“I ate here three times last week,” said the fellow in front of me. That’s always a good sign of things to come.
Like so many artisan crafts, that of true wood-fire barbeque has become increasingly difficult to find. With the advent of large commercial smokers, most “real” barbeque is done via remote control. As I stood in the parking lot of Hubba Hubba and let the incomparable aroma of smoking hardwoods waft over me, it was clear that something exceptional is going on in Flat Rock.
Starr and Virginia Teel, who brought us the quirky and eclectic “Little Rainbow Row,” anchored by The Wrinkled Egg, have now added the Hubba Hubba Wood-Fired Smokehouse to their enclave on Greenville Highway in Flat Rock.
Starr Teel has long been a fan and student of barbeque. “The meat has to stand on its own, and the flavor of smoke and fire have to be present.” That’s why he uses a mix of oak, hickory and apple in his enormous brick smoker. With its custom-made iron doors, the massive smoker is, indeed, a sight to behold.
I ordered the pulled pork plate, which came with a choice of two sides and a slice of cornbread. A friend ordered pulled chicken. With seven standard sides and two daily specials, you have lots to choose from. We tried the black eyed peas, collard greens, Mediterranean pasta salad and okra with tomatoes over rice.
After ordering, we headed to the sauce table, where there were large “serve yourself” bottles and cups with lids. Vinegar, mustard, tomatillo, traditional and chipotle sauces were clearly labeled (several with the helpful “hot” signage on them). We took cups of each.
Before saucing, I tasted my pulled pork…and then I decided that this was the first (and only) pork that simply didn’t need anything on it. It was truly the best pulled pork I have ever had (and I’ve eaten my weight in barbeque many times over). Turns out, all of the meats, after smoking at very low temperatures, are pulled by hand. The dry-rubbed pork butt gets something called “bark” on it, which are the flavorful, crunchy bits that add so much to the end result. “Hand pulling is very labor intensive, but it allows us to keep the bark and remove any burned bits,” says Starr.
I was impressed as well with the sides; the collards were exceptional and had that old-fashioned “pot liquor” taste to them; a little pork fat never hurt anybody, in my opinion. Black eyed peas were tender and traditional and although the pasta salad was a departure from the standard shack side, the orrecchiette “little ear” shaped pasta with kalamata olives was flavorful and delicious.
Although I couldn’t bring myself to sauce the pork, I did taste each sauce individually. Never a fan of mustard or vinegar based sauces, I had to change my tune about these. Each and every sauce (all of which are made in-house) was delicious. And, although the tomatillo is a bit “post-modern,” as Starr puts it, it was a fresh and unique taste experience.
Hubba Hubba (“I wanted to have something fun to say when I answered the phone,” said Starr), is a true “shack” in the best sense of the word. You line up, choose your sides from the hand-written blackboard menu and give your name. Our names were called extremely quickly and we headed to the covered tables on a wooden deck nearby to enjoy the outdoors, as well as the aroma that was coming from the gigantic funky metal chicken perched on the smokestack.
“We want people to feel they are getting a good value for the money,” says Starr. At $7 for a generous helping of pulled pork, two sides and a large piece of cornbread, it is one of the area’s best food values. Sandwiches looked equally good, and you can get a slab of ribs or brisket as well.
In an era of fast food, real barbeque is increasingly rare. “The craft of doing this is enormously demanding. Wood goes in all day long,” says Starr. Hubba Hubba is a throwback to the days when the pit-master was king and the barbeque was a labor of love.
Take a book, bring a bib and head for some amazing ‘que. This little piggy was in hog heaven.