I fell in love with South Carolina some years ago while visiting Charleston. Well known for many lovely reasons, I learned on my recent trip that the northwestern part of the state has just as much to offer. I flew into Greenville and saw nothing but lush and green as far as the eyes could see as my plane touched the ground.
I hit the South Carolina lottery: A road trip through Greenville + beyond
Not only is Greenville, #YeahThatGreenville, naturally stunning – the Liberty Bridge crosses over waterfalls in town at Falls Park – but Greenville is a hidden gem for those who love good food. My first visit to the city was during the Fall for Greenville weekend event on Main Street, where you can get a true taste of the town. It was also fun trying to spot the 10 Mice on Main (essentially a scavenger hunt celebrated along downtown Main Street where locals follow clues to find each bronze mouse). There were so many places I set out to try around town. But first — coffee.
Downtown, the cold brew isn’t the only thing that’s on par at Methodical Coffee – so are the decadent sweets and the design. If you’re more into drinking your vegetables, Southern Pressed Juicery is some of the best cold pressed juice I’ve tasted, and it’s a local spot too! I loved the views, and the brussels sprouts were unbeatable at The Lazy Goat. Just up the street, Jianna has authentic Italian food and some of the best gnocchi I have ever eaten. When you walk in the door you can watch them make the pasta in front of you. They have a beautiful wrap around circular bar, half indoor and half on a patio overlooking town, the bar staff is extremely knowledgeable, and they make a mean ‘clear’ negroni.
Pendleton Street in West Greenville is another few blocks you’ll want to walk. Of course, you can’t leave town without homemade ice cream at Carols. And right next door, the The Village Grind is another of my favorite cafes from the trip with plants taking over the space – green everywhere you turn.
One of my favorite things about the small town of Landrum is that due to its equestrian draw, it attracts visitors from all over the world and offers a variety of recreational activities including hiking and horseback riding. The WEG (World Equestrian Games) was held just two weeks before I visited, and the event brought an influx of around 100,000 people to the city. Driving around the countryside, you’ll find the last covered bridge in South Carolina along with several other bridges to explore.
Southside Smokehouse and Grille is owned by Chef Sarah McClure, a Chef Ambassador in the state. I loved their Cocktail List and Chef’s Special Menu – both using seasonal local produce from the farmers market in town in each Saturday. The Figgy Piggy was my favorite with smoked ham, melted fontina cheese, fig jam, and spring mix on toasted French bread.
Meanwhile, the shrimp and grits at Stone Soup was southern food at its best. It’s a great cafe for dog lovers because there is a community dog park out back.
I spent my first night at the Red Horse Inn in Landrum, arriving just before sunset. A glass of wine was in order on the patio fire pit overlooking sweeping views of the rolling hills. The inn is family owned and consists of six cottages, all of which are designed to make the guests feel a sense of rest and relaxation. It is centrally located in the center of Horse Country, or as the locals call it- Hunt Country. The inn offers live acoustic music on the weekends and even has its own wine bar with wine and cheese pairings. A beautiful bathtub in my room and modern comforts like a NEST, the learning thermostat made me feel perfectly at home. The night skies are stunning due to lack of light pollution.
The next morning, I woke up, popped in a Keurig and had coffee on the balcony of my room Rapunzel style as the sun came up. I saw the horses running in the distance and went down to meet them. They’re planning to add horseback riding to the list of things to do here. There is so much beauty, including 10 hiking trails on the property itself.
There are a number of nearby hikes – a local’s favorite (and mine too) was Jones Gap. As the trail begins, you cross the rushing creek and climb over boulders on the tall tree covered trail. The higher I climbed the more the leaves changed in color – so many shades of green, orange yellow and red.
If you’re more into a lazy man’s view of the region, drive up to Caesars Head State Park and walk out to the Caesars Head lookout. There is a dramatic view looking back on Caesars Head by walking through a tight crevice in the granite that is known as Devil’s Kitchen.
Not too far away, Victoria Valley Vineyards has great afternoon snacks, goat cheese, and sangria overlooking vines. A great place to take an afternoon rest.
At one point in time, Travelers Rest was simply a rest stop and gas station for people traveling through. Years later, the community gathered together to buy the railroad. They eventually converted it to a rail trail that loops from Travelers Rest all the way to the city of Greenville. The area has been growing so much and you can now find boutiques and breweries along the way. The loop makes it super convenient for people to hop around to many of the unique communities nearby. In fact, one local of Greenville told me they have a running joke that they are, “just 18 miles from everything.”
Grab your morning coffee and a crepe from Tandem. If you’re more of a bruncher, Rocket Surgery for the win! They’ve only been open for a year and are making a big name for themselves in this small town. Bring friends because you’ll want to try the entire menu. The maple donuts, chicken and biscuits, bloody Mary, and coffee cocktail will have you in food and drink coma heaven. Just a few blocks down the road grab a tasting at Swamp Rabbit Brewery + Taproom. I had a few favorites – the seasonal raspberry white ale, Golden guppy (a Belgian strong ale), and the Brown Porter.
I stayed at two different types of accommodations in Travelers Rest. For the easygoing traveler, the keyless entry accommodations at the Swamp Rabbit Inn is a great option. You’re given a code to enter the building and to enter your room. I was on the second floor and felt right at home. The Inn was purposely built at the entrance of Swamp Rabbit Trail to provide locals and guests with a family-friendly place to stay before delving into all the trail-related activities Swamp Rabbit has to offer. It’s definitely perfect for the no frills traveler just trying to get a good night’s sleep.
If you’re into boutique and luxury hotels, Hotel Domestique is going to be your cup of tea. George Hincapie, world renown cyclist, is the owner behind this beautiful spot. The hotel consists of 13 rooms and offers amenities such as massages, yoga, and even bike rentals. And, having dinner at Restaurant 17 was a real treat. Before dinner people gathered with their cocktails on the lawn to watch the sun set. Most diners were hotel guests who had gotten to know each other. The restaurant inside Hotel Domestique is truly “farm to table.” A gentleman from the nearby local farm brings fresh vegetables each week and delivers them to the restaurant by walking up a hill, now that’s what I consider great customer service! Lamb Meatballs, Florida rock shrimp risotto, perfectly seared scallops amongst pork belly, beech mushrooms, and embered sweet potato, and the Chocolate Chess Pie were all divine.
My time in Greenville and exploring all of the small towns surrounding it was filled with so much adventure, food and southern hospitality. Traveling in and around Greenville, I got a true sense for the kind people of the region and the culture in South Carolina. I hope I can return again soon to explore the nature and ever evolving food scene.