By Robert Moss
Word came this week that Bessinger’s Barbecue on Highway 17 is retiring its barbecue buffet, a move owner Michael Bessinger has been contemplating for several years.
Bessinger’s fans need not panic completely. The sandwich shop side of the restaurant, which serves a splendid version of Midlands-style mustard-based barbecue and hash and rice, isn’t going anywhere.
But they’re pulling the plugs on the steam tables, where stainless steel pans once brimmed with fried chicken and catfish alongside the restaurant’s signature pulled pork and ribs. And also with mac and cheese, collards, fried okra, and squash casserole. And also hash and rice, lima beans, sweet potato soufflé, and even tossed green salad, for reasons I’ve never understood. (Who would waste valuable plate real estate on a green salad?).
For me, it’s bittersweet news, for the barbecue buffet has long been a South Carolina institution. The centerpiece of restaurants throughout the Midlands and Lowcountry, they’re found almost nowhere else in the United States.