At least a dozen barbecue establishments, covering nearly two-thirds of the State’s geography, operate under the Dukes name. Most South Carolinians across the Midlands and Lowlands claim a favorite. So, ask a local for directions to Dukes Bar-B-Que and you’re hazarding a geographic mixup.
Earl Duke founded the original Dukes Bar-B-Que along Whitman Street in downtown Orangeburg. From their the dukedom spread, with family members and others opening locations. The first Dukes eventually passed to Harold Kittrell, formerly a carpenter, and then onto his son, Tony, the present manager/co-owner.
Dukes Bar-B-Que (note, never spelled Duke’s) still stocks a loaded buffet line with sides—green beans, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, slaw, potato salad, pickles, and bread—and the heavy hitters: rice, hash, barbecue chicken, fried chicken, and, of course, chopped shoulder and ham barbecue pork. The standout remains Earl Dukes’ sauce recipe: sweet, ketchup-based, thicker then most, and orange-yellow tinged, giving it a color and viscosity Tony Kittrell deems “rust gravy.”