Unveiling the Secrets of Fork Grove Barbecue: A Journey from Passion to Pitmaster

In Anderson, SC, lies a culinary gem that has captured the taste buds and hearts of locals and visitors. Founded by the passionate pitmaster Dylan Cooke, Fork Grove Barbecue is more than just a restaurant; it’s a journey fueled by a love for wood-fired barbecue and a commitment to delivering unforgettable dining experiences.

In this blog, we delve into the story behind Fork Grove Barbecue, explore the unique dining experience it offers, and uncover the secrets behind its mouthwatering dishes. Listen to our conversation on The Low & Slow Barbecue Show for the complete story.

What is Fork Grove Barbecue?

Fork Grove Barbecue smokehouse in Anderson, SC.
The Fork Grove Barbecue smokehouse in Anderson, SC. Photo from the Fork Grove Barbecue Instagram.

Fork Grove Barbecue is a pit-to-plate, Texas-style barbecue business that serves wood-smoked meats and traditional side dishes. Located in Anderson, SC, Fork Grove is open three days each week, Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., or until sold out.

Menu items include sliced brisket, pulled pork, pork spare ribs, turkey breast, house-made sausage links, bacon burnt ends, and smoked chicken. The diverse list of side items, or “fixins,” features cheesy bacon hashbrowns, potato salad, street corn salad, sweet tangy slaw, and sweet potato crunch. Others include collard greens, sweet mac and cheese, Brunswick stew, and brisket chili. Desserts of the day and other specials vary, and you can buy plates, platters, or meat and sides by quantity.  

Opened in May 2020, the business started when founder Dylan Cooke and his family were at a “fork in the road” of their lives. At the time, Dylan chose to pursue a new career, hoping a symbolic “green grove” would lead to changes for the better.

Origins and Inspiration: From Musician to Pitmaster

Dylan’s journey into the world of barbecue began unexpectedly, taking a detour from his dream of a music career.

Born and raised in Anderson, Dylan’s culinary adventure started with a simple gift from his wife during the COVID-19 pandemic – a big green egg. Inspired by a video showcasing the culture of Texas-style barbecue, Dylan’s passion for smoking meat low and slow ignited, leading him down a path he never anticipated.

With determination and a DIY spirit, Dylan embarked on his barbecue odyssey. He started with humble beginnings and gradually evolved into the acclaimed pitmaster behind Fork Grove Barbecue.

Crafting the Fork Grove Barbecue Experience

At Fork Grove Barbecue, the dining experience transcends beyond the food; it’s about creating memories and connecting with every guest.

As customers enter the restaurant, they are greeted with a warm, inviting atmosphere filled with laughter and camaraderie. The deli-style setup allows guests to customize their meals, akin to “Subway for barbecue.” Meanwhile, the friendly staff adds a touch of showmanship, engaging guests in playful banter and ensuring a memorable visit.

Every detail, from the greeting at the door to the last bite of brisket, is meticulously curated to leave a lasting impression on every guest.

Signature Dishes: Unveiling the Culinary Masterpieces

What sets Fork Grove Barbecue apart is not just its warm hospitality but also its exceptional cuisine.

Each dish is a testament to Dylan’s dedication to his craft, from succulent brisket to tantalizing burnt ends. One of Fork Grove’s signature delights is the “secret sausage,” a creation crafted with the help of a mastermind behind the scenes, Troy Kozlowski.

With innovative flavors and surprises every Saturday, Fork Grove’s sausage creations never fail to delight and captivate patrons. Additionally, the Texas brisket, sticky pork belly burnt ends, and meticulously prepared ribs showcase Dylan’s commitment to elevating traditional barbecue fare to new heights.

Fork Grove Barbecue meat tray with sides.
A Fork Grove Barbecue meat tray. Photo from the Fork Grove Instagram.

Behind the Scenes: The Art of Smoking

Central to Fork Grove Barbecue’s culinary prowess are its four thousand-gallon smokers, a testament to Dylan’s vision and ambition. Each one is dedicated to something different: sausage in one, chicken and ribs in one, brisket in one, and finally, turkey and pork belly in the other.

Preparation begins before dawn, as Dylan and his team fire up the smokers with locally sourced Hickory wood, infusing each dish with a distinctive smoky flavor. Dylan’s innovative approach to smoking, such as his technique for achieving perfectly tender ribs while leaving the membrane intact, reflects his dedication to mastering the art of barbecue.

Despite the early mornings and long hours, Dylan’s passion for his craft shines, ensuring that every dish served at Fork Grove is exceptional.

Four thousand-gallon smokers built by Pig Iron Patina.
Fork Grove Barbecue is powered by four thousand-gallon wood-fired smokers built by Pig Iron Patina. Photo from Instagram.

Embracing Community and Recognition: A Journey of Growth

Since its inception, Fork Grove Barbecue has garnered widespread acclaim and recognition, drawing barbecue enthusiasts from near and far.

From a feature in Texas Monthly by renowned barbecue critic Daniel Vaughn his accolades for the Texas-style trays, Fork Grove’s journey has been remarkable. Yet, amidst the accolades and attention, Dylan remains grounded, prioritizing his community and giving back through charitable endeavors like the 2024 Carolina Barbecue Festival.

Dylan Cooke with Fork Grove accolades from Texas Monthly.
Fork Grove Pitmaster Dylan Cooke with an embossed replica of his recognition in Texas Monthly. Photo from Instagram.

As Fork Grove continues to grow and thrive, Dylan’s commitment to delivering unparalleled dining experiences remains unwavering, ensuring that Fork Grove Barbecue remains a beloved culinary destination.

In conclusion, Fork Grove Barbecue is more than just a restaurant. It is a labor of love, a testament to passion, and a celebration of community. From humble beginnings to a meteoric rise, Fork Grove embodies the spirit of Southern hospitality and culinary excellence.

So, the next time you find yourself near Anderson, SC, visit Fork Grove Barbecue and experience the green grove of goodness for yourself.

About the Author

Smoked meat, barbecue enthusiast, news journalist, and sports radio broadcaster Michael “Chigger” Willard collects a storybook of life captured through the lens of people he encounters. With a perspective seasoned by small town life in the Deep South, he dedicates conversations to uncovering savory nuggets of information, light-hearted moments of humor, and revealing glimpses of humanity.