Two giant jade-colored lions sit watch at the front door of newly opened King BBQ (2029 Carver Avenue, North Charleston). Chef Shuai Wang’s family shipped the massive 500-pound statues to the restaurant direct from China. “We purchased a pair of small replica lions off of Amazon,” says co-owner Corrie Wang, “But Shuai’s dad said ‘no’ to that.”
After a year of popping up around Charleston with their idea for Chinese barbecue with a Carolinas influence, Shuai and Corrie (co-owners of Jackrabbit Filly) along with chef/pitmaster Brandon Olson officially opened King BBQ to the public on Sunday, October 8. The menu centers on smoked meats — five-spice duck, char siu ribs, ginger scallion kielbasa, and rotisserie chicken — and all the ways to serve those proteins — on a sandwich, rice, or noodles. For the Southern flavors, look to the starters and sides, like crispy okra, soy-braised collards, and a crunchy salad with barbecue ranch dressing.
“We’re happy to bring Chinese-style barbecue to Charleston,” says Shuai, “It’s not at all authentic in any way, but I think that’s what we are known for — quirky, fun, delicious food and cocktails. We’re just very excited to invite people into the restaurant.”
The Wangs make no secret on social media that this project has been an arduous one — sleepless nights, tedious DIY projects (they strung the thousands of red tassels that hang in the hallway), learning how to install wallpaper on the fly, and clearing out their bank accounts. Many of the details in the dining room are good luck objects meant to bring wealth and prosperity, like the oversized cabbage sculpture at the host stand, the red lanterns on the ceilings, and the green booths, but the Wangs say it is important to keep the food at King BBQ affordable.
“It’s been equally stressful and equally rewarding to take this old abandoned building and turn it into something that’s beautiful and provide somewhere for people in the neighborhood to go,” says Shuai, “When we were thinking about this restaurant, we kept the neighborhood in mind and knew we didn’t want people to pay an arm and a leg for cocktails and food. Everyone can enjoy it.” Customers looking for a deal can order a hash plate or sandwich for $12. Most menu items are under $20, which is becoming a rare feat in the Charleston food and beverage scene.
Currently, King BBQ is open Thursdays through Mondays, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. There are plans to expand into lunch in the future.