Landrum, a small upcountry town just a few miles from the North Carolina border, is home of one grand pimento cheeseburger, at the Southside Smokehouse. A juice-laden round of beef is piled into a brioche bun with smoked pimento cheese, onion, lettuce, and mayo, plus a couple of discs of crisp-fried green tomato that add crunch and tang. To make it even more local in character, one of the available side dishes is red slaw, which is a smokehouse tradition in the central part of both Carolinas: doctoring up cole slaw with enough barbecue sauce to balance its mild cabbage character with pepper zing.
Barbecue slaw fits right in at this restaurant because, as its name suggests, it is a true barbecue parlor. Pulled pork is velvet soft and radiant with sweet pig flavor; succulent ribs are served by the rack or half-rack; pork hash over rice (a local passion) always is available; there is even barbecue salad: cabbage, cheese, onion, peppers, and tomato adorned with your choice of smoke-cooked pulled pork or chicken. When anyone at the table orders barbecue, the waitress brings over a metal bucket loaded with bottles of sauce: hot, sweet, South Carolina mustard, straight pepper hot sauce, brined peppers, and ketchup. Lexington (North Carolina) vinegar-pepper sauce comes in a small ramekin on the plate. While the smoke-cooked meats are good as-is, it’s fun to experiment with the sauces, especially on barbecued chicken, which does tend to be dry. Classic side dishes include collard greens (austere and salubrious), baked beans, cole slaw, hand-cut French fries and, of course, hush puppies.
Also among the side dishes are jambalaya and red beans and rice: south Louisiana specialties that reveal yet another facet of this aspiring dining establishment – a Cajun accent. In fact, a whole section of the menu is titled “From the Bayou,” and features étouffées, fried oysters, and Cajun sausage served with red beans and rice. When the host is in a festive mood, entering customers are given strings of Mardi Gras beads.
So, the Southside Smokehouse is more than a barbecue, a burger shack, or a Cajun kitchen. It may look like an extra-large double-wide mobile home, but it is, in fact, a colorful and creative restaurant. Daughter of pit man Robbie McClure, who learned smoke-cooking from Wayne “Honey” Monk at Lexington Barbecue #1 up in North Carolina, Chef Sarah McClure is all about diversity. She uses whatever local vegetables are available to offer specials that range from lamb pizette topped with caramelized onions and pomegranate to brandy-laced she-crab soup, catfish tacos, and flatiron steak with green herb chimichurri sauce. She’s happy to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and those intolerant of gluten.
For dessert, there are apple pie a la mode and coconut buttermilk pie, and sometimes Sarah makes tiramisu; but be advised that the peach is South Carolina’s official state fruit. If you dine at the Southside Smokehouse in summer at the height of peach season, you’ll likely have an opportunity to dig into the kitchen’s outstanding grilled pound cake topped with crisp pecans and slices of indescribably flavorful fresh peach: a dreamy conclusion to a hugely satisfying meal.