Southern and Savory: The Best Things to Eat in Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville is South Carolina’s rising star on the restaurant scene, but deciding where to eat (and, once there, what to eat) can be overwhelming. Here’s a first-timer's guide to some of the best places and dishes to eat in Greenville — #yeahthatgreenville.

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Photo By: John Park

Photo By: John Park

Photo By: John Park

Photo By: Kevin Harrington

Photo By: Christopher Phillips

Photo By: Paul Mehaffey

Welcome to Greenville

In the past decade or so, downtown Greenville and the surrounding area have become one of the South’s burgeoning dining scenes. In fact, restaurants like Table 301’s Soby’s are credited with helping jump-start the renaissance of the city’s once-sketchy downtown, paving the way for dozens of other delectable restaurants and menu items near and far in the Upstate region of the Palmetto State. Whether searching for creative Southern cuisine or the best pizza or burger, Greenville now has lots of options. Check out this city guide for some of the best Greenville restaurants—and dishes.

Pizza: Sidewall Pizza Company

With the original location in up-and-coming Travelers Rest less than 10 miles to the north, Sidewall now has two more Greenville-area locations. The hip Cleveland Street hot spot is closest to downtown, but all three locations feature creative takes on pizza, like the Bacon Bliss, with 16 slices of all-natural nitrate-free bacon plus mozzarella, pecorino, and roasted garlic sauce. The fall version of the seasonal Roasted Vegetable pie features butternut squash and shaved Brussels sprouts smothered in a roasted garlic sauce with mozzarella and blue cheese. In addition, Sidewall has a serious selection of signature salads, and locals know to save room for dessert and the homemade ice cream—vanilla, chocolate and a flavor of the day on tap.

Burger: Golden Brown & Delicious (GB&D)

Also located in the Village of West Greenville, GB&D (the name is derived from owner Alex George’s self-taught cooking method that stated if it was golden, brown and delicious, then it was probably done) has been a go-to burger joint for locals since opening its doors in 2016. Its “original” burger is the primary draw — 100 percent grass-fed beef from nearby Providence Farm served on a housemade benne seed bun with local lettuce, tomato and onion, American cheese, housemade pickles and GB&D’s special sauce. Other tasty options typically on the menu (and using local products whenever possible) include a pork belly bibimbap, tomato avocado sandwich, grilled cheese and soup, and more.

Southern: Soby's

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall, Soby’s New South Cuisine is considered the granddaddy of the Greenville dining scene, and its founder, Carl Sobocinski, the godfather. Housed in a former shoe store and credited, in part, for the revival of downtown, Soby’s is a venerable combination of Southern ingredients and contemporary innovation. The shrimp and grits has been a staple on the menu since day one, and the current upcountry version — with country ham, andouille sausage, charred tomato broth and scallions over Anson Mills grits — is a prime example why. Other Southern notables include the award-winning she-crab soup, fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese fondue, crab cakes and the white-chocolate banana cream pie.

Dining (and Drinking) With a View: UP on the Roof

Situated on the eighth floor of a bustling Embassy Suites and overlooking the Reedy River, the TD Stage at the Peace Center and the Wyche Pavilion, UP on the Roof features much more than great views. Chef Shane Robertson’s creative Southern-leaning cuisine can easily make for a full meal, including shareable smoked goat nachos, Humpty Dumpties (daily deviled eggs) or the perennial best-seller, Duck ‘n Waffles—a twist on a Southern specialty with a fried confit duck thigh, duck egg, blueberry gastrique and five-spice maple syrup. Drinking up more than the view is also easy on the palate, thanks to handmade bottled cocktails like the Roof-Tini and the Reedy Peach.

Pasta: Jianna

Jianna opened to rave reviews in a coveted spot along Main Street overlooking Reedy Falls Park and filled a need for a Northern Italian hot spot. In this modern Italian osteria with a raw bar, bustling open kitchen, small plates to share and unpretentious food, Chef Michael Kramer is wowing guests with his daily handmade pastas in all shapes and sizes and his unique takes on the classics. Don’t miss the prosciutto di Parma sliced to order; ricotta crostini with truffle honey, sea salt and grilled ciabatta for the table; polenta smothered in veal and pork meatballs; and the Southern-meets-Italian fusilli al nero with Carolina shrimp, broccolini, squash and tomato.

Worth the Drive: Grits & Groceries

Folks from Greenville have been making the trek to this charming out-of-the-way spot 30 miles from downtown for years just to get a taste of the amazingly simple, yet delicious, Southern food. You’ll never hear words like “refined” or “elevated” here. But you will hear lips smacking with approval for the homemade pimento cheese, ham balls, chicken salad, po’ boys and Saturday brunch dishes like fried cheese grits with tomato gravy and praline bacon. If you happen to wander in one day when fried chicken is the special, then you have truly hit the culinary jackpot. It’s crispy, hot, delicious and exactly what you’d expect. Be sure to leave room for the amazing fried pies and homemade ice cream, and to bring cash: This homey spot doesn't take credit cards.

Cocktail Bar: Vault & Vator

Downtown sorely needed a classic cocktail bar, and swanky speakeasy Vault & Vator delivers the goods. Opened by the folks behind beloved but now-shuttered American Grocery, Vault & Vator is housed in a former Dr. Pepper Cola Co. bottling facility and features the original vault (where it’s believed the secret recipe was kept) and 1920s-era elevator (hence, Vator) that were used back in the day. Both are incorporated as functional elements in the new design, as is the all-female cast of knowledgeable and playful mixologists. The beverage menu features familiar classics, signature drinks and Spins like the Pina Pisco Sour featuring two-day pineapple-infused Peruvian Pisco, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, egg whites, and angostura bitters for a unique twist.

Taste West Greenville: The Anchorage

In the up-and-coming Village of West Greenville, Chef Greg McPhee — sporting a tasty pedigree including Husk, High Cotton and Restaurant 17 — is serving seriously locally sourced meats and seafood with a vegetable-centric focus in a lovingly renovated rustic farmhouse space with an open kitchen and a second-floor loft and patio. The Tasting Table option is a cornucopia of small-plate tastes of almost everything featured on that night’s menu, such as a spicy Korean BBQ octopus with a miso and red chile paste, a colorful scallop crudo with Meyer lemon, pickled beets and roasted baby poblanos, and a killer charcuterie platter of housemade meats and pâtés. When shared by the table, it’s a bargain.

Meat: Bacon Bros. Public House

Chef Anthony Gray loves his meat, and Bacon Bros. Public House has given him a perfect place to ply his self-taught tasty trade. The place has a Powered by Bacon mission statement and a large curing room with a viewing window, but Gray’s claim to fame is his picturesque charcuterie and meat boards. Sold by the ounce, they feature all kinds of meats, pâté and rillettes, and are garnished with beer mustard made with local beers, dill pickles, olives and cheddar thyme biscuits made from scratch. But don’t overlook the snacks (think deviled eggs, pimento cheese and bacon caramel popcorn), salads, sandwiches, made-daily BBQ options (until they’re gone), classic South-leaning entrees (like catfish or shrimp and grits) and oh-so-Southern sides.

French Meets Southern: Stella's Southern Brasserie

Stella’s Southern Brasserie is the younger and sassier sister restaurant of popular Stella’s Southern Bistro in nearby Simpsonville, with a focus on classic European dishes that they put their own Southern spin on. They start with locally sourced ingredients and then add an unexpected element — take, for example, their beef carpaccio with housemade kimchi for spice, smoked peanuts for crunch, roasted beets for color and grilled pineapple to round it all out. The Buttermilk Fried Chicken “Coq au Vin” and crispy duck leg with stewed tomato, Swiss chard and pork belly are other great examples of their South-meets-Europe approach. And Chef Jason Scholz’s food and Julia Scholz’s hospitality are a dynamic duo for a perfect culinary experience.

Eating Green: Kitchen Sync

Created by a local brother-and-sister duo — along with the sister’s husband — Kitchen Sync in East Greenville focuses on green design and fresh, clean food. Working with the Green Restaurant Association, Kitchen Sync is the first certified green restaurant in Greenville, thanks to the owners’ use of reclaimed and repurposed building materials, their commitment to composting (they compost more than 3,000 pounds of organic material every month) and more. That sense of green translates to their menu with local ingredients and seasonal dishes like their Southern Tomato Pie — really more like a tart — made with succulent tomatoes from nearby Johnson Family Farms that are layered with Parmesan, mozzarella and sharp white cheddar cheeses, fresh basil and parsley, and topped with a cheesy aioli.

Cheap Eats: Pita House

Located just a few miles from downtown, the Pita House is a locals’ favorite that serves up lots of traditional Middle Eastern fare at a bargain. Lines can stretch out the door as customers wait to order at the counter. The menu is extensive, and everyone seems to have their favorites, like hummus, falafel and chicken or beef shawarma. But the tasty gyro plate — seared strips of a seasoned blend of lamb and beef, tasty tahini salad, pickled vegetables, olives and pita — is a frequent order for good reason (and can also be served as a sandwich). You’ll have a hard time spending more than $10 on anything, and the restaurant and adjoining Middle Eastern market only accept cash.

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