In the 30+ years since we first came across Maurice’s Piggy Park on Charleston Highway, much has changed. There are now a dozen locations throughout the Midlands. The personality and ideology of Mr. Maurice Bessinger, who passed away in 2014, no longer permeates every aspect of the dining experience — from the image of his face that glowed on the label of sauce bottles to his religious mission next door giving away free bibles to his politically incorrect support of segregation and the Confederate flag. The stars and bars are gone, as is the religious mission, and the clientele is is multi-racial. A person could eat at Maurice’s and never know just how controversial he and, by extension, his restaurant, once were.
But some things have not changed at all. Pork is still slow-cooked over smoldering hickory and oak until it becomes tender and elegant. It is hacked into a mess of shreds and hunks and dressed with secret recipe sauce that Mr. Bessinger’s father developed decades ago over in Holly Hill. This is the sauce that has become a standard throughout central South Carolina: mustard-based with a faint pepper bite and just enough sweetness to halo the smoky pork.
Pork (or ribs or brisket) are served with a choice of classic Deep South side dishes. These include velvety mac ‘n’ cheese, hash on rice that has its own smoky-pepper character, beans, potato salad, creamy cole slaw, fried okra and, of course, hushpuppies. It is possible to order a plate of pork skins which, with a dip of the million dollar sauce, are just about the most indulgent snack imaginable.
Curb service has been discontinued in favor of a drive-through window, which is a popular option; and there are plenty of seats in several dining rooms inside. Place your order at the counter and pay, then the meal is brought to the table where you have settled. In my experience at this place, which is the original Maurice’s and the company headquarters, the staff are extraordinarily hospitable. It adds up to a memorable, classic South Carolina barbecue meal.