Melvin’s brings on the burnt ends


A South Carolina barbecue institution so identified with pork that it 25 years ago adopted a smiling pig as its logo is venturing deeper into beef barbecue territory.

Melvin’s Barbecue, which traces its history back to Joe Bessinger’s opening of the Holly Hill Café in 1939, is next week adding burnt ends to its menu. The mascot fork-and-spoon-wielding pig is also being retired in favor of a new black-and-white seal that vaguely recalls the KC Masterpiece label. The logo is accented by a tiny blue drawing of South Carolina and a red banner stamped “Charleston, SC.”

“The pig will forever be a part of our brand and he will make appearances on our new website, menu and other marketing pieces,” owner Melvin David Bessinger reassured patrons via a press release.

True to Bessinger’s word, on the website, a ghostly outline of the happy pig lurks behind the new logo.

Burnt ends, now enjoying a period of popularity so intense that new Shem Creek restaurant Tavern & Table is topping its mac-and-cheese with the folksy delicacy, were originally written off as unwanted surplus. Pitmasters smoking brisket weren’t sure what to do with the severely charred edges of their fattiest portions, so they sliced off the nubbins and served them for free.

“The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself,” Calvin Trilling explained in a 1972 Playboy story about Arthur Bryant’s that shifted barbecue economics. Trilling’s love for the snack was so infectious that barbecue joints started charging for it.

People were willing to pay. Demand for the smoky bits of bark surged. But each brisket has only so many ends to give, so pitmasters – particularly in Kansas City, which Trillin helped to establish as the nation’s burnt end capital – started turning the entire brisket into “ends.”

A brisket consists of two muscles: The large flat and the well-marbled point, also known to fans of The Macintosh as deckle. According to a comprehensive burnt end overview that Bonjwing Lee last year wrote for Eater, most pitmasters remove the point after smoking, and then return it to the smoker for a second round.

Since Melvin’s doesn’t sell enough brisket to rely on having crunchy ends lying around, spokeswoman Alyssa Smith says, “They are in the beginning stages of experimenting with the point muscle.”

In addition to burnt ends, Melvin’s is adding chicken wings, Alabama white sauce, pork belly, creamed corn, smoked cabbage and a pair of fruit cobblers to its menu.

For more information, visit Melvin’s is located at 925 Houston Northcutt Blvd. in Mt. Pleasant and 538 Folly Road on James Island.

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