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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!

                                                                                                                             
 

Jump to:    B - D       |      E-G      |      H-J      |      K-M      |      N-P      |      Q-S      |      T-V      |      W-Z


                                                                                                                             
 

A is for "Anything from Aryana Afghan Cuisine"

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."


                                                                                                                             

 

B is for "Barbacoa from Sabor Latin Street Grill"

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."

 

                                                                                                                             

 

E is for "El Salvador's Finest Fare at Pupuseria Mister"

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!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

H is for "Hard Cider at Distinct Cider Room"

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.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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 Award 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.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

K is for "Kettle Corn at Poppington's Popcorn"

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.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

N is for "Needles and Donut Holes at Topgolf"

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 for "Pimento Cheese Sandwiches at Duke Sandwich Company"

More than 100 years ago, housewife Eugenia Duke created a homemade spread that starred in sandwiches she sold to American soldiers stationed at Camp Sevier, one of the last stops for troops being sent overseas during World War I.

Word spread, clamoring climbed, and, before she even had the right to vote, Eugenia was blazing trails as a brand-new business owner.

Her popularity didn't wane when when the war did. Voracious demand only skyrocketed. Legend has it she sold more than 10,000 sandwiches in a single day during the spring of 1919! Move over, Earl of Sandwich — the Duke had arrived.

That spread we mentioned is not only still tantalizing tastebuds to this day, but it's a key kitchen mainstay top-tier chefs in the Southeast wouldn't give up for anything. Duke's Mayonnaise was born as a brand in the 1920s as Eugenia sauntered from sandwich maker to mayo manufacturer.

We could go on about this sandwich superstar's lasting legacy, but Instagram character limits require us to get to the point: pimento cheese. The unofficial state bird of South Carolina, you can't swing a loaf of bread here without hitting someone who will — first wonder why you're throwing bread at them and then — offer you pimento cheese. This South Carolina staple requires mounds of mayo and when Duke's joins the party, things really get rockin'.

In Greenville, a stop at Duke Sandwich Company is a culinary requirement. Why? Because you don't just learn history here — you experience it. The menu simply hasn't changed. The recipes in the shops are original to the ones Eugenia would make in her kitchen before taking them to the troops. And if you're going to order any sandwich of state significance, of course, you're obligated to opt for pimento cheese, a precisely preserved prototype principal to partaking in Greenville's plentiful past.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

Q is for "Queenly Harvest at Carolina Honey Bee Company"

You can learn a lot in 100+ years. Maybe that's why Carolina Honey Bee Company keeps cranking out crave-able nectars worth sampling during your visit to #yeahTHATgreenville.

Beekeeping is in the DNA of the Dover family. Co-owner Tim Dover began "robbing" bees — that is, harvesting honey from active honeybee hives — at the age of 5, learning the skill from his grandfather. He spent most of his life dabbling here and there, but took his own career path as an equine dentist and farrier — someone who trims and shoes horses' hooves.

When his grandfather passed away, Tim received one of his beehives. Soon, one beehive grew to the more than 1,000 hives across 34 locations in Upstate SC boasting the services of Tim's grandfather's bees.

All these bees supply a quantity of quality honey. With Tim's day job at the time came a client by the name of Susan Gardner, who had an existing side interest in beekeeping that kept the two buzzing on the topic. A few further twists of fate and this pair partnered as apiculturists to start Carolina Honey Bee Co.

Inside this quaint Travelers Rest shop, you'll find an assortment of products made from the work of Tim's bequeathed bees — lip balms, body butter, lotions, cleansers, all of which should fill your shopping bag while you're there. Hobby beekeepers should beeline to the substantial section of supplies. If you're around for a while, take a beekeeping class when they resume.

But the pure, unfiltered, unadulterated honey is the hero of this hive. Swarm (at a safe social distance) to the honey tasting bar inside and sample several honeys and nosh on snacks like honey-glazed pecans.

The annual "robbing of the bees" harvest occurs in late summer/early fall, so plan your visit around this time of year or keep an eye on @carolinabeeco for online ordering info.

Between balms, butters, nuts and nectars, there's a lot to be thankful to Her Majesty for. Long live the Queen!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

R is for "Rare Proteins at Saskatoon Lodge"

We're talking rare meats today — but leave your thermometer in your chef's coat because we're not referring to temperature. This sinewy substantive subsistence at letter R is rare, as-in: infrequent, scarce, uncommon, not of regular occurrence.

Known as "Greenville's Wildest Steakhouse," Saskatoon Lodge has a menu that could double as a meat encyclopedia. If it can be cooked, you'll find it available here — further evidence that Greenville, SC is perfect for adventure-seekers.

For 30 years, Saskatoon Lodge has been delighting Greenville diners with a menu experience few can measure up to, but only within the past few years did owners Edmund and Renee Woo move to a location more fitting of their wild culinary ways. Now calling nine wide-open acres home, Saskatoon Lodge is the perfect place to get primitive.

Before we get into some of the out-of-the-ordinary offerings, a note: If you're not an adventurous eater, Saskatoon Lodge has plenty of your more common choices for carnivores, like steaks, salmon, chicken, pork, and fish, all expertly cooked — and, let's be honest, if a restaurant has the prowess to prepare the proteins in this profile, you gotta know they can make a mean steak or chop.

So, what will feed the need for rare meat at Saskatoon Lodge? It changes every four-to-six weeks, which is part of the fun. As of the writing of this caption, kangaroo filet and ostrich filet are on the specials menu. The reliable rarities on the main menu include elk loin, antelope, and buffalo. It's not uncommon to see shark, venison, quail, and gator grace the list of choices here.

If you're local and paleo is your thing, Saskatoon has a meal prep program just for you! Check that out @paleosaskatoon.

Featuring local produce — so local that you'll find some of it right in their gardens on-site — and nationally renowned, field-to-table game, next time you're raring for a road trip, head for Greenville and Saskatoon Lodge to feed your wild side.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

S is for "Southern Homestyle at OJ's Diner"

Every place in America has restaurants. Very few turn into institutions. When OJ's Diner opened in 2005, it never set out to be one, but after only 15 years, many would agree it has already earned this lofty status.

It is truly a fascinating story of how OJ's came to be and propelled itself to become as synonymous with Greenville as Falls Park, but we'll sum it up like this: when an opportunity to own the diner he worked at came up, the journey of Olin Johnson — OJ's namesake — from line cook to local legend is a saga of family rallying together to help one another fulfill a dream.

If this energy could be bottled and slathered on delicious Southern fare, its warmth would cover every inch of the menu. It's about family, through and through, and that doesn't just refer to blood. Just setting foot in the oft-out-the-door line makes you part of this crew, and you'll feel it the moment you cross the threshold. That's when that warmth we mentioned hits you. It lives in the walls and on the faces of everyone, many of whom are related to one another, working at this family-born, family-bred, and family-owned restaurant.

OJ's is a traditional cafeteria-style meat-and-three with specials you can set your watch by. The downtown Greenville location (there's another in nearby Easley) is only open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., but if you stop by enough, can track the days by the smells wafting from the piping hot, freshly-prepared ingredients and scratch-made dishes on the cafeteria line. All of it is soul-comforting, as evidenced by OJ's list of loyal regulars, but there are lots of healthy options, too.

But, take a cheat day and do not skip the fried chicken that we're blessed to have available to us every weekday. We'd describe it to you, but no words do it justice. Let's just say that the fried chicken, the menu, and OJ's family atmosphere will turn your weekends into Sadder-days and No-fundays, making you wish every day was an OJ's work day.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

T is for "Traditional Cantonese-Style Food at Asia Pacific"

Catching a craving for Chinese here nets you lots of locally-owned options with the quality you'd expect from an unsung-yet-worthy-of-a-record-deal international culinary scene. Yet there is but one on Greenville's global grub stage differentiating itself with authentic Cantonese-style Chinese food.

Walking into Asia Pacific, you'll notice its meticulously clean, pristine, and organized shelves and aisles. Much of the place is a massive international supermarket filled with ingredients your local Publix does not stock. We highly encourage looking through it all.

Owner Alva Mak (pictured), originally from Hong Kong, has lived in Upstate SC since 1976 and her restaurant experience always involved pleasing the American palate, which doesn't always mesh with the traditional style she grew up with. When she opened Asia Pacific in 2017, she did so with her childhood memories in mind.

In the restaurant area, a glance at the menu reveals Chinese-American chicken classics, like sesame and General Tso's, for those a little less adventurous. It won't take long to find those traditional Cantonese-style dishes, however, because they take up the lion's share of the list.

Locals in-the-know would make their last meal ever the roast duck, which you can see on Asia Pacific's Instagram profile. Popular options also include the roast pork, spicy salt pepper shrimp, and scallion pancakes. Soup dumplings are a must! The taste may send you straight to Hong Kong — but the temperature may send you straight to the ice bin, so be careful with the delicious yet molten-hot soup inside.

The live seafood area of Asia Pacific is an experience in itself. A favorite is the dish pictured — spicy salt pepper lobster. We'd tell you more but the phone is gonna short if we drool on it any more, so we'll see you at Asia Pacific for some top traditional Cantonese creations!

 

                                                                                                                             

 

U is for "Underground Dining at Coffee Underground, The Trappe Door, and Unterhausen"

If an underground scene can have an underground scene in some inception-like way, then that's what Greenville, SC has going on. These underground spots cover several different definitions of the word, but prove worthy of elevation to mainstream status.

There's just something about the environment created by low ceilings, exposed wood and brick, and that subtle basement-y scent that strike a relaxing vibe. If you're digging this, Coffee Underground, The Trappe Door, and Unterhausen supply the subterranean setting you seek.

The Trappe Door and Coffee Underground are just off opposite sides of Main Street in downtown Greenville. Get up-and-at-'em and head downstairs at 1 E. Coffee St. for a caffeine fix with a feeling. Coffee Underground does have windows to the world by virtue of its front door being accessible outside, but the exposed workings of the building and beautiful wood beams create a cellar sub-current that's perfect for starting the day, taking an afternoon break, or winding down at night.

The Trappe Door is unconditionally underground: no windows, no light — just atmosphere. You'll be transported back to the old world by stopping here for a Belgian beer or some of the most flavorful frites you'll find outside Brussels. The subtle lighting, uncovered wood and brick, beer selection, and menu combine for a Main Street experience with an underground aura.

A drive to nearby Simpsonville will get you to Unterhausen, and even a cursory look at its online reviews will reveal a common use of words like "atmosphere" and "ambiance," because it's just that remarkable. The German theme and small, intimate setting create that something different that hits the spot.

It goes without saying that the pandemic has been a challenge for these superb subsurface spots, so check online before you go or put them on the list to stop by during a future visit.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

V is for "Vogish Libations at Vault & Vator"

While the '20s we are currently living in are roaring in their own way, we can offer a tip for a trip back in time to the originals right here in Greenville, SC. In a basement space tucked off Main Street near Falls Park, you'll (maybe) find a poorly-kept secret with a well-known historic influence.

Vault & Vator is our first and only speakeasy, and if you're unfamiliar with the term, its origins in America belong to the 1880s, but it became part of the popular lexicon during the 1920s after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the "manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors." Curiously enough, imbibing was not prohibited, so the whole bar operation went underground with secret drinking establishments popping up all over. Such saloons tried to maintain their cover, so they encouraged people to "speak quietly," or "speak easy," of them.

Luckily, there's no need to be coy about Vault & Vator in 2020. If you're hoping for a period-accurate spot with bartenders donned in dress from 100 years ago, this isn't it. Vault & Vator features gentle notes of speakeasy environs, not the campiness of re-enactments, which adds to its overall sophistication. You may walk inside during a bright, shiny day, but once past the velvet curtains, you lose concept of time as the dim, sparsely-yet-gorgeously lit room provides that subtle touch of secrecy we mentioned.

At the bar, you'll find a menu filled with classic and modern cocktails, all hand-crafted, but if you're feeling crafty yourself, opt for the Dealer's Choice. This is where you give your bartender two adjectives from a list on the menu and your master of mix will create a custom cocktail from the combo you provide. Play with the possibilities, like "floral and fizzy," "sour and spicy," or "smoky and boozy." What you receive will be a secret you won't want to speak easy about.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

W is for "Waffle Cones at Spill The Beans"

Greenville, SC's climate makes it a stellar spot for summer ice cream. Around here, however, ice cream is anything but a seasonal sweet. With summer closing out, the heat will remain for a while, giving us a few more months of scoring easy affirmatives on the question, "Wanna go get ice cream?"

That's a good enough reason to refrain from hollering about the heat because, let's face it, we all scream for ice cream. Take a step inside Spill The Beans, though, and you might find yourself wailing for waffle cones.

It's rare when the spotlight shines anywhere else but the scoops and scoops of flavor melting down your hand, but these ice cream carriers deserve a stage all their own. This becomes apparent when you open the doors and your nostrils whiff the waft of freshly-made waffle cones.

We suspect this is all by-design from the geniuses behind Spill The Beans, known as a tip-top option for a strong coffee or cuppa, but directly in front of the doors is where the waffle wizardry happens. Out in front for all to see — and smell — you'll often find one of Spill The Beans' wonderful workers waffling away, creating cone after cone as the sweet scent continually fills the air.

You could easily walk to the counter and only order a waffle cone without getting much of a strange look — they're that good. But you're gonna want to cram that cornet full of the ice cream STB's slinging. Oh, we didn't lead you to believe that the ice cream was satisfied playing second fiddle, did you? While coffee may be king here, the custom-blended ice cream itself is a close contender with a list of 50-plus toppings and mix-ins packing a punch with combo options galore.

You may come for the coffee, but the aromatic welcome of waffle cone will have you staying for the ice cream.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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X is for "Xerox of a Bowling Green Landmark, Myles Pizza Pub"

The pizza game across the country is full of copycats — but very few are Xerox-quality. Seemingly in the quiet of night, Greenville, SC earned one when Myles Pizza Pub opened its doors on South Pleasantburg Drive earlier this year.

To understand the significance, we must travel 600 miles to Bowling Green, Ohio. It's where the first Myles Pizza Pub opened and became an institution in the college town, remaining so for 39 years until owners Chip and Bridget Myles closed its doors to seek milder winters. During its final week, Myles had lines around the block, and its final night required a 5-hour wait for a chance to bid a fond farewell.

Chip and Bridget chose Greenville to call home, and they brought the pizza that made them famous in Ohio with them, along with daughter, Meredith, who's handling much of the business these days. But forget your concept of pizza — this style, and that style. The pizza here is simply Myles-style — a complete copy of the original. What makes it worth lining up outside in the cold Ohio winter for?

Fresh ingredients, sauce, and toppings. Mozzerella is grated on-site. Dough? Made in-house. Meats? Never pre-cooked. But it's the red sauce and Myles' philosophy on toppings that already has its Bowling Green fans traveling to Greenville.

The sauce is the foundation. Sure, the crust is fantastic and holds it all together, but the sauce is leg-en-dar-y. It takes three days to make and only Chip knows the recipe. It's even a closely-guarded secret from his family.

Toppings here come with the generosity of Oprah giving out cars to her audience. For example, their Food Lovers' pizza weighs in at 10 delicious pounds! Myles piles 'em so high, our mountains become jealous. If it's cheese you please, Myles is hooking you up with mounds — any Bowling Green veteran will tell you that Myles is famous for the cheese-pull.

With a carbon copy like Myles in town, it's no stretch that we wish them another 39 years of pizza prosperity right here in Greenville.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

Y is for "Yucatan-Inspired Cuisine from Mercado Cantina at Gather GVL"

Only open for a few months now, yet eagerly-anticipated for much longer, Gather GVL makes a second appearance on our alphabetical culinary tour of Greenville, SC. Simply put, this smattering of stacked shipping containers is kicking out culinary creations that stack up with the rest of Greenville's culinary colossuses.

The stories behind some of them are just as delicious, too. We highlighted HenDough at Letter D with the story of owners and chefs Paul and Sarah Klaassen, who met while working together at the Biltmore before deciding to see where doughnuts and chicken would take them. A third member of this culinary crew eagerly jumped on-board when the Klaassens started cooking up concepts for Gather GVL.

Chef Michael Olbrantz connected with the Klaassens at the Biltmore, where he, too, was working as a fine-dining chef. He quickly learned that "standing over a plate and putting 15 different kinds of little flowers and herbs on a dish that already has 20 different vegetables in it," he told Town Carolina, just wasn't feeding his soul. It was one of his travels to discover all the world's culinary offerings that began the concept behind Yucantán-inspired Mercado Cantina.

Olbrantz visited Mexico for a two-month tour that turned into two years of traveling back-and-forth from the Yucatán — a place and a taste he fell madly in love with for its vibrant, bright balance of spice and acidity. It's the same balance you'll find in all of Mercado's food offerings while sipping on cantina-inspired beverages in Gather's laidback environs.

Menu options rotate frequently, but you can bank on authenticity in every selection and price — like cochinita pibil tacos, anchiote-marinated pork smoked in banana leaves with pickled onion and habanero, for $4 or a fried shrimp torta with pico, lettuce and lime mayo for $8. All this makes Mercado just another reason to Gather (at a safe social distance) in Greenville.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

Z is for "Zesty Lemon Roulade Cake from Old Europe Desserts"

An Asheville-original, Old Europe Desserts opened its Greenville doors in spring 2019 and welcomed us right into an environment fitting of the name on the sign fixed above them. A step inside transports you to a neat European café, with small tables lining the wall and the smell of coffee and pastry lingering in the air.

Like a siren, the shiny dessert case beckons from the back, loaded with freshly-baked cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, and oh, so much more. It should be no surprise that Old Europe Desserts is founded on authentic old European recipes. Owner Bobby Daugherty, a former Furman University football player who helped lead the team to a national title in 1988, knew that Greenville, SC was primed for a touch of Europe, and not just in taste alone.

Old Europe Desserts isn't one of those pastry shops that closes at 2 p.m., not to re-open until the next day. Daugherty wanted a spot people would see as a dessert destination after dinner at one of Greenville's many top restaurants, so the hours reflect that desire to delight after sundown and well before the next dawn.

What you'll find in this dreamy dessert case isn't the cloyingly-sweet after-meal indulgences we're used to in America. These treats feature a subtle sweetness that combines with the airy texture Europe is known for, so rather than weigh you down after a stuffing supper, these sweets will simply satisfy.

Which brings us to the finale in our feast of Greenville: the lemon roulade. If you crave citrus, this cake caters to you. All the adjectives we've used so far apply to this dish — light, airy, subtly sweet — and, trust us, you'll be back for more after one taste. This French dessert is made by wrapping a lemony sponge cake around a concentration of cream, creating a combination that'll have you crying "Ohh, la la!" And after a such a tasty tour, we can think of no better feedback to our entire Greenville culinary world to finish on.

 

                                                                                                                             

 

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