Tasting the world’s best ribs at JB’s Smokeshack

Published on: February 28, 2015 | Last Updated on July 30, 2018
World's Best Pork Ribs

JBs Smokeshack is a local institution among barbecue lovers in the Charleston area.

The beckoning sign at JB's Smokeshack

The beckoning sign at JB’s Smokeshack

There was something disarming about our epic road trip down South that made us throw caution out the car window. Healthy or not, calorific or not, we always seemed to have our eyes out for the next barbecue joint down the road.

We were staying at a rental house on Johns Island, an island outside of Charleston that is the fourth largest island on the east coast and home to the Angel Oak tree. After settling in for a few weeks and starting to tour the area, we had passed a red shack on Maybank Highway several times (with incredible self-restraint.) But we ultimately succumbed on a rainy day that offered a perfect excuse for taking another shot at down-home cooking.

Exterior of JB's, once a home

Exterior of JB’s, once a home

All the pickup trucks in the parking lot attest to the popularity of JB’s Smokeshack. At lunch, a steady stream of locals pile in for the all-you-can eat buffet, loading their plates mile-high with what looked to us like enough food to last a week. After they finally get to the bottom, they return for refills. The patrons dressed in denim looked like laborers; others in camouflage may have been hunters.

The rules at JB’s Smokeshack are simple:

  • Cash only
  • Serve yourself
  • No alcohol

JB’s also has a story. After taking a stab at backyard barbecues for friends and family, Billy Quinn has been cooking in this little red house off the side of the road for the past 13 years. The place is only open Wednesdays through Saturdays. Billy explained that he shops on Mondays, cooks on Tuesdays and sets aside Sundays for his family.

Displayed on the counters are the numerous trophies he’s won in barbecue competitions across the country. The décor is pig-heavy, something we also noticed at other roadside barbecue establishments.

Some of the pigs on display

Some of the pigs on display

The tables have red-and-white gingham tablecloths, and the walls are painted yellow on top and red on the bottom framing the green curtains. There are five different types of sauces, ketchup and a roll of paper towels on top of each table.

One side of the L-shaped buffet

One side of the L-shaped buffet next to the serve-yourself Sweet Tea

As you enter, Billy waits at the counter opposite the door and takes your order. Every other patron we saw that day came for the buffet. When we ordered hickory-smoked ribs and a pulled pork sandwich with onion rings, Billy looked at us as if we should have known better.

Billy Quinn

Billy Quinn

But those ribs didn’t disappoint. They had been smoked for 14 hours and were the meatiest, juiciest, most tender, lip-smacking good ribs we had ever tasted.

World's Best Pork Ribs

World’s Best Pork Ribs

The pulled pork was cooked eastern North Carolina-style, prepared with vinegar and pepper without any tomatoes. To our palate, it needed some fixins’. Looking for more rules or instructions, we asked Billy which sauce to use for what.

Pulled pork and onion rings

Pulled pork sandwich with onion rings

“Who am I to tell you how to eat it?” Billy replied.

I guess JB’s slogan on the wall covers that base: The flavors in the meat. The sauce is on the side. 

Bottom Line: We’ll be back next time we’re in the area!


  • JB’s Smokeshack is located at 3406 Maybank Highway on Johns Island. It’s a perfect place to stop for lunch before or after a visit to the Angel Oak Tree.
  • Lunch is served between 11AM and 4PM and dinner from 5PM to 8:30PM.
  • The cost of the buffet is $9.75 per person, including tax and all-you-can-drink sweet tea—unless you dare to order from the menu. The 1/4 rack of ribs was $5.99.
Part of the Exterior Decor

Part of the Exterior Decor

This post is part of a LinkUp to Noel Morata’s Travel Photo Discovery.

  • Reply
    February 28, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    The charms of Carolina-style vinegarcue have always escaped me, which is sad because I am going to retire to the Durham area and there is a place called Allen & Sons down the street from my sister’s that’s supposed to be legendary. This place looks like a find, but scrolling through the photos on the web site, I could swear comedian and podcaster Marc Maron is in one of them, enjoying a meal with a guy who’s a dead ringer for J.K. Simmons.

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    February 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm


    We visited Ole Time Barbecue in the Raleigh Durham area, which was great fun, too! I’ll be posting about that soon:-)

    Best, irene

  • Reply
    Lisa Richardson
    February 28, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    YUM! And nicely shared.

  • Reply
    March 1, 2015 at 1:29 am

    How many people does that tiny place seat? What a neat “down home” experience for you!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 1, 2015 at 10:56 am

      There aren’t more than about 10 small tables.

      • Reply
        March 1, 2015 at 11:16 am

        Good thing you got in before all the regulars piled in! Can you imagine a wait there 🙂 ?

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    March 1, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    You have to know a place the locals flock to will be good. I’m not a huge fan of barbecue, but enjoy it on occasion. The ribs look great. I love that he started with the backyard barbecue.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 1, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      Billy told us that during the summer season, when there are lots of tourists, lines go out the door!

  • Reply
    Patti Morrow
    March 1, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    JB’s Smokeshack looks like a colorful and quirky place. I really loved Billy’s answer to your question!

  • Reply
    Susan McKee
    March 1, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Dunno if I could enjoy ribs without a beer at hand, but if I’m in Charleston, I’m willing to give it a try!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 1, 2015 at 11:26 pm

      Maybe that’s why he does so much takeout business:-)

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    March 1, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Love these little hole in the wall joints. You want to always look in the parking lot for trucks! I could’ve torn up my monitor for a taste of those onion rings, and I definitely would’ve opted for the buffet. Yum!

  • Reply
    Susan Moore
    March 2, 2015 at 12:25 am

    In Texas the barbecue is all about the beef – but I don’t eat beef! Pork ribs are my choice and JBs ribs look delicious!

  • Reply
    Paula McInerney
    March 2, 2015 at 12:45 am

    “All the pickup trucks in the parking lot” – I love it. I think that in Australia, our BBQ’s are very different to yours, and I would love to have this quintessential experience 🙂

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 2, 2015 at 8:05 am

      You’ve piqued my curiosity about Australian BBQs:-)!

  • Reply
    March 2, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I love ribs, and those look like you’d want to go back for more.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    March 2, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    I wonder if the no alcohol rule is because in South Carolina, I think most of the pick ups have gun racks. We once went on a cruise that started in Charleston. We were the only people at our assigned dinner table who didn’t own any guns—and voted for Obama.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    March 2, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    OMG, I’ve already eaten lunch, and would I like to be able to head over to JB’s right now!

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    March 2, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Looks great! Love some good BBQ.

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 2:25 am

    JB’s sounds like one of those great places you find on a road trip, and those ribs look so good. We were in Charleston a couple years ago, and the food was amazing.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 4, 2015 at 9:19 am

      The city has really become an epicenter for food lovers and chefs!

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    March 4, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Oh another post of yours that makes me think, “This is our kind of place!” Loved your reference to throwing caution out the window as we did the same in Hawaii last month (evidenced by my post last week) and now as I eat celery sticks and yogurt instead of French fries and cinnamon rolls, I am still happy that I allowed myself a bit of food fancy!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Sometimes, it’s good to indulge…:-) I had yogurt for lunch today too!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    You know what a huge foodie I am, Irene. Yet ironically, I’m not a big fan of bbq sauce. Just the sauce itself. I don’t really know why. Now as far as the ribs and pulled pork sandwiches…yes pullleeezze! Just put my sauce on the side. Delicious post 🙂

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    March 4, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Love the pigs! And barbecue ribs… and onion rings… Mmmm!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Stavert
    March 4, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    I think I saw this on the Food Network! Excellent review and I should have read this AFTER dinner. Now I am starving!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      Seemed like the kind of place that Guy Fieri might feature, Suzanne!

  • Reply
    Kay Dougherty
    March 5, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I used to never eat ribs because it’s so much mess for so little meat but recently a friend’s husband made some that caused me to change my mind! The ones in your picture look fabulous! The sandwich… not so much – looks dry and overcooked to my Yankee mind! I really like their sign – please tell them so! 🙂

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 5, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      These were meat-y! And I will try to find my way back to let Billy know you like the sign:-)i

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    March 5, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    My imagination is working overtime looking at those delicious ribs. Totally hungry here and now I’m thinking I won’t be satisfied with anything that’s in the house. Looks like a must-do in Charleston. Wish I had known that when I was there a couple of years ago!

  • Reply
    March 7, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    We are big ‘que fans and frequently look for great BBQ on the road. I want to hit the brisket at Franklin BBQ in Austin it’s legendary. Those ribs as JBs sure look good!

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