Tour Through Greenville, SC's Food Gems
So, here's a story from A-to-Z, you wanna eat through Greenville, you gotta listen carefully...
Finding something deliciously memorable to eat in Greenville, SC is as easy as A, B, C, but if you need some inspiration, let our sequential saunter around our space be your guide. From acidic to buttery to crispy, delicious, effervescent, fresh, gooey and beyond, we've got some of the savoriest spreads, sips, and spots — one for each letter of the alphabet — you'll find here! Follow along on Instagram at @VisitGreenvilleSC, catch up below, and see how many letters you can devour in a single visit to #yeahTHATgreenville!
Greenville's first and only Afghan restaurant, Aryana has been serving the community for more than 20 years with recipes passed down from owner Nelofar Mayar's family. Aryana's focus is on fresh, healthy ingredients enhanced by a mouth-watering, eye-popping blend of spices. As of mid-June 2020, Aryana is only offering drive-thru and curbside service, but you'll get the full Afghan culinary experience once your to-go box fills your vehicle with the aroma distinct to Aryana's freshness and spices. You'll want to speed your way to wherever you're heading to chow down, but we implore you to abide by all road laws so you can safely get to a non-moving venue so you can truly enjoy the treasure you've just secured.
Trust us, it's worth the wait. Actually, don't take our word for it. Pull up any review site and you'll see piles and piles of 5-star reviews, lauding the culinary exploits of this international downtown Greenville gem. Here's just a sample:
"...the food is consistently phenomenal."
"It's always a surprise, so you learn so much about different foods."
"Everything is excellently prepared and tastes utterly delicious. ... a downtown highlight not to be missed."
"I fell in love with the people, the food, & the land during my deployments to Saudi Arabia, Iraq & Oman; it's refreshing to taste the food I still long for."
Yep, that'll catch you right in the feels. While we don't know what Aryana's future plans are in terms of returning to the cafeteria-style lunches and dinner menu that are put together with seasonality in mind, but we know that to-stay or to-go, Aryana is worth the trip alone. Pack your bags, because like their website says, "Every plate becomes a culinary journey."
Sabor Latin Street Grill brings the flavors of El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and more Central and South American countries to one delicious menu. Independently owned, Greenville's iteration of this Charlotte, NC original opened its doors in late 2019 and is the first and only version to exist outside of North Carolina. We're truly honored and grateful because, well, you'll just to come taste and see for yourself.
If you're a first-timer, we highly recommend going for the barbacoa in any which way — quesadillas, tacos, bowls, whatever you can dream up. For the uninitiated, barbacoa is merely a method of cooking meat and not a specific meat itself. Barbacoa is traditionally performed with beef, sheep or goat, but the term has become synonymous with beef, so when you order barbacoa — which is the term from which "barbecue" derives — at Sabor, you're getting beautifully succulent, tender beef.
Combine it with an array of fresh ingredients and you'll swear you've been transported to the streets of South and Central America. Key word: streets. With Sabor's goal of delivering "the freshest, most delicious food that takes you south of the border where the best cuisine is experienced in the streets," you've gotta make sure to combine their barbacoa with a street food classic or perhaps something you haven't tried before. Pick up a barepa arepas, featuring barbacoa with curtido slaw and slice avocado, or opt for the barbacoa empanada — a fried pastry filled with cheese to accompany the generous portion of barbacoa inside. Both are perfectly portable to please the palate on a parkway or any passage made of pavement. Oops, looks like we're getting ahead of ourselves with the letter "P" here. We'll save that for later.
For now, find a way to enjoy the bountiful barboacoa brilliance of the beautiful business our letter "B" belongs to.
C is for Candy Barrels at Mast General Store
A stop at Mast General Store in One City Plaza is a stop back in time, especially when you make your way to the candy area and spy the wonderland of sweet treats on display, just prime for the taking by the bagful. Mast General Store takes the present and combines it with touches that harken back to old general stores, and that's no more apparent than with the section of Candy Barrels.
These candy kegs add a nostalgia that only a few others in downtown Greenville offer and they're filled with all the candy you'd expect to find in grandma's candy jar. Grab a bag and bulk up on old favorites like root beer barrels, vanilla bullseyes, Bit-O-Honey, Charleston Chew, Smarties and more.
Mast General is taking strong precautions in preventing the spread of COVID-19, including face coverings for employees and recommending them for customers, increased cleaning and sanitizing, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the store, so you can shop with confidence.
This nostalgic trip to Candy Land is a sure way to see some sweet smiles during your trip to Greenville!
D is for Drooling Over Donut Dishes from HenDough
Why did the chicken cross the state line? To bring Greenville, SC the one-stop chicken-and-donuts shop we didn't know we needed! Originating in Hendersonville, NC and open for breakfast and lunch at Gather, HenDough offers plenty of traditional fare with their own twist. Before we get you drooling with those highlights, a bit more about HenDough came to be would be appropriate.
Owners Paul and Sarah met as chefs working at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The pair eventually married and settled just over the state line with North Carolina in Hendersonville. They worked at upscale establishments for most of their careers and when it came time to set out on their own with a restaurant venture, they wanted something much more approachable. And what's more approachable than chicken and donuts? You put the two together and we will definitely approach! Fair warning.
Approachable doesn't mean "low quality," by the way. Paul and Sarah maintain extremely high quality standards while spreading the word of the unconventional pairing of chicken and donuts to the lines that form outside Gather. Hendersonville responded with overwhelming support when citizens witnessed the hole-y matrimony of chicken and donuts, which gave Paul and Sarah the idea to expand. And who got so lucky to be able to boast its second location? That's right — THAT Greenville.
So, what can you expect? The unexpected, of course! We recommend all of it, but especially anything that combines their soft and sweet donuts with the savory unctuousness of meat, like the Donut Breakfast Sandwich that combines eggs, American cheese, bacon and sausage between a glazed donut. Or opt for their take on Eggs in a Basket, which drops two eggs into a donut basket, which then gets topped with fried chicken and bacon, which then gets drizzled with jalapeño maple syrup.
Only want one or the other in a creative way? Give Donut French toast a try. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's almost like we should have just saved HenDough for "G" for "grateful."
Greenville, SC's vast culinary scene gets a lot of press, and for good reason. But while the delicious pimento cheese and the infamous shrimp and grits get much of the attention, our booming international scene is a favorite among locals. Enter Pupuseria Mister — a gem hidden in plain sight. From the outside, Pupuseria Mister resembles a convenience without the gas pumps. That's because, well, it kinda-sorta is.
Inside, you'll find a supermarket with all kinds of international ingredients, stocked to the ceiling on shelves — a classic bodega. But what you really want to look for is the area where staff is taking those ingredients and combining them in the most traditional, palate-pleasing ways. Featuring the cuisine of El Salvador, this spot outside downtown is worthy of being featured on any television show that highlights authentic international hidden gems in unexpected places (looking at you, Guy Fieri 😎).
The star of this show is the pupusa — a menu option so popular and so good, it's the national dish of El Salvador. For the uninitiated, think fluffy flatbread with any combination of meat, cheese, beans, and veggies you can dream up. It's hard to imagine anything better, but when you realize this filling meal will set you back only a couple of bucks, you'll be tailgating in the parking lot in anticipation of the doors opening. An extremely economical $4 gets you two of these fluffy, pillowy dreams to send to your stomach.
But don't stop there. The pupusa may be the "American-as-apple-pie" of El Salvador, but there are plenty more options to expose you to a truly exquisite culinary culture. Give a baliada — think a large flour tortilla, filled with goodies and folded — or the ox tail soup a try. Lean into more familiar fare with an empanada, tacos, or tamales. You can even enjoy a selection of Central and South American beers with your meal. And for the hot heads out there, you're gonna want to test your mettle with their special flaming hot sauce one online reviewer simply described as "no joke." 🔥
Since we're being all serious, we'll let another reviewer's thoughts put a nice, fluffy wrap on this story: "What an incredibly perfect lunch, dinner, snack, little bit of heaven."
F is for Filafel from Pita House
Those in-the-know may not be thrilled that we keep making this gem not-so-hidden, but Pita House is a secret that should be shared. With Middle Eastern food made fresh daily, it's no wonder why locals and visitors alike flock to this family-owned falafel phenom. Founded more than 30 years ago by the Namouz brothers after emigrating from Nazareth in Israel, Pita House literally got its start at street level as the brothers pounded the pavement, handing out flyers to the businesses around the restaurant in those early days. That personal touch paid off as workers nearby needed a quick lunch spot and appreciated the relationships the brothers build with everyone who walks in the door. You may walk in a stranger, but you won't leave one.
Pita House has enjoyed a massive growth since it opened in 1989, but you won't find any departure from the principles and philosophies of their early days: The restaurant is cash-only; Everything is made fresh and on-site, including 1,000+ pitas per day; They're family-owned and family-operated to the letter, which includes the occasional brotherly argument or two from time to time.
One thing that can't be argued, however, is the quality of the food. The Middle Eastern fare is enjoyed by locals who literally make weekly trips here. People who have moved away still dream of the tastes you can only find at Pita House. Seriously, look at the comments on our post.
But let's finally get to the falafel! Our friends at Off The Grid Greenville got the scoop on how Pita House made this traditional Middle Eastern hit their own. When Pita House first opened, they served it in the traditional Israeli way: inside a pita. But the number of requests to deconstruct falafel and pita and just place them in harmony on a plate were too great to ignore, so they just went with it. So far after 30 years? No complaints from the fixture of feverish fanatics who flip for this falafel.
G is for Gelato Cocktails from Luna Rosa Café
Go gaga for gelato? Crave a craft cocktail on occasion? Satisfy both at Luna Rosa Café with their groundbreaking menu of gelato cocktails. The video says it all, but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out Luna Rosa's gelato is fresh-made in-house and the gelato cocktail menu offerings have the bar's resident gelatocktailists (that's not a real word, but we're going with it) creating something that'll have you saying, "We need to go back to Greenville again!" as soon as your trip is done. Luna Rosa's set menu of drinks that fuse the world of gelato with the wonder of craft cocktails is heavenly, but if you want to take it to another level, try this instead: ask to see a gelato menu (or pull it right up on your phone by scanning the nearby QR code) and choose a flavor that piques your palate. With only that information and maybe an alcohol preference or two, one of Luna Rosa's gelatocktailists (really, gotta insist, this should be a word!) will make something completely custom, right on the spot, based on the flavor profile you chose. We guarantee whatever they whip up will have you tapping your gela-toes in excitement!
Drive by Distinct Cider Room and you might just mistake it for a gym. That's because, well, it is. Inside a corner of Distinct Fitness lies the cider room, both of which are owned by husband-and-wife team Derrick and Heather Cannon, who we must tell you are fixtures behind the bar when the cider room is open and two of the nicest, most welcoming people you're likely to come across during your visit — and that's saying something considering Greenville has been recognized as one of the friendliest destinations in the South!
Derrick has a passion for hard cider and figured, why not carve a niche in Greenville, as well as in his gym, to feature the oft-overlooked adult beverage? More than two years later and this passion project has Greenville's cider lovers flocking to pay homage. Due to South Carolina law, Distinct isn't able to brew its own cider, but don't let that turn you away. Derrick and Heather travel often to sample ciders and bring the best back to the cider room. Their offerings are always changing, whether those on-tap or in the cooler, and are guaranteed to wake you up to what hard cider really can be.
Any opportunity attend one of their cider and donut pairings is a must-do, so if you're lucky, your visit will align with one of these unique, tasty events that should really be a local holiday. Derrick creates the pairing lists himself with donuts made by Swamp Fox Donuts (um, Derrick, we're interested in assisting with the research on this so, give us a shout!). If you're really lucky, maybe you'll pop in when MzG's Mac n Chz is in the house with her soon-to-be world famous mac-and-cheese featuring a complete array of topping options. Throw in the occasional food truck and nights by the fire pit and this is a gem not to be missed. Following Distinct Cider Room on social media is the best way to find out when the cider room is open as they do not have set hours and days, but when you find a day and time that fits your schedule, you can be sure you'll have a distinctly delicious time.
I is for Innovative Ice Cream at Molly and Myles
Take your favorite breakfast cereals, some of the best ice cream in the country, superheroes, Pez dispensers, toilet seats, and a couple of very open minds, toss it all in a blender and the result is one of TODAY Show's "Absolute Best Ice Cream Shops in America" and one of Buzzfeed's "25 Places Cereal Lovers Should Visit Before They Die" — Molly and Myles Ice Cream!
Doors opened in Greenville in 2018 when owner and founder Nicole O'Brien, and restauranteur husband Steve, relocated here after falling in love with the area. The fact that they turned our ice cream scene on its head shouldn't be a surprise. Steve did the same thing with burgers in Chicago with his Brgr Belly restaurant that has made every imaginable, credible list of best burgers in every imaginable geographic category.
It starts with the philosophy. They seeing their businesses as science labs in back and experiences in front. They prefer to try something and say, "Oops," rather than not and wonder "What if we had...". Nicole, previously a school teacher, came up with the concept of Molly and Myles and opened the original in Chicago. In her lab, this mad scientist wondered if cereal could be paired with ice cream in a creative, delicious way. So, she did. That's how it works here.
The shop's interior was designed by Molly and Myles, the shop's namesakes and Steve and Nicole's kids, and their friends, so when you stop by and see a wall decorated with toilet seats, another featuring a large and loud comic book mural, a collection of Pez dispensers, and superheroes everywhere, just marvel at the creativity of these kiddos. It's what you would expect from a place where the job application is literally a blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons. We're not kidding — best application ever! In May, Nicole opened a second location on Augusta St., a convenient drive from downtown. We're completely cereal when we tell you to put this innovative ice cream experience atop of your #yeahTHATgreenville culinary itinerary!
J is for James Beard Nominees
It's no secret that Greenville, SC is a sleeper destination in the nation's culinary scene that has any and all visitors waking up to the many talents of the many culinarians in our area. Perhaps there's no greater recognition of that awakening than the James Beard Foundation's annual awards, among the culinary industry's top honors, featuring four restaurant and chef nominees from Greenville in three of the last four years — all four nominees obsessive over local, sustainable, seasonal products. It started in 2017 with The Anchorage, a neighborhood small plates restaurant packing big flavor into local produce and more, receiving a semifinalist spot for Best New Restaurant. A year later, executive chef Jon Buck of Husk became a semifinalist for Best New Chef - Southeast.
Earlier this year, new kids on the block Oak Hill Café and Topsoil Kitchen and Market earned semifinalist nods — Oak Hill Café for Best New Restaurant while Topsoil's chef Adam Cooke earned recognition in the Best New Chef - Southeast category.
Oak Hill Café grows much of its own food on site, has visions of becoming a zero-waste restaurant one day, and boasts the brains of Furman environmental sciences lab manager Lori Nelsen working right beside chef David Porras to ensure bountiful and responsible growing processes.
Cooke, meanwhile, is a fixture at local farms including the team's own, Topsoil Farm, which was established in 2018. Along with produce, Topsoil is known for freshly baked breads made every day, and yes, we did just hear your inner carb junkie "squee!" from here.
We're hard-pressed to think of four better reasons to visit with a suitcase full of elastic pants.
If taking you from "James Beard Award Nominees" to "Kettle Corn" isn't a reason to rest our case on #yeahTHATgreenville's wide spectrum of culinary delights, well, we don't know what will convince you. Either way, we're continuing on because if there was an industry award for popcorn, Poppington's Popcorn would win every year with no doubt in our minds. ... Is there an industry award for popcorn? If not, there should be, because this Greenville staple shop on Main Street is more than deserving of whatever honors could be given for consistently making the most mouth-watering, innovative popcorn anywhere. Since we're on the letter K, we'll be touting the sweet, savory deliciousness of their Kettle Corn, but we promise you that you'll want to sample much more on the menu. The number and selection of cheese selections alone are enough to want us to stop typing now and return with orange, cheesy fingers. If cheese isn't your thing, first of all, we're sorry to hear that; second of all, there are plenty of other flavor options, from traditional caramel and chocolate concoctions to havarti dill pickle, jalapeño popper spicy, Asian spice Sriracha, cotton candy, and trust us, so much more. They even have "pup"-corn for your dog!
But on to kettle corn, which Poppington's pops to perfection. Sure, you can get the traditional flavor that'll take you right back to the county fair, but take it to the next level at Poppington's. There's no need for an occasion to get some birthday cake kettle corn. Try some with a hint of cinnamon. Get bold with a lemon chiffon and chocolate combo. For re-opening last month, they even featured a chocolate kettle corn they called USA Strong, drizzled with red and blue melted chocolate. Seriously, why are you not here yet? Pop on over, grab a bucket or 20 of Poppington's Popcorn, and enjoy your favorite movies at an appropriate social distance from the comfort of your hotel or living room.
L is for Lavender Love Chocolates from LaRue Fine Chocolate
Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called... the letter "L" in our #GVLAtoZ food tour around #yeahTHATgreenville, and we're going to do that by honoring a color fit for a Prince.
So, let's go crazy over Greenville, SC's booming fine chocolate scene, particularly at LaRue Fine Chocolate, which opened its Poe West doors seemingly just in time to close them back up when COVID-19 prompted initial restrictions to prevent the spread. But are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh, no — let's go (get some chocolate while wearing a mask and remaining at a safe and responsible social distance from others)!
LaRue got its start in Elizabeth McDaniel's home kitchen, where she explored a hobby of chocolate-making with her niece. A fine wine sales representative for more than a decade, success was not sparse in her career. The only thing missing was a touch of sweetness, so once she realized that she might be pretty good at this hobby of hers, she left wine behind and went to school for a more official education in the art of making fine chocolate.
Thank goodness for that, because we all benefit from this career change with La Rue Fine Chocolate in our lives. Owned by McDaniel, who became a graduate of Ecole Chocolat and earned her Professional Chocolatier certificate with honors and also achieved the rank of Maitre Chocolatier, LaRue is named after McDaniel's mother, Dora LaRue Smith Logan. Dora served in the Army and raised four boys before giving birth to Elizabeth at age 40. The name is an homage, but also symbol of strength, which is on display in the chocolate game Dora's daughter brought to Greenville.
The chocolate offerings at LaRue are far too plentiful to list out here, but suffice to say, there's a treat for every taste. Today, we're putting a purple spotlight on the Lavender Love and we're gonna get out of the way to simply present the description on LaRue's website: "lavender and honey milk chocolate enrobed in dark chocolate." Such sultry words give us life. Electric word: life — it means forever and that's a mighty long time, which is how long we hope LaRue keeps changing the chocolate game around here. 💜
M is for "Monstrous Milkshakes at Grill Mark's and LTO Burger Bar"
We've hit a sweet spot in our tour as we highlighted some kickin' kettlecorn and lovely lavender chocolate, but take heed because we're about to move into a maniacal municipality ruled by two #yeahTHATgreenville masters of melty mixes. Welcome to the land of the monstrous milkshakes of Grill Mark's and LTO Burger Bar!
If burgers and fries are your thing, try them both to crown a king, but save room for dessert, because you're going to need all you can get with the mammoths on these menus. At Grill Mark's, you'll face the Freakshakes; at LTO, the Shake Your Booty Milkshakes, a name that belies nothing of their true size. Within the descriptions is where you'll learn of the magnitude manufactured in the minds of these mad, mad malt-makers.
You might creepy-crawl to the Cookies and Cream Dirt Freakshake at Grill Mark's — a shake that starts with a cookies-n-cream base that receives an opulent overflow of Oreo crumbles before a scoop of vanilla ice cream tops it all and a gaggle of gelatinous gummy worms garnish the garish gargantuan.
Meanwhile, the mischievous makers at LTO work like the devilish descendants of Dr. Frankenstein as they develop dessert duality through the commingling of confections. Its signature shake, the Stone Cold Sally, starts by pairing a peanut butter milkshake base with Fruity Pebbles squares — we know, but just trust us (insert evil laugh here). Next, Bugles — yes, Bugles, as-in the corn snack, please stop running away — are added before a scattering of Butterfinger crumbles rain down from the heavens to help give this Sally some soul. The creation is complete when the food that will outlive us all, the Twinkie, takes its place on top, providing the spark to shake Sally into sentience.
These faces of frightful delight are not uncommon — just make sure to share yours with us. Both Grill Mark's locations (Main Street and Haywood Mall) are open and serving; follow @ltoburgersandbar for the latest on LTO's return.
Greenville's food scene has some of the best players in the culinary game, but today, we're highlighting a Cinderella story — outta nowhere — from Topgolf.
Open just more than a year in #yeahTHATgreenville, Topgolf has proven popular among residents and visitors alike, and while you may immediately think "fore!" and not "food!" when its name is mentioned, we advise you to take a mulligan and reconsider. Topgolf's menu is gold-jacket-worthy when it comes to taking a Happy Gilmore step-up approach to smashing previous notions of American classics. Deciding what to get might be the biggest challenge of a visit. Maybe you'll may want a hamburger — no, a cheeseburger. Maybe you want a hotdog or a milkshake. But worry not: you won't be getting nothing and told to like it. From the warm pretzel bites with beer cheese to the cheesy macaroni bites to the brisket grilled cheese (OK, OK, we may have a cheese issue), anything you order — with or without cheese — will have you fist-pumping like Tiger on a Sunday.
While the front nine and the main course are gimmes, the finishing hole is where champions live, and these beauties will have you wishing you had enough to fill the Ryder Cup. Tee up the injectable donut holes for your group and you'll be atop the leaderboard with your friends as these crowd-pleasers arrive at the table. The cinnamon-sugar-sprinkled donut holes are aces on their own, but the syringes full of injectable filling will bring you to total consciousness, so you'll have that going for you, which is nice. Choose two of three possibilities — chocolate sauce, raspberry jelly and Bavarian cream — and fill these tiny, tasty Titleists to overflowing before getting lost in the fescue of their flavor.
And as they transport you to tranquility, remember what the Zen philosopher, Basho, once wrote: "A flute with no holes is not a flute; a donut with no hole is a Danish." Gunga-lagunga.
O is for "Opportunity Opens for Chocolatier to Operate Original Donut Shop"
The last in our five-letter streak of spotlighting sweet spots is next, so join us as we complete our #GVLAtoZ sugary stretch.
It's rare when we mention Vincent Caradonna without going into great detail about what this Master Chocolatier has accomplished at such a young age or how lucky #yeahTHATgreenville is to have him and his fine pastry and chocolate shop — Le Petit Croissant — on Main Street in downtown.
But today, we're outlining the all-new operation Caradonna just opened — Origami Donut. No stranger to developing delicious delectations from dough, this pastry prestidigitator drifted to donuts when he just couldn't find anything in Greenville that matched his memory of this morning munchie from his time working in New York or Las Vegas, according to Fox Carolina. That's when Le Petit Croissant became "Lab" Petit Croissant as the sweet scientist started experimenting to see if he could satisfy his craving himself.
Recipe after recipe he tried, and when the native of France finally took that first right bite, he knew he nailed it. Folding dough over and over created a consistency in a finished product that wasn't too crumbly, heavy or oily. This is where the reference to the traditional Japanese art of folding paper into representational shapes came from, but it also refers to Caradonna's time spent unfolding donut recipes until he had what he kneaded. So perfect was this pastry that he opened a separate location where it could be the solo star. Origami Donut opened in mid-May at 104 S. Poinsett Hwy in Travelers Rest and has been glazed by praise ever since.
The shop is just 200 square feet and set up for quick service with only a couple of counter chairs and some outdoor space to enjoy, so nothing takes away from the frosted focus. For now, Origami is only open Friday-Sunday, featuring donuts made by Caradonna each morning. Once that day's batch sells out, the doors close, so secure your spot early to get this tasty treat that tops our travels through five-straight sweet letters in the middle of our A-to-Z food tour.
P is... Coming July 8
R is... Coming July 15
S is... Coming July 18
U is... Coming July 25
V is... Coming July 29
X is... Coming August 5
Y is... Coming August 8
Z is... Coming August 12