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Bessinger, certainly the most famous surname in South Carolina barbecue. Mustard sauce, Piggy Park. Icons of South Carolina history and culture and Bessinger family inventions.
One of fourteen children born to Mack Bessinger, restaurant patriarch Joseph Jacob, was known as ‘Big Joe.’ He moved from the family farm near Orangeburg to open the Holly Hill Café in 1939. There, together with the Sweatman family, he concocted a mustard-based barbecue sauce, owning to their shared German roots. That “Golden Secret,” as the Bessingers call it, became the state’s signature sauce.
Melvin Bessinger, like most of his ten siblings, followed his father into the barbecue business. In 1961, with another brother, Melvin opened his first barbecue restaurant in west Charleston. In the 1990s, Melvin split off to found his own barbecue joint. Today, third-generation barbecue entrepreneur, David Bessinger, maintains the Bessinger family tradition.