Let’s be clear: Barbecue is one of those foods that you best not mess with unless you seriously know what you’re doing. And what you’re doing with your pit largely depends on where you’re doing it. For example, barbecue in the Carolinas doesn’t even use the same meat as ‘cue in Texas. But barbecue fans are willing to put their differences aside for native Texan John Lewis’s new restaurant, Lewis Barbecue, which opens today in Charleston—serving Central Texas classics like brisket and hot guts (or sausage).
An alum of Franklin Barbecue and the pitmaster who put La Barbecue on the map, Lewis knows the move is a bold one. His decision to move to Charleston is tied to the region’s strong whole-hog barbecue scene. “There’s a barbecue tradition already, but it’s not beef barbecue,” he told me late last year. Also, “I wanted to go to a place where people grew up eating barbecue.”
Along with his Texas style of smoking, Lewis is bringing his custom smokers he and his father built. “The only way I can do my barbecue is with my smoker—it’s designed to make that exact product,” he explained.
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While the smokers are nearby, they’re not front and center at this restaurant, which has lots of outdoor seating and a sleek, pristine look. The line to order wraps you right by the bar, which serves beer, boozy aguas frescas and cocktails. Outside, things are a bit more casual at long picnic tables, where guests can dig into brisket, along with cowboy pinto beans,green chile corn pudding and more.
And, to help break in the Charleston crowd, he’s hosting a fundraiser next month for the Union Baptist Church, which is in need of a new roof.