Monday, May 11, 2015

Shealy’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant in Batesburg-Leesville SC

Shealy’s Bar-B-Que, the basics:  

340 East Columbia Ave
Batesburg-Leesville, SC 29070

Lunch & dinner buffet, 11:00 am-9:00 pm Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat; carryout 9 am to 9 pm
Breakfast 7:00-9:30 Sat

Buffet with BBQ pork, fried chicken, and lots of great Southern-style sides
Price $10 (lunch)-$12 (dinner) for adults for buffet with beverage

Bar-B-Que pork with mustard sauce, rice and gravy, greens, 
baby limas, cream corn, and green beans

Shealy’s Bar-B-Que has been around since 1969, which I’m guessing is about the time that my family started eating there.  I definitely remember going with my parents and grandparents when I was a child.  The restaurant is located in Batesburg-Leesville, SC, which was a 30 mile trip on rural roads and highways for us.  That’s was and remains 30 miles of anticipation.  Shealy’s is always on my short list of things to do when I visit family. 

Shealy’s is family-owned and operated.  The matriarch, Mrs. Shealy passed away some years back, but the restaurant has maintained great food, in the tradition of the Southern home-cooked meal.  They have a long newspaper article framed and hanging on the wall, outlining Shealy’s history, highlighting their legendary food, and marveling over their legions of devoted diners.  I’m guessing there have been other articles over the years. 

Prices are reasonable at about $10 for lunch and a couple bucks more for dinner.  Monday prices are discounted.  Their buffet always has BBQ pork with mustard sauce or pepper vinegar sauce, fried chicken, rice, hash, and milk gravy.  They also usually have fried fat back, and often have chicken livers.  I have been when they have “pulley bones”, and set them aside separate from the rest of the fried chicken. 

Hash & rice, Bar-B-Que pork, chicken liver, liver nips, 
baby limas, green beans, greens, and fatback

Plenty of places serve good barbecue, but for my family it’s Shealy’s sides that move them to the top of the heap.  They usually have green beans, cream corn, and baby limas.  They often have greens, noodles, and sweet potatoes.  Sometimes they have baked macaroni and cheese or scalloped potatoes.  They also have a salad and dessert bar, and soft serve ice cream. 

Shealy’s is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  They have daily specials most days, in addition to the usual buffet offerings.  Tuesdays they have seafood at dinner (that’s supper in the South), Thursdays is country fried steak at dinner.  Friday they serve ribs all day, and fried fish at lunch (that’s dinner in the South).  The website lists “Chef’s Choice” on Mondays and “BBQ Country Buffet” on Saturday.  I’ve not been on Monday or Saturday in years, but I’m assuming Saturday is the regular buffet items with no special additions.  Although no longer listed on the website, historically they have had liver nips at lunch on Thursdays.  I was there last week on Thursday, and they had liver nips. 

Liver Nips, or Liver Dumplings, with beef, 
cooked in beef broth

You get to serve yourself from the buffet, without the staff hovering over you.  They do however “direct traffic” when the restaurant is crowded.  They will make sure diners know they can go down either side of the hot line, and they help diners seeking seconds “break line” with the incoming diners. 

My mom often gets the fried chicken, but I never get chicken.  For a born and bred Southerner, I’m not much of a fried chicken devotee, and I would never sacrifice belly room on chicken.  I always get the mustard sauce pork barbecue.  I think their hash is pretty good, but I always get the rice and milk gravy.  When they have liver nips, I always get them.  Green beans and baby limas are always on my plate.  I also find that their greens are really good.  I’m not sure if they are collards, mustard greens, or turnip greens, but I have never been disappointed.  I sometimes get a tad of corn, but to me, their corn is not really cream corn.  It may have flour or cornstarch to thicken, but it is just frozen or canned corn that has been thickened.  It is not cut and scraped from the cob like Grandma’s.  Be warned, they seem to put sugar in all their vegetables. 

Fried pork cutlet, rice & gravy, baby limas, and green beans

The salad bar is respectable, but I usually don’t waste belly room there either, except the bread and butter pickles, and carrot salad.  As often as not, I don’t get anything from the dessert bar.  They usually have some type of fruit cobbler, and some type of sheet cake.  I usually get a little peach cobbler when they have it.  They typically have multiple cold &/or layered desserts, which seldom tempt me.  They usually have what I call “steak house banana pudding”, which I abhor.  For me, banana pudding is always made with cooked custard, not instant vanilla pudding.  It’s all about the vanilla wafer texture. 

I suppose I should say a little bit about the seating and ambience.  Nothing fancy at all.  They have some old license plates and such on the walls.  There are 3 large dining areas.  Long tables, much like those used for a church social or family reunion, are lined up in long rows.  In the main dining room where my family usually sits, there are probably around 5 or 6 long tables laid end to end in each row, and about 6 rows of tables.  There is a certain logistic to sitting together with your group when it’s crowded.  We tend to go in a party of 3 to 6 of us, and head down each side of the table to sit across from each other.  To avoid the crowds, I recommend going on a weekday for lunch, arriving when they open at 11:00. 

Once you’re seated, a staffer will come and take your drink order.  We sit in the same area and have had the same server for many years.  They have the basics of water, sodas, and tea.  Their sweet tea is very good. 

The original building has small restrooms with two stalls near the entrance where you pay, and the hot bar.  The newer part of the building has another large dining room, and additional restrooms.  In the halls on the way to the restrooms, they have a half dozen or so pictures of Boykin Spaniels, the state dog of South Carolina.  I’ve had two Boykins.  They have a marvelous people-pleasing temperament. 

As you exit the building, they have a few things for sale, such as their barbecue sauce.  They usually have Happy Home flavorings too.  If you requested anything to take home, such as Bar-B-Que pork or hash, it will be waiting for you at the exit, where you will pay for them.  I’ve bought pints or quarts of their carrot salad.  Recently we bought a quart of liver nips, which they will not always sell you if they think they might run out. 

Enjoying carrot salad at home

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