You've heard of the Bermuda Triangle.
Columbia County now has the Barbecue Triangle.
Hunger goes in, but it doesn't come out.
The 3000 block of Columbia and Washington Roads provides area residents with three barbecue restaurants to choose from. There's the dean of barbecue, Edmunds Bar-B-Que & Catering on Washington Road, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Mot's Pit Cooked Barbecue on Columbia Road has been in business since 1996, and newcomer Hawg Wild Smoke House and Rib Shack relocated from Washington Road to Columbia Square on Flowing Wells Road last month.
Each has a distinctive flavor and their own method of cooking. But they all have one thing in common: each has customers who think theirs is the best and they're not bashful about telling you so.
"It's the best barbecue in town, as far as I'm concerned," said Hawg Wild customer David Lee. "I've eaten at the others, and theirs has more of a natural flavor to it."
Pigs are part of the decor at Hawg Wild Smokehouse and Rib Shack
on Washington Road.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
At Mot's, a block away, David Sligh has a different opinion.
"There's all kinds of styles of barbecue, but of them all, this is what I like - slow cooked and chopped," he said.
At Edmunds, Glenn Boswell was getting a sack to go.
"I've been trading with this place since before we moved here from Harlem and I haven't found anything wrong with it yet," he said.
Hawg Wild Smoke House and Rib Shack
Hawg Wild is the new kid on the block, but David and Deborah Walizer, a.k.a. Pigman and Porkchop, are not bashful about their intentions to take on the competition.
Before going into the barbecue business, Walizer traveled around the country as director of operations for a cable television company and entered barbecue competitions wherever he went. He was emboldened by winning his first state championship at age 18 at a competition in Austin, Texas. He preferred beef, but when he married his wife, who is from North Carolina, he had to embrace her pork traditions, switching from mesquite to hickory as fuel for the fire.
"It's a slower cooking wood good for pork and chicken. I truly smoke my meat with real wood, we don't bake or boil our food. That's why my meat comes out pink-looking," said Walizer, who smokes his meat for about 20-26 hours.
David Walizer and his wife Deborah Walizer highlight hogs - the ones to eat and the ones to ride - at their restaurant.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
To top things off, he offers vinegar, mustard and tomato-based sauces.
The husband-wife team opened Hawg Wild four years ago on Washington Road, across from Kmart. In mid-July they relocated to Columbia Square to a space that has a 150-seat capacity. They now serve beer and plan to apply for a pouring license. They also added "smoke house" to the restaurant's name when they began serving steaks to order. Coming up with the name of the restaurant was easy:
"My wife called it a H-A-W-G and it goes with the Harleys and all the other good things in life," said Walizer, who rides his Harley to work each day.
Hawg Wild has a full menu that includes smoked turkey (and turkey salads) and beef brisket. At lunchtime, Hawg Wild offers a buffet in addition to its menu selections. On one recent day, offerings included chicken, riblets, pork, hash, rice, green beans, collards, baked beans, corn, salad, cake, coleslaw and potato salad. Walizer said he soon plans to add a fourth meat to the lineup.
Mot's Pit Cooked Barbecue
Located in the 3000 block of Columbia Road, Lee Motlow and Trish Laughery opened the restaurant in 1996. Motlow was employed with the Waffle House franchise and Laughery was a cafeteria manager at a South Carolina industry.
Then engaged, the couple decided they wanted to open a barbecue restaurant together.
"My boss' father had a barbecue restaurant in Greenville, S.C., and he talked us into it. We borrowed the concept from him. There wasn't any pit-cooked barbecue in this area, so we decided to bring real pit-cooked barbecue to Martinez," said Motlow.
The restaurant specializes in pork and ribs and soon will add chicken on the bone (it now just serves boneless chicken breasts).
The pit, which is in full view from the counter, is fired with green hickory wood, and the meat is cooked for about 14 hours before it is served. Motlow said his restaurant does not use gas or electricity to fuel the fire.
"We cook it the way it was cooked a hundred years ago," he said.
Their secret, Laughery said, is that they smoke their pork butts and ribs in the pit for about five or six hours, then coat the meat lightly with sauce and wrap it in tin foil to finish. It's a cooking technique, Laughery said, that infuses the meat with a smoky flavor while keeping it from drying out.
When the meat is finished, it is hand cleaned and chopped to remove any visible fat, Laughery said. The restaurant's vinegar-based North Carolina-style sauce comes in hot, mild or extra hot.
About the strongest drink you'll find there is sweet tea. Motlow and Laughery have built the foundation of their business supporting area youht baseball teams, school and civic groups, and they take pride in being a family-style restaurant.
"We offer high quality food at affordable prices with a clean environment with friendly service," Laughery said. "People have a choice of where they spend their money. There are two other barbecue restaurants within a half-mile of us. But if you give people what they want, they will reward you by giving you their money."
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office and Martinez Fire Department were instrumental in helping them hone their recipes for hash and hot sauce when they first opened.
Customers line the counter at Mot's Barbeque.
08/14/02 Jim Blaylock NEWS-TIMES
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"Everyone and their brother brought us their hash recipes," Laughery said. "We experimented with it and took every bit of advice that everyone had to give. The Martinez Fire Department are the ones that told us when the extra hot sauce was hot enough."
Edmunds Bar-B-Que & Catering
Cleve Edmunds, owner of Edmunds Bar-B-Que and Catering, celebrated 25 years in business in March, making the business the oldest restaurant under the same ownership in ColumbiaCounty. It is on the 3000 block of Washington Road,
Edmunds took over his father's barbecue restaurant, which was then in Belvedere, S.C., in 1968 after his father's death. His father, Barrett Edmunds, started the business in 1949.
At that time, his father had a mustard-based sauce, but Edmunds had his own recipe for a ketchup-based sauce. He put both on the tables for a while, but soon discovered customers preferred his recipe.
"It's a simple recipe that doesn't overwhelm the barbecue," Edmunds said.
In 1973, the restaurant burned down, and when Edmunds went to replace the open pit, he ran into trouble with environmental regulators who said he would have to attach an expensive filtering system. Edmunds set out to find a new cooking method.
"I went to North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and in Benson, N.C., I went to this one restaurant and the barbecue was outstanding," Edmunds said. "I asked the man what process of cooking he used and he showed me. So I brought that system back to Aiken County."
It's a system he sill uses today. Powered by electricity, it slow-cooks the meat in an oven, then smokes the meat during the last hour. The whole process takes about 12 hours, Edmunds said.
"That's why my meat is not so overwhelming with a strong hickory smoke taste," Edmunds said.
Edmunds specializes in pork (he uses hams), ribs and chicken. Catering customers can also order beef. His hash, he said, is his own personal recipe.
In 1976, local politician and businessman Bill Jackson suggested they open a barbecue restaurant on Washington Road, just a few doors from where Edmunds is today.
The restaurant opened in 1977, and in 1978, Edmunds bought out Jackson to become the sole owner. In 1994, he moved to the current location on Washington Road.
It is a family owned-and-operated business. His stepson, wife, nieces and nephews work there. Some of his employees have been with him for more than 30 years.
"I'm not sure if our barbecue is any better, but our staff is friendly and it is a family-owned business," Edmunds said. "I don't deal with any alcoholic beverages. People can come in here with their family and they don't have to worry about people across the table drinking beer in front of their children."
Edmunds Barbecue, which is open seven days a week, also has had a clean health department rating for the past two years.
"Cleanliness is next to godliness," Edmunds said.
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