August 1, 2012
Heather and I headed up to Moncks Corner today to start putting her classroom back together before the start of school. (One of those unofficial, unpaid workdays that teachers so often put in off the clock.)
I made her a deal. Manual labor in return for some local BBQ. I made good on my end. Her end, however, is debatable…
As we were leaving the school, we searched for local BBQ places. We knew about Moose’s Famous BBQ and Music Man’s. Unfortunately, Moose’s closed their Moncks Corner location in favor of a spot in Summerville. We actually stopped at Moose’s after a trip that eventually led us to Dukes of Summerville. Should have picked Moose’s instead.
Music Man’s, on the other hand, was closed (open Th-Sun). Mind you, today is a Wednesday. While you might be able to get “real BBQ” on a Wednesday, the occasions are rare. Today was no exception.
So, Heather called the only other place we found during our quick search: A&M Brown’s BBQ. A friendly voice picked up on the other end, announced they were open, and our destination was set.
A&M Brown’s is on Hwy 52, near the Tailrace Canal, in what looks like it could be an old converted service station. Thought it was a bad sign that there wasn’t another car in the lot, but we didn’t get there until after 3, so the lunch crowd was long gone and the dinner crowd not yet gathering. We entered and found the small buffet and cash register to our left; most of the dining area is to the right.
We ordered two buffets ($24), got our trays, styrofoam plates and utensils and stepped right to survey the buffet. It had a number of options (rarely a good sign if you want great BBQ, by the way), including rice, red rice, cabbage, green beans, coleslaw, sweet potatoes, hash, two different BBQ sauces (mustard and vinegar), fried chicken, fried fish, and more.
The BBQ was pre-sauced, which is not uncommon but is a practice we don’t care for. If you are proud of your pork, you let it stand on its own. Sauce should merely complement the pork.
In our two trips each to the buffet, Heather got the vinegar BBQ, green beans, rice and hash, coleslaw and field peas. She also got extra servings of each of the sauces. I got both BBQ’s, butter beans, field peas, cabbage, and red rice. We both passed on dessert (a bad Jello-based banana pudding, and some cake-like squares).
Frankly, I liked the BBQ on first taste. I was starving at this point (having only had a coffee this morning and one of our homemade juice concoctions for lunch), but the mustard-based seemed to have good flavor. The pork was not cooked over wood (and therefore couldn’t be great), but it was at least pulled and not chopped. It was not “mushy” like so many pre-sauced BBQ’s can be.
On second taste, however, the quality of the mustard waned. The vinegar-based, like so many others we’ve tried now was a bit too vinegary and left you with nothing much more than vinegar.
To taste the sauces individually and apart from the pork was interesting. The mustard was actually quite good by itself. Heather actually liked the vinegar-based pork with mustard sauce added to it.
The vinegar sauce was different than any other vinegar we’ve tried. It was thin and dark with what looked like black pepper flakes swimming around in it. We believe it may have actually been made with a beef consumé of all things. Maybe not, but we wouldn’t be surprised. Even so, the vinegar was the foremost element, with nothing much else there to broaden the palate.
The sides were typical country buffet. We liked the butter beans and the cabbage. The field peas and green beans were standard fare; nothing special. Heather liked her hash, which she felt had a kick of spice to it. The red rice was, essentially, flavorless.
The people we interacted with were very friendly and our teas were kept full – I usually drink 2-3 glasses of water or tea with my meals, so that was nice.
In the end, we’re left with the same notion: If you’re looking for great BBQ, start your search on a Thursday, avoid big buffets, especially if there are other meats on it, and look for stacks of wool or the smell of smoke. Then, you might have found good BBQ.
As for A&M Brown’s, if we hadn’t already been there, we couldn’t say it was worth the trip.
NOTE: Check out this update which includes a new tasting of A&M’s cooking.