When it comes to foodie towns, it’s often the smaller, mid-sized cities that are highlighted for having some of the best restaurants. Just think about Asheville, Louisville, K.Y., Austin, Texas, and, of course, Charleston. So it makes sense that the South has given birth to yet another culinary hot spot: Greenville, S.C.
It’s been a long time coming. Just three years ago, the city’s food scene was on the cusp of a revolution. Gone were the mainstay franchises and instead, tiny, boutique-like restaurants were opening along Main Street and in smaller, less popular pockets of the city. Instead of every menu featuring classic shrimp and grits and fried chicken and waffles, chefs were experimenting with flavors and techniques that elevated the style of dining from casual Southern eats to borderline fine dining.
Fast forward to today, and Greenville is easily one of the region’s emerging culinary destinations. There are options for every meal that highlight the city’s thriving and evolving foodie scene. For those with a curated palate to a novice foodie, here’s how to navigate Greenville’s dining scene.
While Husk is quite possibly the top dining destination in all of Greenville for dinner—so be sure to consider it for that, too—it also boasts classic breakfast options with a culinary twist that leave you wishing you could order everything on the menu. Headed by James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, the Greenville outpost is just as stunning as its Charleston counterpart. Set in a renovated former grocery/department store, the interiors are rustic and sophisticated with exposed brick walls and wood paneling. The open kitchen gives way to the magic behind the dishes, which range from sweet to savory, like the Cereal Crusted French Toast with Macerated Strawberries, Peanut Butter and Chantilly Cream and the HUSK Fried Chicken with Potlikker Greens, White Acre Peas. Both of which pair amazingly well with Husk’s take on a classic Bloody Mary. Speaking of drinks, don’t forget to visit the bar, often lauded as one of the top whiskey bars in the South Carolina.
For a more casual spot, stop by Biscuit Head, where you can order up huge biscuits with all sorts of gravies, from sweet potato coconut to housemade veggie chorizo. Get a side of pimento cheese grits and your day will be off to great start.
When it comes to mid-day dining, there are so many options, it can be overwhelming. We recommend you start with a barbecue tour. Greenville’s BBQ Trail Tour is a great way to sample some of the city’s top ’cue spots, such as Bucky’s B-B-Q and Henry’s Smokehouse. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at each restaurant’s smoking techniques, a tour through an old textile mill village, and information about each spot’s history. If you want to keep things downtown, head to Nosedive. Located on Main Street, this gastropub boasts massive, oversize accordion windows that open up to an alfresco patio. Its weekend grits bar—featuring additions such as smoked bacon, grilled salmon, and sautéed shrimp—is a can’t-miss. But don’t overlook the classic Southern-inspired dishes, too: the fried chicken and waffles is a delicious mix of buttermilk-brined Georgia chicken breast served with spiced sweet potato waffles and a maple-bourbon gastrique.
For something more casual, swing by Caviar & Bananas to pick up a basket full of gourmet eats for a picnic in nearby Fall’s Park on the Reedy River. The original Caviar & Bananas is located in Charleston, and its Greenville outpost features the same carefully curated offerings of gourmet meats, cheeses, and more.
If you’re looking to stay in town, Hall’s Chophouse is a classic, popular restaurant for both locals and visitors. But for something a bit more forward foodie-thinking, head to Bacon Bros., located just a few miles outside downtown. With its own meat curing room, you’d be remiss not to order the charcuterie board. This carefully laid out meat masterpiece is so picture perfect you won’t want to dig into it, but please do. The meats are paired with four to five cheeses, many of which are local, as well as other accoutrements such as raw honey, jams, nuts, and housemade pickled veggies—each of which highlight the meats’ salty flavors.
Take a stroll up Main Street and swing into Poppington’s Gourmet Popcorn. Headed up by husband-and-wife team Bob and Rose Augustyn, this tiny storefront on Main Street is home to some of the most basic and bold popcorn flavors. Pixie Unicorn Popcorn is a hit with kids and adults alike because of its combo of cotton candy popcorn drizzled with white chocolate, while Everything But the Sink is a gourmet collection of Poppington’s best sellers (with a few chocolate-covered pretzels thrown in to boot). Later, head just outside downtown to Swamp Rabbit Cafe, where you can pick up scones, cookies, lattes, hot sandwiches and more at this hybrid bakery/cafe.
There are plenty of hotels in downtown, but for a quieter retreat, book a stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Golf Resort & Conference Center ($219/night). Located just outside of downtown with easy interstate access, the property is set on its stunning golf course and is a great midway point between Main Street and some of the top restaurants and breweries (try Quest Brewing Co.) at the edge of the city limits.