A Foodie's Guide to Greenville
Greenville was established as a city in 1869. Given it’s proximity to several rail lines and the Reedy River it quickly became the hub of Upstate South Carolina. In the early 1900s, Greenville was name the “Textile Capital of the South” for its many cotton mills, later their title was upgraded to “Textile Capital of the World”. When those mills began closing in the late 20th century and the businesses started leaving the downtown area, it seemed like Greenville was doomed. But in the 1980s city leaders, with the help of federal funding, were able to begin new construction projects downtown which eventually turned things around. Today, the downtown area of Greenville is booming. There are many hotels, businesses, retail shops and restaurants all along the beautiful tree-lined Main Street. Within a mile or two from Main Street you can also find minor league baseball, a zoo, museums and more. So with all of this to offer, I can’t wait to eat my way through this town.
11:00 AM On a normal Saturday morning, I would shop the local farmer’s market. But sadly, it is too early in the year for the downtown market in Greenville. I have been to the TD Saturday Market on Main Street before and I highly recommend you visit if you’re in Greenville between May and October. Instead, I decide to head to Southern Culture Kitchen and Bar for brunch. They market themselves as upscale Southern-style cuisine at down home prices. Plus they have a bottomless Mimosa and Bloody Mary bar for the grown-ups on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so it sounds like a win to me. I highly recommend the Sweet Potato Pancakes, which had the perfect amount of spice. The restaurant was very busy, so I was glad I arrived right after they opened. There was also live music, an unusual occurrence during breakfast, but enjoyable.
12:00 PM After brunch, I decide to go downtown to check out a new bookstore located on Main Street, M. Judson Books. The store was opened by local foodies and they feature a seasonal snack bar, a community meeting area and many cookbooks and kitchen adornments. I love how they have little book reviews pinned to the shelves and the decor is fabulous. They host lots of events at the store.
1:00 PM After looking at all those cookbooks, I am hungry again and decide to head to the Brick Street Cafe for lunch. An Abe Lincoln statue proclaiming ‘Kiss My Grits’ greets patrons at the door, which perfectly sets the tone for the restaurant. Part Southern Bell, part vintage kitsch, this is just a fun place to be. The lunch was outstanding. This restaurant is known for it’s cake and around the holidays they have boxed cakes stacked to the ceiling waiting for pickup. Throughout the restaurant, you will see signs saying “Just Eat Da Cake”, which is just what I did. With names like “Sara’s Coconut cake stolen from Becky” or “The Best Chocolate Cake I’ve Ever Had”, it was hard to choose just one. I can confirm, their reputation is well deserved.
2:00 PM After all that cake, I decide to head to Falls Park to get a little exercise. Falls Park is located right in the heart of downtown Greenville on the Reedy River and it is definitely the gem of downtown. At the heart of the park is the Liberty Bridge, a 355 foot long pedestrian bridge supported by a single suspension cable. It is one of a kind in the United States and provides the perfect vantage point of the falls.
After crossing the bridge, I head further into the park, which is an obvious hot spot for locals and tourists. The city has done a tremendous job of creating a nature oasis in the middle of an urban setting. The park also runs alongside the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 21 mile long multi-use greenway that is perfect for walking or bicycling. Don’t worry if you didn’t bring a bike, because there are plenty of places to rent one for the day. I decide to take the trail to the north.
4:00 PM After a couple miles of travel along the trail, I come to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. It’s the perfect spot to stop for an afternoon snack and cool off in the shade. They have a huge variety of regional foods, both fresh and prepared. The store also features a little Cafe serving coffee and fresh baked pastries. You know I can never pass up a yummy pastry!
7:00 PM For dinner, I want to try Grill Marks Burgers & Shakes. It’s located right near the entrance to Falls Park. I am a sucker for a good cheeseburger, but when I arrive they tell me there is a long wait. I am instructed to download an app called No Wait, where I get in line for a table. The No Wait app is pretty neat, because it updates your place in line in real time and since the restaurant sends you a text when your table is ready, you can wander away from the line without worrying about missing your turn. The app tells me I have 60 minutes to wait with 17 parties ahead of me, so I decide to take a walk down Main Street and visit some of the other shops. Downtown is really busy on a Saturday night. It seems like every other store front is a restaurant with sidewalk seating. The extra time gives me an opportunity to look for the Mice on Main that are sprinkled throughout downtown. I was only able to find four of the nine little critters before heading back to the restaurant.
I ordered the Firehouse Burger, loaded up with grilled onions and jalapenos, bacon, pepper jack cheese and chipotle ketchup. It was delicious! Plus they serve their fries in little fry baskets, which I always love. Throughout dinner, I am enticed by the milkshakes coming from the milkshake bar - both traditional and spiked. I finally have to order a strawberry shake to end the evening and I’m glad I did - it was the cherry on top of my trip to Greenville!