Beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains and the flamboyant foliage, a burgeoning scene beckons, in the quaint small town of Greenville, South Carolina. Like us, if you seek a vacation spot packed with local eats and natural beauty best experienced via hiking or biking, add the food and music festival Fall for Greenville to the colorful mix, and you have an irresistible destination.
Only blocks from Greenville’s downtown is Falls Park, a nationally acclaimed green space with a spectacular bridge that allows unobstructed views of the Reedy River Falls. The Liberty Bridge — a 345-foot curved bridge held in the air by a single suspension cable — is the only one of its kind in the United States. Bike away down the popular Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 21-mile multi-use trail that has received a multitude of awards including the No. 1 spot on America’s Best Urban Bike Paths by Fodor’s Travel, No. 3 in Best Urban Trail from USA Today 10Best, and No. 12 Most Incredible Bike Trail in the U.S. from the Daily Burn.
For the liberal arts lover, more than 70 works of art are featured as part of Greenville’s Arts in Public Places initiative. An “Orbital Trio” serves as the anchor of North Main Street downtown at NOMA Square. “Nexus of Light” anchors the corner of South Main Street and Augusta St. And the newest Dale Chihuly "Rose Crystal Tower" sits at the other end of Falls Park. M. Judson Booksellers and Storytellers on Main Street pays homage to local business with literature gems and regular pop-up events and tastings held with local chefs and guest authors.
And there are plenty of culinary treats to enjoy during your visit. Poppington’s Popcorn offers over 75 different kinds of popcorn flavors like Bloody Mary, Dill, Buffalo Wing and more. For those 21 and up, Dark Corner Distillery is dedicated to making the World’s Best Moonshine. (They’ve won 49 medals, but who’s counting?) Saturday morning brings 60-plus local purveyors to Main Street for the weekly farmers market. For oenophiles Caviar & Bananas features a wine and espresso bar, and nibbles.
Greenville far exceeded our expectations. Whether you come for the festive fall colors or the vibrant music scene, sweetening the deal is the unparalleled Southern hospitality. Greenville is a melting point of cultures and cuisines — think hipster Austin meets food-centric Philadelphia, but with the friendliest people.
Could Greenville be America’s best kept secret? Take a look at these local gems I enjoyed on my whirlwind tour and decide for yourself.
Lazy Goat offers a Mediterranean menu featuring global influences from Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, Greece, Africa and the Middle East. The lip-smacking Lazy Paella loaded with calasparra rice, green beans, shrimp, roasted chicken, chorizo, mussels, clams, and calamari had us transported to the Spanish coast with each mouth-watering morsel. Pro tip: Add the Crispy Brussels Sprouts to your must do list — you can thank me later!!
Pair it with Raventos I Blanc Sparkling Cava or Donna Fugata Tancredi wine, a blend of Italy’s native varietal nero d’avola, for an unforgettable meal.
Southern Pressed Juicery
If you need a pick-me-up after a picturesque bike ride or just because you are aching for açai, stop by Greenville’s first 100 percent organic, plant-based cold-pressed juicery and restaurant Southern Pressed Juicery by the Local Restaurant Group — Table 301, for açai energy bowls, cold pressed juices, super food smoothies, raw snacks and salads, and more.
A family affair, Kitchen Sync is the brainchild of brother and sister Kevin and Karin Paton. They are joined by their sister, Amanda Paton, as GM, Karin’s husband as a partner, and their mom, Chris Feeny, who serves as the resident interior designer. A stalwart of locally sourced ingredients, Kitchen Sync gets its green on — boasting the highest Certified Green rating among independent restaurants in the U.S.
Two of our favored dishes: Salad Pizza, a garlic pie topped with arugula, feta, and pine nuts tossed in Italian ranch vinaigrette ($14) and the Loaded Grit Bowl with Hurricane Creek Farms Truckers Favorite Grits, applewood smoked bacon, house Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, mushrooms, and smoked provolone. Topped with a sunny-side-up local farm egg and fresh scallions ($10), this dish lived up to the South’s reputation by whipping up some of the creamiest grits we have had the pleasure of tasting.
Fall for Greenville US Foods Silver Spoons Award
Celebrating all things local, 44 regional restaurants and food trucks vie for the coveted Silver Spoons Award, and we had front row seats judging as “secret shopper.” Judging criteria included Taste, Appearance, Creativity, and Portion Size and Ticket Value — evaluating was a tall order, with only nine hours to judge the contestants. We slept well on full bellies, and in awe of Greenville’s local culinary talents.
Craft Beer Garden
Nearby Asheville, North Carolina, might be the hub of the craft beer movement in America, but Greenville follows suit, showcasing over 50 local renditions from refreshing crisp pilsners, hoppy floral ipas, wheat weisses, fruity lambic sours, to dark roasted stouts, from Greenville breweries Brewery 85, Quest, Thomas Creek, and 23 more.
There is nothing better than a boozy brunch to melt away your weekend woes. It’s like a mini-getaway that nourishes your soul and body with bubbles and butter. Halls Chophouse’s lavender-scented brioche French toast will permanently alter your perception of French toasts. A sublime interpretation, supple softness of the brioche, contrasted with the crunchiness of cornflakes, adorned with espresso mascarpone cheese and applewood-smoked bacon — aka our new favorite. Douse it with a bubbly bellini or, if you are feeling adventurous, pick a wine from their extensive wine list.
Music at Fall for Greenville
Tap your way through FFG with over 70 artists sprawled over seven stages, from spinning drums to electric strings, stimulating soul singers, exhilarating jazz ensembles, melancholy indie melodies, and rocking blues players as well as country music and pop.
For the entire lineup, visit the Fall for Greenville Fest website. The 2018 festival will take place from October 12 to 14.
Travel expenses were provided by TK PR company. Opinions are my own.