue opened its doors in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2016. The star of the show: Texas-style smoked brisket.
“There’s a long history of barbecue tradition here,” said John, the pitmaster behind Charleston’s hottest new barbecue joint, “but it doesn’t include beef. So I knew people liked barbecue. My goal was to show them a different style.”
That style comes straight from the Lone Star State. As John tells it, “I moved to Austin, Texas when I was 18-years-old from El Paso, Texas and discovered the essential Texas-Style of barbecue and fell in love with it.” That same year his parents got him a smoker for his birthday (“A little cheapo one,” he recalls), and the experimenting began. Several years and a tour of the Denver competition barbecue circuit later, John returned to Austin in 2010 to help craft the iconic flavor behind the smoked brisket at Franklin Barbecue, helped open La Barbecue in 2012, and was then off to Charleston to spread his dry-rubbed knowledge.
“Texas-style barbecue is all about the meat, not much emphasis on sauce,” John explains. “The goal in Texas is to make your barbecue so good that it doesn’t need sauce at all.”
To understand that philosophy, look no further than the smoked brisket at Lewis Barbecue.
“Yeah, we’re pretty popular for our brisket,” he says matter-of-factly.
John starts with USDA Prime, Certified Angus Beef brisket, rubs it down with a healthy dose of salt and pepper (“with a few other secrets in there”), and then it’s off to the smoker for an 18 hour low and slow cook. The results are a super juicy, insanely tender slice of heaven gift wrapped in a smoke-kissed bark.
By the way, the smokers at Lewis Barbecue: Four massive offset indirect cookers built by John himself in Austin out of 1,000-gallon steel drums. Fully stocked he says they could churn out 6,000lbs of meat each day. So why go the handbuilt route?
“They are built specifically to turn out the best brisket in the country,” John declares.
As far as we’re concerned, he succeeded.
While the brisket is the obvious standout, Lewis Barbecue has so much more to offer hungry patrons: Beef short ribs, house-made Texas “Hot Guts” (sausage), pork spare ribs, smoked turkey (“For the vegetarians”) and even pulled pork for the Carolina faithful. The fixin’s include backyard barbecue favorites with a Texas flair like their Cowboy Pinto Beans or Green Chile Corn Pudding. Oh, and Banana Pudding Ice Cream for dessert.
All this packaged inside an inviting blue building designed to immerse you in the action. Meat is ordered by the slice or pound at the front counter and cut fresh in front of you. The ample seating flows past a full-service bar and outside to two shaded patio areas flanking the smokehouse, where curious customers can take a peek behind the scenes. The entire experience highlights what barbecue is all about.
“For me, barbecue is a food that gathers people around,” John says. “It’s always a party, it’s always a fun time.”
Thanks for bringing your party to the Carolinas.
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