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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Columbia Eats: Doc's Barbecue and Southern Buffet

My six-going-on-seven-years-too-late barbecue crawl of Columbia forged on this week with a trip to Doc's Barbecue. Location-wise, it may be one of the most accessible places I've been yet - though a yet-to-be-determined-but-forthcoming trip to Palmetto Pig will top that by a mile, literally. Just a few blocks from the Gamecock stadium and the State's (South Carolina's local paper) offices, Doc's caters to a diverse crowd of workers in the Shop Rd. area along with businessmen from the downtown area. It's apparently not rare to find a few state officials and law enforcement roaming around for a bite to eat as the majority of the people during my visit were just that.

Buffet-wise, Doc's is admittedly a lot smaller then I'd envisioned it. The buffet starts out with baked beans, collards and an admittedly welcome pile of brussel sprouts, then moves into the rice with hash and/or gravy. The collards were fine; they had a nice, crisp texture and were the usual sweetness that you find in Cola's collards. Hash, for non-South Carolina natives, consists of all the spare parts of the pork that don't get pulled or used for other recipes. Mixed with vegetables cooked to death and a variety of spices, it's a unique item that comes either in a soup-like consistency or something more akin to a stew - Doc's falls into the stew variety with their thick variation. I don't say this very often, but I wasn't a huge fan of the texture of this hash. It was like pulled pork mashed into a pile of mush, which doesn't scream pleasant. Down the line you can also find the trademark potato salad, slaw, casserole, and mac and cheese. I won't talk about the latter three, which were... "ya know?", but the potato salad. Killer. A bit creamy then some may want it, but there's some nice smoky flavor in there that makes it stand out over the less impressionable sides just mentioned.

Next was the all-important fried chicken. At first glance, it looked a bit disappointing to be honest, not dark and gold fried like you may expect. It turned out to be fairly crispy and juicy though, not the best in Columbia but not a disappointment like previously thought. Better yet, however, was their Tuesday lunch special, an amazing smoked chicken which had great smoke flavor and oozed juices right to the bone. Perhaps my favorite of the day. And then there was the barbecue. I hate to bring it up in yet another Columbia barbecue review, but the mustard pulled pork still falls to Little Pig's great bite for the Cola crowd. The vinegar, however, has just the right about sour and savoriness to it that made me come back for seconds. And then there was the catfish nuggets. I think Doc's is the only one to sport it, and I have to say, it's great. Crisp nuggets of fishy goodness, without that smell of whiting that you usually find elsewhere.

Finally, the peach cobbler, an essential for any Southern buffet. I have to say, I've been disappointed in the past by Columbia's peach cobbler. There were some where you couldn't find a peach if it was hitting you in a face, others where the cobbler reeked of the dreaded burnt crust, and some that just sucked horribly in the worse of ways. Not Doc's though; their crisp, sweet cobbler top and peached filled interior hit all the right notes. Pair with a slice of cool, cold watermelon to clean the pallete every few bites and you have one of the best Southern buffet deserts in Cola.

No Reservations, the word on Doc's
Atmosphere: Surprisingly clean, but a bit heavy on the business side. Bring company.
Costs: A touch steeper then the competition at $9 for lunch.
Pile Up On: The potato salad, vinegar pulled pork, smoked chicken if there on a Tuesday and the peach cobbler - with a slice of watermelon. Very important.

To be perfectly honest, if I were still living in the Columbia area frequently, I'd probably still run up to the other side of town to Little Pigs for barbecue. Doc's is worth a visit, but there just weren't enough notes to make me a frequent. The peach cobbler was great, and the vinegar pulled pork was nice, but there are others in town that are a step ahead of the game I feel. If you are strapped to the USC area for lunch and are craving barbecue though, I would definitely recommend Doc's in the face of it's local competition as it definitely wins in that regard. If you can make the drive though, Little Pigs - for me - is still Cola's best in the barbecue arena.

Doc's Barbecue & Southern Bfft on Urbanspoon


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