Our Story

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Est. 1939
South Carolina's Original mustard based BBQ and the recipe that started it all

-Nothing beats the Original-

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History in the making

Many BBQ lovers around the country acknowledge differences in regional flavors of sauces. However, many devotees may not know the story of how Joseph Bessinger popularized mustard-based barbecue.

It all started in the backwoods of Orangeburg, SC, when 10 year old Melvin was taught how to make the Golden Secret Barbecue sauce his daddy invented. Word spread of Big Joe's barbecue pork, cooked inside a pit dug deep in the ground, and slathered with his secret mustard-based sauce. With encouragement from his wife, Joe traded the family's cow and mule plus $50 for a cafe in nearby Holly Hill. In 1939 the Holly Hill Cafe opened, serving mustard-based barbecue. Due to the Great Depression, the Holly Hill Cafe was only open a short time. After returning from WWII a decorated veteran, Melvin used his Army paychecks to help his father, Big Joe, open a new restaurant in Holly Hill called Eat At Joe's.

A Legendary Move

In 1955, Melvin closed the doors of Eat at Joe’s in Holly Hill and made a bold move to Charleston, a city he had grown to love while attending The Citadel Military College.

Melvin brought with him his younger brother, Thomas. At first they worked for their brother JD at his Piggie Park Restaurant on Dorchester Road. Eventually, Melvin and Thomas decided to open their own BBQ eatery, and in 1961 Piggy Park Drive-In on Savannah Highway opened it's doors. After a decade in business, Melvin and Thomas renamed their establishment “Bessinger’s-The Barbecue Family,” hoping to relieve confusion over ownership of multiple Piggy Park Drive-Ins within the same family. Together Melvin and Thomas co-owned Bessinger’s on Savannah Highway for almost two decades. Although the brothers had worked well together for many years, ultimately they decided it was time to part ways. Thomas maintained ownership of Bessinger’s Barbecue, while Melvin crossed the Cooper River and opened Melvin’s Barbecue in Mount Pleasant, SC in 1982. Melvin’s Barbecue expanded to a second location on James Island in 1984.

Local Sauce, National Acclaim

From the Lowcountry to tables across the USA: David brings Melvin’s original mustard based barbecue sauce to fans everywhere.

The scale of Melvin’s Barbecue grew when Melvin’s son, David Bessinger, became more involved in the business. He added items to the menu like Texas-style brisket and burnt ends. He discontinued using gas-assisted pits and brought back smoking meats over all wood. David developed new recipes for dry rubs, brisket rubs, and sauces, and ventured into the retail world by selling Melvin’s Golden Secret® BBQ Sauce in grocery stores and specialty shops throughout the United States. “I can’t make the sauce in the old farm shed any longer; however, I do stick to the fundamental BBQ sauce traditions that were passed down to me from my granddaddy and father.”

Birth of a Legend


Holly Hill Cafe
Owned & Operated
By Joseph Bessinger
Holly Hill, SC


Eat at Joe's
Co-Owned & Operated
By Joseph & Melvin Besssinger
Holly Hill, SC


Piggie Park Drive-In
Co-owned & Operated
By Melvin & Thomas Bessinger
Savannah Highway


Bessinger's The Family BBQ
Co-Owned & Operated
By Melvin & Thomas Bessinger
Savannah Highway


Melvin's Legendary Barbecue
Co-Owned & Operated
By Melvin & David Bessinger
Mount Pleasant, SC


Melvin's Legendary Barbecue
Co-Owned & Operated
By Melvin & David Bessinger
James Island, SC


The Legend Continues

David Bessinger and Melvin’s have remained a mainstay of the SC Barbecue scene since the beginning, and through it all remains a local favorite.

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