The International Food Scene in Greenville, SC
Lauded for its global cuisine in the New York Times special section, “52 Places To Go in 2023," Greenville, South Carolina, tempts taste buds with a panoply of flavors from Germany to Georgia—the republic, not South Carolina’s southern neighbor. Home to 230 international firms from 27 countries (most notably the North American headquarters for Michelin and BMW), Greenville County boasts a culturally diverse population that drives an equally diverse food scene. So when you’re sitting down to dinner and hear conversations all around you in French, German, Chinese, Spanish, or Hindi, don’t be surprised! With more than 200 restaurants in downtown Greenville alone—a quarter of which are international—you can satisfy most any food craving, starting with regional Southern fare and taking flight from there to find flavors from five of the world’s seven continents. Although...as far as we know, Antarctica doesn't count. Yet.
How many countries’ cuisines can you sample without ever leaving town? What follows is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a place to start on your global food journey in the Greenville area. Bon appétit!
Click on the name of the continent on the map below OR the green buttons underneath it to jump directly to the cuisine offered.
Greenville lays claim to plenty of cuisine from our neighbors south of the border. Transport your taste buds through the different regions of Mexico at Rosalinda’s, and drop into Taquería Mixtapec for their tlayudas, an Oaxacan dish made from a toasted corn tortilla piled high with refried beans, meat, and other traditional toppings. Zesty Mexican street tacos meet their match downtown at Papi’s Tacos. And speaking of tacos, follow the Greenville Taco Trail for more excellent examples, including White Duck Taco Shop, Automatic Taco, Willy Taco, Cantina 76, and Farmhouse Tacos—to name a few. Comal 864 in West Greenville offers handcrafted Tex-Mex fare prepared by owner Dayna Lee-Márquez, a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast. Las Meras Tortas specializes in Mexican tortas (sandwiches), while ASADA Restaurant charms with its Mission-style core menu, augmented by creative specials (think: Nicaraguan-style churrasco and arepa rellena) that fuse Latin American flavors.
Moving south to Guatemala, you’ll find zesty flavors in the form of churrasco, sopes, and pollo fundido made from the freshest ingredients at Guatemala Restaurant. Neighboring El Salvador provides the inspiration for Pupuseria la Estrella, which specializes in thick-griddled cakes called pupusas. El Salvador’s national dish, pupusas can be made with cornmeal or rice flour and stuffed with combinations of meat, beans, and cheese. Estrella also offers baleadas, a Honduran-style flour tortilla filled with mashed beans, cheese, and crema.
At Califas, Erika Mejia-Dila incorporates her Honduran grandmother’s recipes into her menu of Latin American cuisine, which roams from Mexico to Honduras, Peru, and Puerto Rico. She also introduced Greenville to Mexican birria tacos, filled with a mix of stewed meat, chiles, and spices, and Honduran tamales, a traditional holiday treat.
For Mike Sullivan, growing up in Jamaica meant having oxtails on Sunday as a special treat. The chef honors that tradition today at Jamaica Mi Irie, where he serves his oxtails with the traditional accompaniments of beans and rice, steamed cabbage, and crispy fried plantains.
Tropical Grille puts a modern spin on Cuban fare, by mixing mojo-marinated roasted pork or grilled chicken in their Tropical Bowls, with sides of yucca fries and baked sweet plantains. And if you're looking for great food at a price point that won't break the bank, Tropical Grille was voted the "#1 Best Place to Eat on a Budget" in the VisitGreenvilleSC People's Choice Awards, where thousands of Greenvillians voted on the best of the best. The locals won't steer you wrong—this place is delicious, inexpensive, and has seven locations in Greenville County at which to eat!
Electric interior colors echo the vibrant flavors of the Dominican Republic at Tamarindo. The Simpsonville restaurant is named for tamarind, the sweet/sour fruit that infuses sauces, and even the margaritas here.
France & Belgium
There’s something infinitely satisfying about starting the day with a buttery French croissant, and Bake Room at The Commons won’t disappoint. If you’re on Main Street in the morning, drop into Le Petit Croissant or seek out a heartier breakfast of savory crêpes and French omelets at Bonjour Main. At lunchtime, pick up an authentic jambon beurre (ham and butter on a fresh-baked baguette) at Rise Bakery in the Village of West Greenville. Hankering for escargots, seared foie gras, and duck à l’orange? Be sure to book a table at Scoundrel for dinner. And in nice weather, Passerelle Bistro serves Gallic-inspired dishes on a patio offering gorgeous views of Reedy River Falls.
A local favorite for its den-like subterranean space, Trappe Door offers Belgian dishes from moules frites (mussels and French fries) to carbonades flamandes (Belgian beef stew), as well as a staggering selection of Belgian beers.
Germany & Eastern Europe
Featuring the cuisine of southwestern Bavaria, Schwaben House has been a staple for German cuisine since 2009. The signature dish, maultaschen, fills pasta sheets with a mixture of pork, spinach, and onions. Hans & Franz Biergarten boasts an outdoor patio on which to enjoy wienerschnitzel, (breaded pork cutlet), fleischkaese (Bavarian meatloaf), and a stein of German beer. If you’re in town in October, head downtown to NOMA Square for a taste of Bavaria during Oktoberfest.
From dolmades to baklava, Greenville dishes up some awesome Greek specialties. At Ji-Rōz, saganaki (flamed kefalograviera cheese) or an assortment of traditional dips make a fitting prelude to a succulent lamb burger or roasted Greek chicken. Family-owned Greektown Grille is another good spot to find keftedes (beef and lamb meatballs), spanakotiropita (layers of spinach, feta, and filo dough), and other delectable Mediterranean plates. If you visit in May, don’t miss one of Greenville’s most popular annual events, the three-day Greek Festival. In addition to Greek music and dancing, you can sample homemade moussaka, pastichio, and gyros, prepared by members of the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral congregation.
Italy & Spain
You need not venture off Main Street to find great Italian recipes. Nuanced meat and fish dishes and house-made pasta are de rigueur at longtime local favorite Ristorante Bergamo and relative newcomer Jianna—known for its raw bar. Trattoria Giorgio serves a small menu in an intimate atmosphere, while Limoncello offers familiar Italian American fare with a gorgeous outdoor setting. Outside downtown, Spaghetti Westurn turns out house-made pasta christened with Old West-inspired names like Prairie Dog and White Lightning. And if it’s pizza you crave, Greenville offers plenty of good pies, with Coastal Crust, Sidewall Pizza Co., World Piece, and Pasta Addict/Slice of Brooklyn (aka The Slice) being good places to start.
Synonymous with Spain, small plates known as tapas reign as a favored way to eat in many a Spanish bar. You can nosh on croquetas and gambas al ajillo thanks to Chef Fernando Coppola’s menu at Paloma, in the AC Hotel. Nearby, order up a pan of Spanish paella to share at Abanico Tapas Bar.
Looking for traditional pub fare? Check out cozy Connolly’s Irish Pub downtown for the likes of shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and Guinness on tap; and find more publick house ambiance at The Velo Fellow. In the Historic Overbrook neighborhood, Mr. Crisp is tops for perfectly fried fish and chips. James Beard Award nominee Greg McPhee serves his version with the time-honored British accompaniment of mushy peas. On Memorial Day Weekend, Gallabrae celebrates the Upstate’s Scottish heritage with the Great Scot! Parade, traditional Scottish games, bagpiping, and more Celtic fun to engage your Scottish soul.
Afghanistan & The Republic of Georgia
Two one-of-a-kind culinary standouts in Greenville, Aryana Afghan Cuisine and Keipi hail from Afghanistan and Georgia respectively. Downtown, Chef Nelofar Mayar whips up five different Afghan dishes for lunch (all served on one plate), based on recipes passed down from her family. At Keipi, in Hampton Station, you can experience an authentic Georgian toasting dinner, known as a keipi. A tamada, or toastmaster, presides over this family-style meal, which features a succession of Georgian food and wine. A signature is the khachapuri, a boat-shaped cheese bread with an egg cracked over the top.
When you’re craving Chinese food or need ingredients for that Asian recipe you’re cooking at home, Asia Pacific—which includes a large Asian market—is the place to go. Try the Pekin duck, especially popular on Chinese holidays like the Lunar New Year. At Sum Bar, owner Khailing Neoh plates siu mai, char siu bbq pork buns, sweet sesame balls, and other dim sum favorites, while Lieu’s Chinese Bistro puts an American spin on traditional recipes.
Buffets brimming with dishes from different regions of India—everything from korma to curry and dosas to dal—can be found at India Palace and Persis Biryani Indian. The latter is known for its biryani, a traditional rice dish enriched with meat and fragrant spices. Fans of Tandoori dishes will appreciate Saffron Indian Cuisine.
Japan & Korea
Chile peppers, pickled vegetables, and rice are common ingredients in both Japanese and Korean cuisine, though each has its own distinct style. A Greenville standard on the Eastside, Irashiai offers a long menu of sushi and other dishes, including their popular mussels yaki. Downtown, locals flock to SUSHI GO and Purple International Bistro & Sushi Bar, which also offers Thai and Korean dishes. Looking for oodles of noodles? Head to Menkoi Noodle House for ramen any way you want it.
Serving dishes from bulgogi to kimchi, a growing number of Korean restaurants are popping up in Greenville. Get your fill of bulgogi, or “fire meat,” at Bulgogi Korean Grill, or visit tiny Korean BBQ, tucked away off Woodruff Road.
The Middle East
Warming spices (cinnamon, saffron, coriander, and sumac) infuse aromatic Middle Eastern cuisine. Pomegranate on Main is a hands-down favorite for Persian stews and pomegranate martinis in an elegant bistro ambiance, and it was voted by thousands of locals as the "#1 Best International Restaurant" in Greenville through the VisitGreenvilleSC People's Choice Awards. Green Lettuce offers kebabs, hummus, and more in a fast-casual setting, while the Namouz brothers, who own longstanding local haunt Pita House, lure diners back again and again with the likes of chicken shawarma, kafta, and kibbi with grape leaves.
Thailand & Vietnam
Known for its complex balance of sour, sweet, bitter, and salty elements, Thai cuisine incorporates a wealth of fresh herbs, including cilantro, lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Basil Thai, downtown, rolls out specialties like three-flavored deep-fried whole fish, pad Thai, and crispy red curry duck, while Sweet Basil embraces artful presentations and spicy curries.
The national dish of Vietnam, pho is a soup consisting of an aromatic, herb-infused broth, rice noodles, and meat. For one of the area’s best examples, pull up a chair at Pho Noodleville.