About 15 minutes before opening Rodney Scott’s BBQ, the eponymous pitmaster stepped outside his upper King Street restaurant to take a group picture with staff members, prompting dozens of people already lined up for smoked meat to aim their phone cameras at the crew.
“Who am I smiling for?” Scott asked.
“You’re smiling for everybody!” the official photographer responded.
And just about everybody seemed to be smiling back at him. More than five years after first giving serious consideration to a Charleston location, Scott on Wednesday afternoon started serving whole hog barbecue in the building that previously housed Chick’s Fry House.
His menu also includes ribs, chicken, fried catfish, chicken perloo, an array of side dishes, beer and wine, marking Rodney Scott’s BBQ as a significantly more elaborate operation than the family-owned joint in Hemingway that launched Scott to fame.
“I’ve been waiting for him,” said Steve Jones of Mount Pleasant, one of the first fans to join the queue. “It’s great to have real barbecue downtown.”
Hundreds of eaters turned out for the restaurant’s training session, during which each customer was allotted one order, determined by a slip of paper drawn from a Rodney Scott’s BBQ ball cap. The food was free, but customers were encouraged to add cash to a collection jar for the neighboring Charleston Charter School for Math and Science.
“It’s giving back to the community, so that’s a blessing,” said Ann Amayes, a longtime barbecue devotee.
Although the waiting time was upward of an hour, nobody in line seemed bothered by it. Even the prospect of being issued fried fish instead of smoked pork was taken in stride. “I came for barbecue,” Amayes’ husband, C.J. Amayes, said when he learned how the meal was organized. “I’ll swap you!” the man standing behind him said brightly. The restaurant ultimately ran out of catfish long before the barbecue was gone.
Jones drew “pulled pork sandwich” and flashed a thumbs-up at cap holder Hannah Chapman. “I feel like I have Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat,” she joked.
Chris Condon is a veteran of local barbecue lines, having last summer showed up at Lewis Barbecue on opening day. He waited there for 2½ hours.
“It’s a curiosity,” he said. “And it’s fun to say you were there on the first day.”
Rodney Scott’s BBQ will open for regular service on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Going forward, it will keep a daily schedule of 11 a.m.-9 p.m.