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Road Trip to Sweatman's

Updated: Jul 27, 2018

By Will Lacey

There is something to be said about taking trip solely because of food. It is quite magical. Food has an innate ability to foster communication and camaraderie and is a source of celebration. Being South Carolina, the phrase “100-mile BBQ” …a hot topic for devout consumers…, certainly comes to mind.

Sweatman’s BBQ in Holly Hill, SC…just a shade over an hour away from Columbia…is the exact spot you want to travel to for something authentic, and to be honest, a bit of a religious experience.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with co-owner Chris Behr, as we fed me and

educated me on what makes Sweatman’s the way it is. You know, what makes it remarkable and


In Behr’s own words, “food is the ultimate way to give. In times of joy or sorrow, food can transform from celebratory to comforting. Food can elevate happiness, or it can heal”. Let me tell you, this place can do all of this and some. It is the barometer for what a BBQ restaurant should be. Take notice, world.

Nestled between bountiful fields of whatever is in season, is an old farmhouse first built around 1910. It is what you want a true BBQ joint to look like. Aesthetically, it passes all the tests. While you can’t see it a mile away (thanks to some massive cornstalks this season), you can certainly smell it. The smell beckons you to continue a little further down the road (think of a cartoon a mystic hand pointing you in the direction your stomach wants you to go) and to fulfill all your pork filled dreams. So…smell test passed.

However, your dreams are regulated to two days a week: Friday and Saturday. This, my friends, is how BBQ should be. Once they are out, they are out. Customers are bestowed with fresh pork that has gone from hoof to plate well within the last 36-48 hours, with all sides masterfully created in house, scratch made sauces, and with sweet tea that is sweet perfection. No frills, just perfectly executed BBQ on a pit that dates to the late 70’s.

Being open for business two days out of the week is not because of a lack of dedication into the

restaurant. Make no mistake about it, the fine folks at Sweatman’s are working their ass off on the days they are closed. According to Behr, “it’s labored over intensely for days. From cutting wood, to shoveling coals, to finishing the product. You can’t take a short cut to get here, so we don’t take any either."

Mondays, weather permitting, are marked for wood cutting. Yea, that’s right they cut their own wood and use all of that to fuel the pits. It is a serious operation that makes the biggest difference in the world. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dedicated to prep work for all sides, sauces, maintenance, more wood cutting if needed, taking catering and to go orders (a large part of the local patrons will plan their meals ahead of time to make sure they get what they need. Wise move), and the typical needs of running a business. Thursdays they get the food delivered (hogs coming in from farm to truck to the pit within hours) and fire the pits up using all the wood cut on site to fuel the fire for the next few days.

Friday and Saturday, it’s show time: Assemble all sides, tend to the pigs, radiate the most gracious

southern hospitality always, and fulfill all your BBQ dreams. So…taste test more than passed.

When asked how important it is to do things “in house”, Behr jumps at the opportunity to talk about their process, “(it is) extremely important. It’s the most important aspect, in fact. When I serve you a plate, I can say that you’re eating my work. You can’t get it anywhere else. You can get BBQ from all over, but you can only get Sweatman’s at Sweatman’s."

Growing up in the BBQ capital of the world, Sweatman’s reigns supreme. It passes all the tests with

flying colors. It is well worth the drives no matter where you are, but particularly the short jaunt from

the home of the Cola Crescent. This is the trust tree, so believe this glowing endorsement.

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