First, the bad news: There is no indoor seating at Rikard’s Roadside Barbecue; everything is served in Styrofoam take-out containers. Hours of operation are minimal and can be erratic. Officially, they are only Thursday 7-2 and Friday & Saturday 7-8. But sometimes, food is available on Sunday and for Wednesday lunch. Do call ahead to check.
Such bothers only make pitmaster Byron Rikard’s BBQ all the more precious; for what you find here is a memorable South Carolina Midlands meal. Smoke-infused, hacked-up pork comes as an infinite variety of shapes and textures including a few crunchy nuggets of bark amid the velvet shreds. It is moist and flavorful as-is, but of course you want it drizzled with mustard sauce, a signature of BBQ hereabouts. The sauce is thick and complex, just barely tangy and honey sweet: pork’s best companion.
The superb pork comes in a sandwich, which is swell, but a plate is the way to go because it includes a great mound of the regional essential, hash on rice. It’s fantastic hash, maybe the best I’ve tasted since Jackie Hite’s of Leesville closed. Bright and peppery with mustard and pepper pop in every meat-laden forkful, it is good enough to (momentarily) distract an appetite from pork. (Like all good Carolina hash, it needs a photographer better than I to make it look pretty in a picture!)
Other excellent BBQ companions include a casserole of squash whose own natural sweetness is laced with firm little bits of sweet onion; mac ‘n’ cheese that balances its palliative nature with a fusillade of black pepper; cool potato salad rich with eggs, and silk-textured green beans ribboned with plenty of pork.
Pulled pork is the meat to eat … if you’re eating only one meat; but there is more to explore. When they are available, pork belly burnt ends, aka pork candy, are a must. They’re double-bite-size nuggets of smoked meat that get bathed in sweet sauce then sizzled on the grill so the sauce becomes a caramelized coat of sugar and spice. Frequently, there’s brisket: big, thick, fatty flaps that demand jaw work but yield plenty of flavor. Chicken turns supremely tender on Mr. Rikard’s grill, as do ribs, which are rendered so supple that a gentle tug pulls bone cleanly from the meat.
If you like banana pudding, come to Rikard’s early before Rachel’s banana pudding gets sold out. It is a fluffy wonder — the immemorial balance of cookie that is beginning to soften but retains some crunch, slices of exactly-ripe banana, silky custard, and ethereal whipped cream.
Mr. Rikard is often found just outside, tending meat on his smoker and happy to discuss the fine points of barbecue. Inside, where you order and receive food, his young staff are inspired proselytes who know they are part of something really wonderful.