Generations of Great Taste
Our humble beginnings give METTS BBQ Sauce that authentic flavor and a secret ingredient that delights your taste buds. That secret ingredient is history.
For METTS BBQ Sauce, that history began in the little town of Wagner, South Carolina in 1954 when farmer Clinton Metts and his wife, Thelma, opened a BBQ restaurant to help supplement their income. From the beginning, locals knew that Clinton and Thelma were cooking up something special with their BBQ, which has been loved for generations since.
The restaurant in Wagner was so successful that Thelma soon quit her job at the nearby Sunbeam bakery to bake cakes and pies at the restaurant. The couple ran their restaurant in Wagner for ten years before moving to Bamberg, about thirty minutes away, and opening the restaurant there.
Unfortunately, Clinton passed away only a year after the move to Bamberg. At that time, the second generation took over when Clinton and Thelma’s daughter Madelyn and her husband, Otto Morrell, stepped in to help Thelma with the restaurant.
The meat was originally cooked over wood in an outdoor pit all night long before being served. As the restaurant became more popular, the Metts family modernized their operation, moving the cooking from the outdoor pit and back porch to cooking on a gas grill in a new building, where Otto would cook the meat slowly for 10 hours. The restaurant was then serving take-out as well as in the restaurant on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
One of the ways METTS BBQ was different than other local BBQ was that the sauce was always mixed with the meat, never just poured over it. This was something that customers always loved. In addition to the basic barbecued pork, METTS BBQ sauce was also served on ribs and chicken in the restaurant.
In the beginning, the sauce recipe was developed by Thelma, who never used precise measurements. She would say “I put 5 rounds of pepper in it”. This meant the amount of pepper used was the amount that came out when 5 circles were made over the pot while pouring it. In the early days the sauce was made in a 5-gallon bucket and mixed by hand but always turned out perfectly.
In 1976, daughter Madelyn turned over the restaurant to her brother, Clinton Jr., and his wife, Kathy, who ran the it until 1984. However, the delicious legacy of METTS BBQ sauce did not stop with the closing of the restaurant. Madelyn and her husband, Otto Morrell, continued to share the tasty sauce through fundraising events for which Otto became known for.
When Otto and Madelyn’s oldest daughter, Carol, was in the band in high school, Otto was asked to cook BBQ chickens to sell as a fundraiser to raise money for the band’s bus. This began the METTS BBQ chicken fundraisers that started in 1968 and continued until 2004. During those 36 years, it is estimated that a total of 75,000 chicken halves were cooked and covered with METTS BBQ sauce. In addition to the school fundraisers, chickens were cooked for special caterings, churches, and fundraising drives for the needy or sick in the community.
So, for more than 60 years, people in the Lowcountry of South Carolina have been enjoying METTS BBQ sauce on pork, beef, and chicken. Clinton and Thelma’s great grandson, Hank Maxwell, is carrying on the METTS BBQ heritage through this undeniably flavorful sauce. A lot of things have changed in six decades, but the sauce is still the same. It’s still made with family love and kindness that somehow makes the world taste and feel a little bit better.
Otto used to say, “This sauce is so good I could eat it on a piece of white bread.” No matter what you eat it on (and it tastes great on pretty much anything), we’re sure that you’ll enjoy METTS BBQ Sauce as much as we have for generations.