521 B-B-Q & Grill

Review by: Michael Stern

An inconspicuous storefront in a commercial strip by the side of the two-lane, 521 B-B-Q & Grill is a conspicuously worthy barbecue destination. Not that there’s anything wrong with the menu’s extra-thick fried bologna sandwich, but it would be a crime to come here and not eat chopped pork and/or ribs. The former – Boston butt that is slow-smoked for 14 hours – becomes rough-hewn hash that is served sauceless. Please, savor some unadorned forkfuls for full appreciation of the refined synergy of swine and smoke. But then, bring on the sauce. Two kinds are arrayed in squeeze bottles on every table (next to the roll of paper towels): a thin, pepper-powered vinegar dressing that adds an exclamation mark to the flavor, and a thicker, sweeter and extremely tangy tomato sauce. Both are winners.

The ribs are just about the meatiest baby backs we’ve ever run across. Huge amounts of juice-sopped meat slide off the bone at the slightest provocation. Like the pork butts, the ribs are slow-smoked so the woodsy flavor of the pit completely insinuates itself into every fiber of the meat. Then they are painted with some of that tangy sauce and grilled until the sauce begins to caramelize. The glaze hugs the pork; and those two tastes together define the joy of ribs.

We haven’t yet mentioned what some people consider to be the very best thing on the menu, included on every plate or tray of barbecue: hushpuppies. Irregularly shaped with dark, red-gold skin that offers both crunch and chew, their interiors are moist and sweet-corn sweet, laced with perfumy onion. Nor are the baked beans to be ignored. They fairly vibrate with barbecue zest.

And finally, we need to mention the staff: a corps of waitresses who are as much fun as they are efficient, eagerly replacing a couple of hushpuppies that accidentally tumbled into the baked beans and lost a touch of their crispness and taking great joy when a customer is caught licking every bit of sauce off his fingers. In short: if you like barbecue, put 521 on any short list of must-visits in the Carolinas.

Note: There is a 2nd 521 BBQ at 1135 Stonecrest Blvd, Suite 101, Tega Cay, SC.

Directions & Hours

11am - 8pm
  • Monday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Friday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Saturday: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM

What To Eat

Chopped BBQ Tray

Chopped BBQ Sandwich


Rib Plate

Fried Bologna Sandwich

Barbecue Plate


521 B-B-Q & Grill Recipes


What do you think of 521 B-B-Q & Grill?

3 Responses to “521 B-B-Q & Grill”

Tom Lewis

November 2nd, 2011

I was skeptical as I pulled into the parking lot at the 521 B-B-Q & Grill. As a seasoned BBQ cook and lover, the joint just looked out of place among the neat shops, and it’s located at the corner of a strip mall. As I exited my vehicle the smells of BBQ and smoke were in the air. The restaurant was very busy and both rooms were pretty full.

I ordered the BBQ’d rib platter. When it arrived, I was amazed at the quality and quantity of the food. The ribs had a nice smoked flavor and were very meaty with little fat. They were coated with a sweet sauce, and had char marks from being finished on a grill. Several of the ribs were almost like eating thick, bone-in pork chops. They were cooked just enough to allow the meat to pull off the bones cleanly, yet they were not dry.

The plate consisted of eight huge back ribs that were more than an inch thick, four extraordinary hush puppies, French fries, baked beans, and white slaw (they also gave me a sample of potato salad). The hush puppies were probably the best I’ve ever eaten: crisp outside and moist on the inside with little bits of minced onion, and slightly sweet. I enjoyed the mahogany-colored baked beans very much because they appeared to be slow-cooked. They contained some diced onion, bacon, and an appropriate level of sweetness.

The two standout sauces, one sweet and one a vinegary mixture with a sludge of mixed peppers, were excellent. I mixed the two and produced a heat-laden piquant sweet sauce that was wonderful. I would have loved to have had a couple of slices of spongy white bread to sop the sauce.

Each table had a supply of sauces, paper towels, and wet wipes for your hands. The ladies waiting on the tables were great and checked on all tables often. They circulated the room with pitchers of tea, soft drinks, and water. You’ll never eat in a cleaner good BBQ joint. The tables are sponged down with aseptic cleaner wipes and the cushioned benches are wiped when necessary.

Note: their chili dogs seem to have a very strong following. Most tables have at least one person with a couple on their plate. The chopped pork BBQ plates also enjoy great popularity, making me wish that I had asked for a combo (ribs/chopped pork) plate.

In short, very good BBQ with exceptional quality and value.


Susi Godfrey

January 25th, 2010

We luckily moved within five minutes of 521 BBQ and discovered it by accident. Its unassuming exterior was surrounded by cars and that was good enough for us to try the first time. We’ve not found anything as good or better since.

I’m hooked on the BBQ which I as a northerner call “pulled pork”; the best I’ve eaten anywhere, anytime. Their sweet BBQ sauce is more to my liking than the vinegary one my husband is attached to. He is addicted to their ribs and I agree they are spectacular. Our young adult daughter is addicted to the hush puppies and these are the only ribs she will ever eat. In our neighborhood, most agree that this BBQ place is the best!

The waitresses are saucy and fun and ready to joke around with the customers. At first we were welcomed politely but soon we became part of the regular crowd and now enjoy the teasing atmosphere.

There is nothing fancy here but the food is fabulous.


Chris & Amy Ayers

January 2nd, 2008

If it wasn’t for our Roadfood friend Amy Howington, we might never have stopped at 521 BBQ & Grill. All we needed to hear was, “They make their own vinegar sauce,” and we were on our way. Tucked in a small strip south of Indian Land High School on Highway 521 (toward Lancaster/Monroe), its unassuming façade hides spectacular barbeque, ribs, and hushpuppies, though it’s certainly not concealed to their loyal legion of regulars, some of whom travel as far as Asheville, North Carolina to eat here. 521 has been voted best BBQ for the last two years in local publications.

First and foremost, the chopped pork is tender, irregular chunks of “inside” meat mixed with a smattering of charred “outside” skin. Its flavor is smoky and woodsy, and it’s itching to be graced by a tableside triumvirate of sauces: two commercially bottled tomato- and mustard-based sauces, indigenous to Western North Carolina and South Carolina pork parlors, respectively; and 521’s homemade vinegar sauce, a heady brew flecked with red, yellow, and black pepper, and harboring a manageable kick that’ll send piggy partisans into ecstatic displays of affection after first taste. Two types of cole slaw are available: a traditional, mayonnaise-based white slaw, or the more popular barbeque slaw, made with finely minced cabbage and a tangy, tomato BBQ sauce.

The other item of unprecedented choice is their hushpuppies, the omnipresent starch on Southern barbeque and seafood plates. Mind you, these are not the cold, corny chewfests of lesser restaurants that resemble Styrofoam peanuts. These beauties are big, bumpy, deeply browned delights that, when hot from the fryer, induce backflips of glee upon the tongue. And like many similar establishments, 521 runs out of items (ribs, most frequently) late in the day, so customers must have a Plan B in mind if they show up for a late dinner. There is even a disclaimer printed on the menu: “In order to offer the highest quality barbeque and ribs, we smoke them fresh daily on the premises, which means that on occasion we may run out. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

521 does not yet sell bottles of their vinegar sauce, though the kitchen is known for sending customers home with containers of sauce when asked. There was once an extreme dearth of quality, non-chain barbeque houses in the Rock Hill/Fort Mill area, especially on this once desolate stretch of secondary highway. Thankfully, 521 BBQ rises to fill that need with consistently delicious pork, sides, and a spicy vinegar sauce that cannot possibly be beat.


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