Monday, May 13, 2013

Off the Map: You Really Need to Get Out More

Hash -- Dukes Bar-B-Que, Orangeburg, SC
Dukes Bar-B-Que

On Vodka and Diet Coke's second day in Charleston, they decide to do some venturing to new and faraway lands -- first to the Charleston Tea Plantation in order to drink their weight in tea....
So What You're Saying Is, You DON'T Have Any Vodka to Spike This Tea With?!
What Kind of Plantation Is This?!
...with said tea followed directly by a journey to Orangeburg, SC for some hash at Dukes Bar-B-Que, as recommended by Sunny Anderson on the HOMETOWN FAVORITES episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Toto, I Don't Think We're In Charleston Anymore
The potential problems with this plan?

1. Orangeburg is an hour and a half away.

2. We have no idea what hash is.

Plowing onwards, we blast a strange combination of showtunes and Kanye West in our rental car until we reach the exit for Orangeburg, where we end up driving on -- wait for it -- FIVE CHOP ROAD.  On our way to get bar-b-que.

Only in South Carolina, folks.  Only in South Carolina.
Oh Yeah, Your Car DEFINITELY Looks Cooler Now. Solid Work
After a short "scenic" tour around Orangeburg ("There's a 'no parking' sign on that grass"), we arrive at the dirt sidelines that serve as the Dukes parking lot.
Luckily, the Army Is Here to Protect Us
We take our first tentative steps into the place, feeling decidedly out of our element, until we arrive inside.  Where it is dead quiet.
::crickets:: ::crickets::
PACKED, but completely silent.  Eerily silent.  Reverently silent.  Instead of boisterous conversations over plates of all-you-can-eat bar-b-que goodness, the dining room patrons are all huddled over their respective plates, eating quietly.  Le Bernardin couldn't get their customers to be this respectful of their food.

This must be some darn good hash.
The Le Bec Fin of South Carolina
We approach the main counter and hand over $9 each for our share of the goods.  Before us stands some recognizable items -- fried chicken and macaroni and cheese and green beans -- and some decidedly less recognizable items -- namely, the HASH.
Yes, Hi, We're From Up North. Please Help Us
Indeed, after Vodka picks up her styrofoam plate, she looks at the food spread out in front of her and purposely skips over the first container of brown, chili-looking mush.

"What is that?" Diet Coke asks.

"I don't know," Vodka answers.  "It's not hash."

We're sure you can guess where this story is going.
Spoiler: This Is Hash
Piling on a helping of stripped-down meat that Vodka is convinced is the hash, we overhear a conversation in line behind us concerning the gooey brown stuff.

In truth, we overhear a conversation about THE HASH.  And guess what?  It is NOT the item that Vodka is scooping onto her plate with wild abandon.
Backtracking through the (thankfully now empty) line, we each place some sticky white rice on our plates and then top it with the ever-confusing hash substance.  Still not trusting her instincts, when Vodka reaches the end of the line, she points to her plate and asks one of the (very patient) workers, "Is this the hash?"  Assured that it is, we take our seats at one of the long tables and folding chairs assembled throughout the room.
They're Very Into Styrofoam in Orangeburg
Pouring ourselves a healthy portion of the sweet tea that Dukes keeps stocked on each table, we raise our plastic forks and prepare for our first foray into hashland.
Hash Stash
And you know what?  The stuff is delectable.  We don't know what the heck it is, but it's fantastic.

Relatively fine in texture, the hash somehow manages to hold itself together over the rice.  The taste is tangy like a beautiful combination of ketchup and bar-b-que sauce (clearly, Diet Coke takes exception to her no-condiments rule when they're combined in an unrecognizable substance), and we believe we can discern bits of meat, onion, and possibly potato.  Whatever is in this concoction, however, is unimportant -- we like it.  We like it much, much more than we thought we would.
Time to Go Back For Seconds... and Thirds... and Fourths...
The rest of Dukes's food is equally satisfying.  The fried chicken (our third of the trip -- it will be a miracle if we can fit on the plane home) is traditional and yummy, and the mac and cheese stupendous.

And Our First Taste Ever of Sweet Tea is Equally Satisfying
Plateful of Plenty
The only thing on her plate that Vodka is not crazy about is the pulled pork, but primarily because of the level of confusion it caused earlier.

"I thought this was hash, by the way," she tells Diet Coke, pointing to the overflowing portion of pulled pork.

"You really need to get out more," Diet Coke retorts, and we dissolve into laughter that is ten times louder than anything else going on in this room.

Already full from our one plate of goodness ("They really made a profit off of us"), we deposit our trash and prepare to leave, but not before Vodka returns to the main counter to photograph the food trays.
What? Everyone Doesn't Take Pictures of the Hushpuppies?
When she is given a slightly quizzical look by the same woman she had questioned about the hash, Vodka tells her, "I don't get out much" by way of explanation.
"IS THIS TRUE?!" --Vodka, the Gullible Southern Tourist
This comment, like everything else in this establishment, is met with silence.  Clearly in the South Carolina lowcountry, nobody talks about the hash -- they just enjoy it by the styrofoam plate-full. 

As, we suppose, life should be.

Dukes Bar-B-Que's Hash: 4 stars


  1. I have a friend who lives in Orangeburg, so I read your blog just to see what you had to say. I didn't know it would be so entertaining. This was hilarious! When I visit Dukes, I'll know what to expect, so I shouldn't be confused about hash looks like.

  2. Thanks so much! Enjoy your visit :)