10 Best Restaurants Span Gamut of Reasons why they're Popular
By Libby McMillan
Greenville Local Expert
This subjective list represents a wide variety of styles, price points and cuisines. (For upscale dining only, see the 10Best Fine Dining list) Greenville offers diners the option of regional southern cuisine, upscale dining and everything in between. It will surprise many to find two staples on countless menus: pimento cheese and deviled eggs. But if you're not sure about certain regional tastes, you'll probably be hooked once you try some of the Upstate's barbecue, collard greens, cornbread and sweet tea. If traditional options are more to your liking, Greenville offers a cosmopolitan variety beyond what you'd expect for a city of its size. You'll discover Thai, Indian, Chinese, New Mexican, Italian, Dutch, German, French, Brazilian and more, due in large part to a diverse population and healthy economy. Downtown's Main Street is chockablock with restaurants, as are Augusta Road, Haywood Road, Laurens Road, Pelham Road and Pleasantburg.
10 High Cotton
Situated right on the Reedy River in a prime downtown location, High Cotton is a real favorite for many reasons. Patrons who are familiar with it from visits to Charleston are pleased to find the same quality and service here in Greenville. Soaring glass walls and cool, contemporary space make the interior truly inviting. Savor an appetizer of seared Hudson Valley foie gras or jumbo lump crab Oscar, then enjoy main courses like sliced venison medallions, butternut squash, buttermilk-brined free range chicken or cornbread-crusted flounder. High Cotton also has an outstanding wine list. (864-335-4200)
9 American Grocery Restaurant
Unusual seasonal cuisine is the hallmark of this cozy restaurant, occupying a refurbished storefront in Greenville's historic West End. The menu can range pretty far outside a typical diner's comfort zone, but foodies think they've died and gone to heaven. AGR's talented kitchen staff use ingredients from regional farms to create memorable offerings like venison with baby Swiss chard, parsnip puree and Cumberland sauce. A delightful selection of artisan wines are on hand. There's also a small bar at which patrons can dine: a very comfortable place for solo diners. (864-232-7665)
Delighting Greenville locals with their meticulously prepared entrees and expansive wine collection, Davani's has become one of Greenville's best restaurants. Located on Augusta Road, patrons flock to Davani's to partake in Italian and French influenced meals complimented by upstanding service and an inviting environment. Trying to impress a foodie? Take them here for a sample of the veal Oscar or the Muscovy duck, both outstanding dishes. Using local ingredients and the freshest seafood around, Davani's offers guests a bite of genuinely delicious food. (8643739013)
7 Wine Cafe at Northampton Wines
This restaurant developed from Northampton's much-applauded wine shop and is a natural outgrowth of its focus on quality goods. The bright, narrow space is quiet and decidedly unpretentious, so it's a great place for a date or a low-key celebration. The menu boasts dishes like roasted pheasant, ale-braised rabbit, coriander-crusted tuna loin, and twin tournedos with basil pesto duxelles. Each dish is accompanied by suggestions for wine pairings, or you can choose a bottle from the shop and have it served with your meal. Special wine dinners are available regularly. Prixe-fixe: $98 with wine. (864-271-3919)
6 The Trappe Door
This amazing gastropub is desireable on many levels. It offers delicious Belgian food at very fair prices (only the steak is higher than $20); there's a huge selection of great beers; and several unusual wines by the glass can be enjoyed each evening. Wait staff are efficient yet friendly and very knowledgeable about their food and beverages. There's always lots of locals here, and big parties are easily accommodated, yet it's great for date night too. Low ceilings keep the ambient noise well below a roar, so conversation is easy to enjoy. (864-451-7490)
5 Peddler Steak House
Dim and atmospheric, this oft-frequented steakhouse is a landmark in the area. Don't expect anything fancy, but the food is delicious and the setting is one of the most unique in town. Set in an historic stone cottage which used to sit above a swimming hole, the Peddler is like stepping back into time. If you wait until 7:00 to go, you'll have trouble finding a parking place, and you'll likely have to wait for a table, but don't let these obstacles prevent you from this experience. steaks are cut to order, and prepared as you want them, and come with a trip to the Peddler's well-stocked salad bar. Chicken, pork and seafood entrees will satisfy those friends who aren't in the mood for steak, but try to convince them otherwise. (864-235-7192)
4 Larkin's on the River
Known for aged steaks, fresh fish, and romantic ambience, Larkin's on the River is perfect choice for a splurge in Greenville. Wait staff are nothing but professional. Subdued lighting and cozy tables set the stage for a romantic evening, and Larkin's excellent staff are happy to help you make a selection from an impressive wine list. Restaurant specialties include she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, aged filet mignon, and Chilean sea bass. The bar is a great space and well worth a visit before dinner. During the summer, Larkin's hosts Rhythm on the River, a weekly outdoor concert series that features oldies, swing, and beach music. (864-467-9777)
3 Breakwater Restaurant & Bar
Breakwater serves a New Southern version of comfort food. Greenville musts like pimento cheese are on the menu, but so are low-country favorites like fried oysters or shrimp and grits, a clue that this popular eatery has a second location in coastal Beaufort. The chefs always incorporate seasonal ingredients into the ever-shifting menu, so summer brings treats like watermelon radish salad. The service is always divine on the open-kitchen restaurant side of Breakwater, and the bar is a neighborhood hangout for locals. You'll want to dress a little nicer to go here, but resort casual is still fine. Bon appetit, y'all! ((864) 271-0046)
This Main Street staple is one of Greenville's favorites. The new-south cuisine includes such tempting entrees as New Orleans BBQ shrimp and grits, grilled smoked pork loin, and crab cake remoulade. The desserts are sumptuous, especially the banana cream pie. Soby's also offers a lively bar scene which attracts Greenville's after-business crowd with its extensive wine list and after dinner drink options. Very knowledgeable and friendly staff. (864-232-7007)
1 Smoke on the Water
Some local foodies will claim there are better restaurants in Greenville, but even they take first-time Greenville visitors to Smoke on the Water, for a reliably great southern meal in a great location. While many local BBQ restaurants are no-frills joints with bright lights, Smoke on the Water quickly dispels that perception. This restaurant is as serious about ambiance as it is about barbecue. Warm, cozy and welcoming, it's a great place for lunch or dinner, especially when you factor in perfectly-cooked beef brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, prime rib, or beer-butt chicken. But it's the side dishes which may come to mind days later. Do not miss the collard greens, squash casserole or the cornbread. Smoke on the Water offers diners a variety of sauces, in true Carolina style: tomato-, mustard-, and vinegar-based. The restaurant's busy bar is also a top hangout during happy hour. (864-232-9091)
About Libby McMillan
A longtime travel journalist, Libby chose her beautiful city after a nationwide search for a new hometown. Greenville's amazing downtown, four mild seasons, varied terrain, friendly residents and countless nearby waterfalls made it a winner.
Libby previously spent 20 years in Florida, what she calls “the only place in the world where you drive north to reach the South.”
An avid college football fan, Libby has deep ties to the University of Oklahoma but graduated from rival Texas. She’s lived in Austin, Boston, Nashville, San Francisco and Captiva Island, Florida, including 4 happy years on a houseboat.
Read more about Libby McMillan here.