Tis the season…to eat! Since its the season of overindulgence and gluttony, it’s time to share some of my favorite eats in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. The food scene in Greenville is surprisingly bold and international. I love that my hometown is getting on the foodie radar of media outlets like Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, and USA Today. Every time I go home, there’s seems to be a new great place to try.
Up and at ’em!
I go for shrimp and grits anytime but especially love them for breakfast. For years, my mom and I have strolled the Greenville Saturday Market when I’m home so I can get some shrimp and grits from Soby’s on the Side. They are simple – just grits, shrimp and a little bit of gravy. I especially enjoy them sitting in my mom’s courtyard. The Saturday Market is open May-October. Soby’s on the Side is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday and for brunch on Saturday throughout the year.
If you are a juice fan like me, then you have to head over to Southern Pressed Juicery. You can get a dose of healthy here. They are always concocting new sips like the Black Sun Lemonade with charcoal they did for the Solar Eclipse in August (Greenville was in the path of totality).
My favorite spot for brunch is Nose Dive. It’s a lively place in the heart of downtown Greenville. My favorite for brunch is their avocado toast. It’s mashed avocado topped with argula, tomato, and two poached eggs. I add a side of grits. After all, they have a grits bar y’all! Along with great food, you have to add a brunch cocktail. I always go for a classic mimosa.
If the weather is nice, the primo place to dine al fresco is Mary’s Cottage. It’s a charming cottage overlooking Falls Park. Sit out in the garden if it’s a beautiful day or enjoy the view for the balcony on the second floor. You absolutely have to go for one of their specialties – Hot Chicken Salad. It’s white meat chicken with diced celery and onions, and water chestnuts then topped with crunchy fried onions. It’s served with a broccoli salad, biscuit, and a little fruit.
Another favorite for lunch is the small Mediterranean restaurant Green Lettuce. Sip on some Persian tea served in a glass tea cup and savor the flavors of their soup. The chicken and rice soup is chocked full of veggies like squash and cauliflower and herbs. It’s a traditional recipe and served with garlic naan bread with garlic – it will definitely cure what’s ails you!
So, technically not in Greenville, but I love Cafe at Williams Hardware in Travelers Rest. It’s owned by the McCarrell Sisters and they are usually there. Their homemade Tomato and Okra Soup is southern comfort at it’s best. Go for a bowl or pair a cup with a pimento cheese sandwich. A glass of sweet tea is a must.
For lunch, happy hour, or dinner, Willy Taco is great for upscale Mexican food. My mom and I just tried this spot located in the old Feed & Seed. Keep in mind I lived in San Antonio for 10 years and now a taco snob. We went to try the Crispy Avocado Taco written up in Southern Living magazine. It’s worthy of the buzz. It’s tempura battered avocado topped with sweet chili sauce, shaved cabbage, micro greens, toasted sesame seeds, Willy’s house crema, and pico. I added the Crispy Cabo Taco with beer battered cod, Willy’s slaw, cajun remoulade, and pico. Instead of flour tortillas, my mom and I got their corn ones. Plus, we splurged since it was the Thanksgiving holiday and had margaritas with our lunch. This taco snob was thoroughly happy!
When the dinner bell rings
Soby’s has been a long standing favorite. My dad loved going here. If the weather is nice, snag a seat outside so you can people watch on Main Street. They are serving up delicious new Southern cuisine. Start with the Mixed Greens Salad tossed with grilled local apples, Goat Lady chèvre, toasted almonds, and a creamy sunflower seed pesto. My favorite entree is the Seared Mountain Trout served with Carolina Gold rice, snap peas, baby carrots, and an orange fennel emulsion. The salad and trout combo is perfect for my mom and I to split.
Sitting by the window at Rick Erwin’s Nantucket Seafood and watching the ice skaters has become a holiday tradition for my mom and me. Okay, so my mom and I are big fish and vegetable eaters, so yes, we selected trout here too. Nantucket has been voted best seafood restaurant in South Carolina. The food is fantastic and the ambiance is elegant, but sitting by the window watching ice skaters makes for a magical dining experience. We ordered an appetizer, salad and entree to split. We started with the Sweet Corn and Crab Hush Puppies served with a remoulade. I hadn’t had hush puppies in ages and these were sinfully good. For a salad, we selected the Gourmet Greens topped with cranberries, crumbled Clemson bleu cheese, and toasted almonds tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. The Carolina Mountain Trout was served on a bed of creamed corn, drizzled with pesto, and topped with a pecan tapenade. We both cleaned out plates and walked away with a wonderful holiday dinner memory.
When you just want some great southern veggies (or BBQ), Smoke on the Water has you covered. I’m a huge fan of their fried okra and collards. It’s good ole southern comfort food at it’s finest. Their trout is pretty doggone good too!
If you don’t want to do downtown, head over to Stella’s Brassiere. It’s where French cuisine meets Southern cooking. My mom and I have been there twice. Both times we sat outside and both times had a wonderful meal. A must to start a meal is their Happy Cow Buttermilk Okra Frites with sorghum aioli. They’re so good! We were eating light so we just split a salad and small plate. Our salad of choice was the Local Beet Salad served with an arugula pesto, roasted winter squash, shaved radish, brown butter pepitas, and toasted almond vinaigrette. We also split Stella’s Fried Rice with shaved carrots, grilled red onion, soft herbs, field peas, farm egg, charred octopus, and crispy pork belly. It’s very different and a wonderful blend of flavors.
A fairly new player on the foodie scene is Kitchen Sync. For something different that just wine, try their sangria. It’s is a blend of white wine, blackberry brandy, and honey-basil simple syrup steeped with fresh fruit and fresh mint. Being a grits girl, I’m gonna tell you to start with the Gritz Fritz. They’re Hurricane Creek fried grits served with collards and pepper jam. So Southern and so good! When tomatoes are in season, you’ll find the Southern Tomato Pie on the menu. It’s wonderful! Basically it’s tomatoes, cheeses and herbs in a flakey pie crust. It’s served with a spinach salad topped with cashews, parmesan cheese, apples, green onions, and a poppyseed vinaigrette. Save room for dessert. The daily local fruit cobbler special is a wonderful blend of a cinnamon-y crumble, fruit, and vanilla ice cream. It’s devine!
My mom and I have made Augusta Grill a usual go-to when I’m home. It’s our tried and true and it’s always good. It’s good southern cuisine in a cozy setting. Full disclosure – years ago I was a hostess when it was Braden’s Restaurant so there’s a special affinity for Augusta Grill. It’s an Augusta Road area favorite and is almost always busy. So do what I do, go right at 6pm when they open to snag a booth. It’s my favorite early bird special! The menu changes daily and I love that they have a small plates selection. You can’t go wrong with their Shrimp and Grits, any of their salads, Rainbow Trout, or Crab Cake. Their crab cakes bring the crowds on Wednesday nights. The sautéed jumbo lump crab cake is served with beurre blanc and mixed greens. We just had their Buttermilk Fried Sea Scallops with remoulade – fantastic! If you can save a little room for dessert. They are always amazing.
Work off what you eat!
Don’t worry, there are plenty of areas to walk, hike, or bike to work off everything you eat. Visiting the Falls Park on the Reedy is a must on any venture into downtown Greenville. It is a wonderful spot to relax or enjoy strolling along the path. For a great workout, hit the Swamp Rabbit Trail (make a stop at Swamp Rabbit Cafe too!). Make sure to go on the hunt for mice downtown and solve the riddles as you search for the Mice on Main.