It happens each time we post the menu for a new barbecue place. People freak over the price of pulled pork by the pound. Take for instance this morning. Moments after we posted “Feast your eyes on the Rodney Scott’s BBQ menu,” the Facebook comments started flooding in. (Talk about deja vu. We could have sworn this same debate came up with the last tenant at 1011 King St.)
But we get it. We’re ballers on a budget too. Price is important. But before we all lose our collective minds about how much a hog is really worth, let’s take a look at the Lowcountry’s pulled pork purveyors by the numbers (in order of price):
Duke’s BBQ: $9.05/lb
Swig & Swine: $11/lb
Sticky Fingers: $11/lb
J.B.’s Smoke Shack: $11.49/lb
Mamma Brown’s: $11.95/lb
Home Team BBQ: $12.95/lb
Smoke BBQ: $12.95/lb
Jim N Nick’s BBQ: $13.50/lb
The Barbeque Joint: $13.75/lb
Rodney Scott’s BBQ: $14/lb
Bessinger’s BBQ: $14.35/lb
Lewis Barbecue: $18/lb
Cumberland St. Barbecue: $20/lb
Poogan’s Smokehouse: $13.95/lb
Average price: $13.80/lb
Clearly rent plays a big factor here in Charleston. Consider that Cumberland St. Smokehouse is the most expensive at $20/lb. On Cumberland Street (just off of East Bay) they’re paying a premium for the tourist-trafficked area.
As Home Team BBQ’s Aaron Siegal told Robert Moss in our feature “Is Charleston the Future of Barbecue?” back in September, “We need a good bit of space to do what we do and there’s not a whole lot of space left [on the lower Peninsula] that’s not going to cost you $40 per square foot.”
Then you have new comers like the much lauded Lewis Barbecue and Rodney Scott’s BBQ at $14/lb. and $18/lb. With each of these places, there’s labor and the size of the operation to consider, not to mention all those little conveniences, say, for instance, seating, parking, bathrooms. And how many people are working in the kitchen, washing dishes, etc? It adds up.
Sure you can drive to Hemingway and likely get Scott’s pulled pork for less, but you have to, you know, drive to Hemingway.
“For comparison, you can get a pound of pork at Knoth’s in Grand River, Kentucky (one of my all time favorites) for $8.35 per pound. It’s $10 a pound at Big T out in Gadsden, $9.50 a pound at Sweatman’s, $9 at Hite’s in West Columbia,” says Moss. “So, in between that and your Charleston prices is the big city overhead.”
Bottom line, if you want barbecue on the peninsula, you’ll have to pay for the convenience of eating pulled pork in a city where rent rates on lower and middle King Street average $70-$85 per square foot.
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