Melvin's Legendary History

Mr. Melvin Bessinger, son of Big Joe®, Founder of Melvin's BBQ, 2nd Generation Pit-Master.

The Legend

A South Carolina tradition since 1939, Melvin Bessinger's BBQ Restaurants are beloved and famous for the best St. Louis style pork ribs, chicken and "Boston Butts" BBQ in the South. But don't take our word for it, come on down and experience the flavor at one of two locations in Mt. Pleasant and James Island.

Melvin's serves Big Joe Bessinger's legendary Golden Secret Recipe barbecue sauce. It's a recipe passed from generation to generation - spoken but never written down - and it's the real deal. With so many barbecue choices in Charleston, why not choose the original?

But you don't have to take our word for it. Come on down and experience the one-of-a-kind flavor and friendly service at one of two Melvin's Barbecue locations in Mt. Pleasant and James Island.

A South Carolina tradition since 1939, Melvin Bessinger's BBQ Restaurants are beloved and famous for the best St. Louis style pork ribs, chicken and "Boston Butts" BBQ in the South.

So, welcome to Melvin's Barbecue! Be sure to check out our menu. Read about Melvin's history and the Bessinger family. Learn all about catering your next Charleston SC event, and see where you can buy our famous barbecue sauces. From 'South Carolina's 1st Family of Mustard-based Barbecue,' we'd like to say "Thanks for your continued support, y'all!"



Birth of a Legend

Melvin Bessinger's Barbecue roots run deep. Melvin's grandfather, Mack Bessinger, married Lizzie Whisenhunt in 1888. They built a farm on her family's land in Orangeburg and started a family of 12 kids including "Big Joe" Bessinger. Big Joe married Genorah Thomas in 1912. They had 11 children of their own including Melvin, born in 1923.

A Family Barbecue Secret & The Holly Hill Cafe

When Melvin was 10 years old, Big Joe shared the secret recipe with him. Word of Joe's incredible barbecue sauce spread and, in 1939, he opened the Holly Hill Cafe. After the Depression forced him to close, Big Joe went back to farming until his son Melvin returned from WWII.

1946 - Eat at Joe's

In 1946, Melvin bought land on Main Street in Holly Hill with Big Joe's help. Melvin built a landmark; a tribute to his dad called "Eat at Joe's." All of his mom and dad's great, secret recipes - committed to memory but never written down - made their way to the customers' tables and kept them coming back for more.

1961 - Melvin's Piggie Park Barbecue Drive-in

Though Melvin had invested in the family business, he took time to attend college in Charleston SC. He graduated from The Citadel in 1951, and began developing a dining concept the Lowcountry had never seen: a drive-In barbecue joint. Melvin's brother-in-law, Ronald Boals, came up with a catchy name; Melvin's Piggie Park Drive-In. Melvin ran the business from 1961 until 1971.

The Bessinger Barbecue Brand

In the 1970s, the Bessinger brand took shape as an eat-in and drive-through buffet restaurant, with Melvin as Founder and CEO. In the 1980s, Melvin's son David became more involved in the family business. Then they ventured into the retail world, selling their Original Golden Secret BBQ Sauce in stores. By 1990, they sold their Savannah Highway location, along with a couple of the secret recipes to a silent partner.

Melvin's Legendary Barbecue

Melvin and David set out to open a chain of restaurants, and thus Melvin's Legendary Barbecue was born! The chain was a success, and grew to eight locations, from Charleston to Hilton Head SC. By 1992, Melvin finally decided to slow down a bit, with two Charleston-based restaurants.

The Barbecue Continues

After 71 years of serving the "Best Ribs and Que in South Carolina," Melvin Bessinger retired in 2004. Today, David continues his father's legacy. After 75+ years, a Charleston barbecue tradition is still going strong!

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Melvins BBQ, Charleston, SC, James Island & Mt. Pleasant, Ribs, Chicken, Burgers, Onion Rings