Everything about Dukes is designed to help you concentrate on hickory-smoked barbecued pork. It is served in hacked-up chunks at a cafeteria line that also includes a choice of red sauce that is four-alarm hot or glowing yellow mustard sauce that is sweet and tangy (unique to central South Carolina), and pickles. In addition to barbecue, the buffet line offers excellent fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, greens, beans, hushpuppies, and that South Carolina smokehouse favorite, hash on rice. Dish out as much as you want into your partitioned plate, grab a plastic fork, and find a place at one of the long picnic tables in the cavernous eating hall.
The pork hums with complex flavor that is just faintly smoky, each piece a tender mouthful. Somehow, it is especially right to savor it in the peace of this dining room, where the only music is the sound of more pork being hacked into hunks back in the kitchen.
The drink of choice is tea — sweet, of course. Also of course, each table is outfitted with a few loaves of white bread, which is the right thing for mopping a plate of all its good sauce.
Note the limited hours. Dukes is open for lunch and supper only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In the tradition of the old-time pig-pickin’, South Carolinians consider a meal like this a weekend event.