My travels have led me to discover a host of unique and inspiring cities, but none have charmed me quite like Greenville, South Carolina. From the roar of the Reedy River Falls to the gentle sway of the Liberty Bridge (both right in the heart of downtown), it’s a gem of a Southern city like you’ve never seen. Greenville is a place beloved by its residents—no matter the time of day, its tree-lined streets, sidewalk cafés, and gorgeous parks are always packed with people. And my favorite part—you can hardly walk two steps without passing a good local restaurant.
One of my favorite stops in Greenville is The Lazy Goat. The focus of this casual place is sharing—I recommend bringing a handful of friends and ordering as many of the delicious options as you can. Just make sure that the Fried Goat Cheese Balls are on your list; individually rolled by hand, these tiny bites of crispy fried, creamy goodness are drizzled with vanilla-infused honey and then dusted with finely chopped pistachios. Yes, it’s as dreamy as it sounds!
American Grocery is just a few steps away, and absolutely worth a stop. Chef and owner Joe Clarke has artfully crafted a menu that celebrates the best beef, poultry, fish, and vegetables that local farmers have to offer. You can’t go wrong with any of his seasonal entrées, but be sure to peruse the “Snacks” menu. I can personally attest to the downright addictive nature of just about everything on that list, from the Black Pepper Biscuits with Bacon Jam to the Crispy Brussels Sprouts to the Sriracha-Honey Fried Chicken Skins. Just try your best to save room for dinner!
Although I just had enough time to pop in for an appetizer at Soby’s (I got the grilled Brie, it was excellent), I can’t wait to come back and have a proper dinner at this Greenville mainstay. Owner Carl Sobocinski opened his iconic Greenville restaurant back in 1997, and its success has served as the catalyst that helped transform and revitalize this now thriving city and its enviable restaurant scene. If you’re visiting this fall and feeling adventurous, treat yourself to the venison, personally recommended by Chef Haydn Shaak. But honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything at Soby’s—their reputation is well deserved.
Perched at the top of the Reedy River Falls Park is Passerelle, a bistro after my own heart. Truth be told, I am Southern with a Parisian soul, which perfectly describes Passerelle. Chef Teryi Youngblood shares my love of all things French, and she calls upon the best South Carolina ingredients to make sure everything has a Southern touch. She was kind enough to whip up several delicious dishes for me, but her Trout on Toast was divine! Fried perfectly crisp and seasoned to perfection, the trout fillet was topped with sauce gribiche (think French mayo) and served on a golden slice of toasted country French bread. Do not pass this up if you’re lucky enough to find it on the menu.
Some days, I’m in the mood for a big Southern breakfast, but every now and then I wake up craving something super fresh and wholesome, like the fresh fruit energy bowls at Southern Pressed Juicery. I ordered the Butter Me Up, layered with almond butter and banana and topped with house-made granola, coconut, and fresh berries. It was like eating dessert for breakfast!
One of the most-cherished local attractions is the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 21-mile bike and running trail that connects downtown Greenville with the adorable community of Traveler’s Rest (more on that in a minute). Before you put on your running shoes or rent a bike, fuel up at the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery. Scrumptious breakfast and lunch options abound, but locals (and myself!) swear by their “Stecca,” artisan-baked loaves of tender, chewy bread studded with crunchy bits of sea salt. If you’re visiting on the weekend, go early; they’re best hot and they sell out fast.
Barely 20 minutes away from downtown Greenville is Traveler’s Rest (nicknamed “TR” by locals). While Greenville is an easy-going, casual city, TR takes it just one step further, sporting a laid back small-town vibe. My first stop was the Café at Williams Hardware, opened by sisters Joyce and Nancy McCarrell to cater to folks exploring the Swamp Rabbit Trail. This place is Southern through and through, from the screened-in porches to the menu full of diner classics. I opted for simple comfort food—a grilled pimiento cheese sandwich. Sitting on that porch, eating that buttery-crisp, melty sandwich made me feel like a kid again.
Another great lunch (and breakfast) spot in TR is Upcountry Provisions. I had a great chat with husband and wife owners Cheryl and Steve Kraus, who took me on a tour of their new concert and event space next door, named The Grove. To top it off, they sent me home with a to-go box full of their awesome peanut butter sandwich cookies, which I can assure you did not make it home with me to Birmingham!
My final stop in TR before calling it a night was the adorable Tandem Creperie. Housed in a reclaimed bank building, this place has good vibes you can feel right when you walk in the door, thanks to rustic exposed brick, soaring ceilings, and fun pops of yellow all around. But let’s get to the star—the crêpes! Basically wafer-thin pancakes, these scrumptious delights come in both sweet and savory versions, but I think you know what direction I went in: sweet! I gave in and ordered two, the Banana Nut (filled with Nutella, my favorite) and the Chocolate & Caramel. Order either (or both!) and prepare to be in heaven.
There’s so much more to taste in this town, like the Bacon Pimiento Burger at The Bohemian, the kabobs at Pomegrante on Main, and the BBQ Pulled Pork Egg Rolls at Sassafras, to name a few. With literally hundreds of restaurants in downtown Greenville and more spots popping up in TR all the time, it was impossible to taste everything I wanted to in one visit. And that’s exactly why I keep coming back.
WHERE TO STAY
I had the immense pleasure of staying at a very special resort just a few miles down the road from TR—Hotel Domestique. Tucked in the rolling foothills, this boutique hotel looks like it was plucked from a postcard of northern Italy. Opulent but adorably small (there are only 13 rooms), this hotel was built to cater to the cycling crowd, but it’s quite the gem for us regular folks, too! Innkeepers Jeff and Jody Rutter and their attentive team do everything they can to make you feel at home, which is a welcome blessing when you’re on the road. Stay for dinner at Restaurant 17, where Chef Nick Graves does a superb job transforming classic Upcountry ingredients into elegant yet comforting dishes.
WANT TO STAY DOWNTOWN?
Check out the Hyatt Regency Greenville, which puts you in walking distance of the city’s best restaurants.