If you’re traveling I-85 through Spartanburg County, slow down long enough to grab some lunch in the small town of Cowpens.
After it was chartered in 1900, the popular stopping point for cattle drovers in need of respite acquired its distinctive name. But before that, it was the site of a battle that changed the course of the Revolutionary War, a piece of Cowpens’ history that makes it an even more interesting stop along the way to Charlotte or Greenville, depending upon your trajectory.
On January 17, 1781, the American Patriot troops enjoyed a decisive victory over the British, and the grounds where it all took place are preserved as Cowpens National Battlefield.
But rest assured, when it comes to finding a tasty lunch, you can lay down your arms and enjoy an easy win. For a small town, there is an impressive array of options tucked away in Cowpens’ charming downtown that will make your belly more than happy.
Here are some can’t-go-wrong suggestions:
You’ll smell it in the parking lot—pork, chicken and ribs slow cooked and smoked over smoldering pecan wood. The dedicated pit room with stacked wood out front is another clue you are about to sink your teeth into the real deal. Smoky pintos, green beans, slaw, potato salad, sweet potato casserole—the sides are worthy of rounding out a most excellent barbecue plate.
The red barn façade of this burger-wing-hot dog joint belies the hopping atmosphere within. The kitchen crew doesn’t skip a beat as orders fly in and out at a breakneck pace. After all, it’s lunchtime and, judging by the fire department fleet filling the parking lot, the need for a speedy lunch is as tantamount as the desire for deliciousness. Crawford’s delivers on both counts.
Warning: Because everything on this comprehensive menu is so tempting, you’re going to struggle with what to order. The aromas emanating from the kitchen don’t help much in this regard either. Nor do the sights of bubbly pizzas issuing from the oven and platters of crisp, green Greek salads topped with tender chicken fresh off the grill. Hot oven subs, patty melts and burgers, flounder sandwiches, manicotti, gyros, souvlaki, chicken parmigiana, baklava—you see the dilemma. And note that the house-made ranch dressing is so stellar, you will want to order two: one for your salad and one to drink or dunk your fries into. It really is that good.
Dolline’s on Main
This no-frills modest diner with a friendly staff might be best known as a breakfast hotspot, but it also has a lunchtime reputation as the headquarters for juicy, made-to-order, hand-pattied burgers. Sides of freshly made slaw and crinkle-cut fries are the perfect accompaniments. The hamburger steak is also highly recommended. Get yours with onions and peppers, gravy or cheese. If you opt for all the above, no one with judge you.
Abbott Farms Bakery
If dessert is your idea of a perfect lunch, or if you want a sweet treat before you hit the interstate again, a stop at this bake shop is a must. A local symbol of SC fresh produce and other products, it offers homemade baked goods like fruit pies and raisin cinnamon, sweet potato nut, peach, blueberry and other sweet breads. But it’s the homemade ice cream that most people home in on, especially the strawberry and peach made with South Carolina-grown fruit. Get a cone or order up your ice cream in milkshake form for easy indulgence on the road.
Other things to see and do:
Downtown Cowpens has a clutch of quaint antique shops that will thrill ardent collectors and browsers. Hit Main Street and take a leisurely stroll through each one to find a vintage treasure.
Pay a visit to the Cowpens Depot and Museum. The railroad depot was built in 1874 for the Air Line Railroad Company. The museum houses donated relics that reflect the town’s WWII naval history. Contact the museum for hours of operation.
See Cowpens Veterans Memorial Park, which honors the military service of men and women through monuments and inscriptions.
Visit Cowpens National Battlefield. It's located 9 miles north of town in Cherokee County near the town of Chesnee, where the history of this significant Revolutionary War battle has been well preserved. Re-enactments are slated three times a year. See the website for details.
The town hosts the Mighty Moo Festival each June to honor the crewmen of the USS Cowpens CVL 25, who served in World War II. The four-day fest features street dancing, a beauty pageant, arts and crafts, a parade, golf tournament and more.