Restaurants

Since we both work and have no kids, we eat out a lot.  I like trying new places, and am happy to pass along my opinions on these new restaurants.  For these reviews, I try to stay away from the obvious chains (Chili’s, Applebees, Wendy’s, and other things ending with a long ee sound.)  I’m also confining my reviews to the general Upstate area.  We’ve had lot’s of fantastic meals on our travels, but I’d rather pass along the cuisine of this area.

Eating in Tandem

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Tandem Creperie

Tandem Creperie in Travelers Rest

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a restaurant review. Diets and limited income just aren’t conducive to eating out a lot. Even so, a new one caught my eye, and I decided to check it out. Tandem Creperie recently opened this year, right on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Last Sunday we had gone on a leaf-peeping drive, and stopped for the first time at The Forest Coffeehouse, down the street.

Tandem Creperie

The coffee at The Forest was excellent, and it reminded me of all the new spots in Travelers Rest, and I remembered seeing an article about Tandem. I hadn’t had crepes in ages, so I decided to head up that way. (more…)

Pigging Out at Bacon Bros

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It’s been awhile since I’ve done a restaurant review. It’s a bit more difficult when you’re not eating out as much, and you’re trying to watch your weight. Even so, today Glynda wanted some company for lunch, so we decided to try a new place, Bacon Bros. Public House.

I’ve heard good things about Bacon Bros. Several of my friends have visited and said that the food is excellent. The stories were that all of the recipes have bacon in them. Well…I guess that’s technically true. After all, anything with bacon must be excellent, right? We were here to get to the root of those stories.

Background

Bacon Bros. is a locally owned restaurant, and opened last year. According to the restaurant’s website…

Serial entrepreneurs Eric Bergelson and Mike Porter, along with Chef Anthony Gray and Jason Callaway, are the Bacon Brothers. Porter and Bergelson decided to branch into the restaurant business and teamed-up with Gray and Callaway in 2012. In one of their early meetings, Callaway brought bacon he had fried that morning at home and transported it in a mason jar that he placed in the center of the table where they were gathered. The four men started snacking and talking about their love of bacon. As the pieces quickly disappeared, they realized they had a concept and name for their new restaurant.

The restaurant is located on Pelham Road, near “restaurant row,” in the same area as EarthFare.

Atmosphere

I usually take “public house” to mean a bar, and I think an English pub is the decor for which they were striving. Everything has a rustic look to it. There are picnic tables outside, and exposed rustic wood inside.

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The place was filling up for lunch, so Glynda went ahead and got a table before I got there. We were seated next a large table of Verizon employees out for lunch. It was loud and conversation was difficult.

Behind the restaurant was a deck around with outside seating. To get to it, one must walk past a curing room, with all sorts of pig products.

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Menu

I guess the best way to describe the cuisine as Southern classics dowsed with a heavy dose of “chef-iness.” Contrary to what I had heard, not everything has bacon in it. However, almost all of the menu items have some sort of pork product. Selections start with a “Meat Board.” This is a collection of deli and other meats sold by the ounce, including salami, pancetta, liverwurst, prosciutto, and head cheese.

Appetizers are listed as “snacks and include oddities such as boiled peanuts, fried pickles, and tater tots. These run from $5 to $8 for most.

There are three salads, but why would anyone bother with salads here?

A selection of sandwiches run from $8 to $12, including a Reuben, pulled pork, a burger, and a BET – Bacon, Egg, and Tomato with a duck egg.

The entrees include crackling pork, shrimp and grits, and fried catfish. There is also a selection of barbeque pork options. These run from $14 to $22. However, there’s a catch…

Unless specified, I don’t think the entrees come with any sides. Those will set you back another $4-$5 per side. Looks like this could get VERY pricey very fast.

Food

Oh, these pesky diets and limited retirement budgets…I would have loved to have loaded up with some of the signature dishes, but decided to go with a sandwich, instead. Glynda and I both got the Reuben.

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It included the requirements – pastrami on rye with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. A helping of red cabbage was included on the sandwich for a bit more color. Glynda and I both thought the meat on the sandwich was fantastic. Stands to reason for a place known for its meats. Overall, though, the sandwich was lacking. It was very dry, and could have benefited from a tad more sauerkraut or dressing.

We also ordered a side of fries to split. This came out as a whopping serving in a bowl that we placed between us.

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The fries were OK, but got very soggy toward the bottom of the bowl. The fries were served up with some of BBPH’s own ketchup. This had a hint of heat and vinegar to it, and I found it to my liking. I’ve been known to mix ketchup and balsamic vinegar, when available. The waiter said that it also had some chipotle and cayenne in it, which explains the heat.

Service

About the best way to describe it was lots of flash, but little substance. For example, the simple delivery of a straw for our drinks involved some sort of weird napkin origami where the waiter never touches the straw. Right before our meals arrived, knives were delivered to us in a box, similar to those containing dueling pistols. We used these precisely once – to cut our sandwiches in half.

Where things mattered, though, service was a bit lacking. It was slow overall. Not terrible, but just enough to get to the point where I wondered, “Where is our waiter?” one too many times. Granted, it was a busy lunch service, but the place wasn’t packed. There seemed to be plenty of wait staff on hand, including one giant with a long beard.

Conclusion

While the novelty of a bacon oriented place has tons of appeal, I was not impressed. The sandwich could have been much better, and service was so-so. Add to that very high prices, and this is a place I don’t think I’ll visit very often. However, in fairness to Bacon Brothers, I didn’t like The Lazy Goat the first time I tried it, and now it’s one of our favorites. I would like to come back and try one of the entrees at a leisurely dinner and see if my opinion changes.

Local Skagit Discoveries

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August 7, 2014

We were enjoying our time on Samish Island. After driving many, many miles up the west coast from San Francisco, it was refreshing to hold still for awhile. We still had lots of chores around the house – sorting through some things, and packing up a few things to ship back east for her mom. We worked through the morning, and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.

The problem with Samish Island is that it takes awhile to get into town. We didn’t have much in the refrigerator, so we didn’t have too many options. We timed it so that we could go to the Bow post office and ship some stuff, and get lunch. As we were driving through the town of Edison, which is about a mile from Bow, we counted at least three cafes, and wondered why we couldn’t try one of those. We decided to see what was available locally.

We selected Slough Food as our experiment in local cuisine. There were a few seats out front, but decided to eat out back next to the slough. We had an interesting little one-sided picnic table set in a lovely little garden next to the water.

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We started with beer and olives.

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Lunch itself was a light sandwich on homemade bread with light deli meat and greens. It was fantastic.

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When we’ve visited in the past we’ve had Laura’s mom with us, and we were somewhat limited in our food options. We just hadn’t tried any of these local places, and now I’m glad we did.

After lunch we started wandering around the tiny town of Edison. There was a biker bar…

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…and several art and antique stores that used to be something else.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon doing chores around the house and relaxing. Our time on the island seemed to be slipping past far too fast.

The Phantom of Genevieve’s

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Phantom of the Opera Program

Photo by Carin Perretta

Continuing the impossibly busy weekend…

Today we had friends drop by for a visit. We were happy to have Steve and Linda Serkiz come by for coffee. I hadn’t seen them in years. I was at Furman with both of them, and Steve was in one of Laura’s first classes that she taught there. Steve is now down at the Savannah River Site as a research scientist, doing some very cool things with carbon nano tubes and other nano technology. I may have to wrangle a visit so that I can get a closer look at Ellenton and some of the other SRS ghost town sites.

In the evening I was supposed to be two places at once. I was SUPPOSED to be singing the National Anthem at the Greenville Drive game with the Greenville Chorale. However, the opportunity to attend Phantom of the Opera at the Peace Center came up, and we opted for that instead. (more…)

Shinola and Java Fix

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Art, Antiques, Funk

I had been working around the house most of the day and needed to get out and about. I decided a cup of coffee was in order, but I didn’t just want Starbucks or Atlanta Bread Company, my usual haunts. Then I remembered Java Fix, a coffee shop in a tiny weird building on Wade Hampton Boulevard. That simple decision turned into an afternoon’s adventure.

I’m a sucker for weird angled buildings. These are usually built to take advantage of a limited footprint where roads intersect at a sharp angle. Often there will be an entrance at the narrow end, then the place widens out. There used to be a really cool building at the intersection of Poinsett and Highway 183, but it was torn down when the Pete Hollis Boulevard was build. That was a shame.

Located where Mohawk Drive veers off of Wade Hampton, Java Fix is in a tiny little angled building. I think it started as a car service place. For awhile it was a record store, and I remember stopping in to browse. It’s also been a hairstyle saloon and several other things before the Fix people took over.

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Bocca Pure Italian

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Bocca Pure Italian

I must have driven by it a thousand times – an old Pizza Hut with the distinctive architecture now converted into another restaurant.  However, this time it caught my eye.  Laura and I were on our way back from a paddling trip.  Later we would be back up this way for a play at Furman, and we needed a place for dinner.  The sign read “Lobster Stuff Shells” and my mind started pondering the meaning of “Lobster Stuff” and what that might entail.  From those musings we decided to give Bocca Pure Italian a try.  A grammatical error caught my attention and got our business.

Background

I really couldn’t find much substantial background online. The information on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page is rather sparse. Bocca has been here a number of years, but I don’t remember exactly when. Oddly enough, I don’t remember any of our friends or Furman colleagues mentioning the place as a dining destination. We had absolutely no point of reference.

Atmosphere

The folks at Bocca have done a fantastic job given the restrictions of old Pizza Hut architecture. The exterior has been redone in gold tones, and those same rich tones with wood accents grace the interior. The wall spaces between the unusually angled windows have been outfitted with shelving for the restaurant’s extensive wine collection. The dining area is relatively small, and the counter is in the same location as the old Pizza Hut cashier counter.

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However, the counter was radically different from PH days. I didn’t get a chance for a photo, but a split in the counter allowed access to a room with a larger collection of wine and what was apparently a small wine bar. I did spot a couple of patrons there during the course of the meal. The proprietors have added additional cooking and storage space to the original building. Apparently there is a studio kitchen which can be used for cooking demonstrations.

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As for clientele, it was definitely an older crowd, with ages averaging in the 60s. I guess the best description could be “relaxed affluence.” This was obviously not the spot for high schoolers and Furman kids to casually drop by for a pizza. Even so, as we dined, two young prom couples arrived.

When we arrived we were asked if we had reservations, which we didn’t. Apparently we got the last non-reservation table. We watched several others get turned away over the course of our meal. The place was packed the entire time.

Menu

Traditional Italian dishes dominate the menu. There are several antipasti selections, including Bruschetta, Ensalada Capresse, and some more unusual dishes such as Scallops au Gratin, Italian Rope Sausage, and Mussels Piccata. All of these are reasonably priced from $6-$9.

There are quite a few specialties with seafood, chicken, veal, beef and Italian sausage. These include Rigatoni, Shrimp Carbonara, Cheese Tortolini, etc. These run from $16 – $24.

In addition to these specialties there were several classic veal and chicken dishes priced at $18.50, and several specialty pizzas for $14.50.

One innovative menu item is the “Personalized Pasta” selections. You pick the type of past, the type of sauce to go on it, and the meat (if any.) Prices vary according to selection.

And if that weren’t enough, there are the daily chef specials, of which the Lobster “Stuffed” (corrected on the display board inside) Shells and a Surf and Turf.

As mentioned, there was an extensive wine selection. Prices overall were more expensive than a casual dinner out, but are in line with a nice Italian meal.

Food

The menu was almost overwhelming. We were on a time limit with the the theater date, so we made choices quicker than we might. We both selected dishes from the veal and chicken selections. Laura ordered Chicken alla Piccata and I ordered Chicken alla Capresse.

Since we ordered chicken dishes, we ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio to go along with the meals. These came out first, and were quite good. However, I should have ordered something else. The lighter Pinot didn’t hold up well to my heavier dish. More on that later.

Salads arrived first. These were simple beds of Romana with a slice of tomato, some onion, and dressed with vinagrette. They were quite good.

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It took a bit of time, but our dishes arrived. Laura’s dish had a light lemon piccata sauce with capers, garlic chunks, green beans, and angel hair pasta. She let me have a bite, and it was fantastic – light and flavorful.

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My dish was heavier, but no less delicious. My chicken was covered with sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, spinach, and mozzarella. It was accompanied with linguini covered with a light marinara sauce. Mine also had the ever-present chunks of garlic. Again, my Pinot Grigio was a bit light for the dish and I would have been better off with something red.

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In places such as Olive Garden they grill up a bunch of chicken breasts and toss on whatever sauce is needed to create the dish. Not here. Even though we both had two thin (but large) slices of chicken breasts, each was prepared specifically for the dish.

The flavors were marvelous, and both of us cleaned our plates. Unfortunately, we had saved neither time nor space for dessert.

Service

There were just a few problems, but none that greatly upset the course of the meal. First off, two waitresses arrived for duty about a quarter after six. Apparently one of these was assigned to us. Also, as “non-reservationists” we seemed to fall in the cracks. Other tables were told about specials and brought bread, but not us. I might have tried the “Lobster Stuff” otherwise.

We never really knew who was supposed to be serving our table, and none of the serving staff seemed very friendly. It was if we were intruders. My feeling was that from the point we were seated we were customers just like any other patron in the place. Laura made mention that we were “taking up one of their tables”, to which I replied, “Well, they seated us, and they had the choice NOT to do that,” so I didn’t worry about it.

In fairness, the place was busy with a couple of larger groups. There were several servers for the small place, but it seemed to lack…friendly efficiency, I guess. We got our food in time, and we eventually got our bread, but timing was always beyond the point where we were starting to wonder. I would hope that isn’t the case on a less busy night or when the staff shows up when it should.

Conclusions

The quality of the food was excellent. The dishes seemed to have an innovative flair, but with a basis in traditional Italian cuisine. It made me want to come back and try one of their specialties. Service was so-so, but I’m hoping that’s not par for the course. Bocca Italian is a bit pricy, but not out of line for a nice evening out with food quality this good.

This was quite a surprise, and it’s nice to know that food of this quality is so close to Furman. I’m sure we will be back.

Taylors Renaissance and Textures

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Taylors Mill with Texture

As most readers by now know, I am fascinated with old ghost towns. However, what I like even more is when I find an area that was previously in decay now coming back to life. Such is the case with the old Taylors Mill in downtown Taylors.

The phrase “downtown Taylor’s may not have much meaning to Greenvillians. Most think of Taylors as a nebulous area somewhere on the Eastside of town before you get to Greer. There is actually a downtown area, just off of Wade Hampton Boulevard, beyond Taylors First Baptist Church. There are a few storefronts, but the most prominent features are the old Taylors High School, now converted into a Fine Arts Academy and Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the old Taylors Textile Mill. (more…)

Lunch at Harold’s of Gaffney

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Tommy Thompson and I had been out on a photo trek across Cherokee County. We had reached the town of Gaffney and we were ready for lunch. We were looking for something quirky and local – not the chain places located out near the interstate. Gaffney is a college town, so I was hoping for something like what we found in Athens. However, Limestone College is no UGA, so pickin’s were slim. When we saw the sign on Harold’s Restaurant saying “Featured on the Food Network” we decided we had to check it out.

Background

Harold Tindall opened the restaurant in 1932 with a unique recipe for a chili burger. The place gained a local following, and sometime in the last couple of decades (time unknown) Tony and Holly Lipscombe purchased the restaurant. They retained all of the original recipes, and pretty much all of the same furnishings and decor.

Atmosphere

It’s a dive. Period. One walks into a narrow space lined with booths on one side and a lunch counter on the other. First up is a massive menu board with instructions to order at the counter. Several other diners were seated either in booths or at the bar. The place is decked out in yellow for Gaffney’s high school football team.

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Automatic for the People

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Weaver D's

Automatic for the People

Glynda had some business with my brother Houston, in Athens, so I offered to drive her down in exchange for a leisurely day taking photographs. Turned out to be a good road trip through Georgia, stopping at several interesting points and a couple of landmarks in the university town. The highlight, though, was a stop at Weaver D’s Automatic for the People, a culinary and rock and roll landmark in Athens.

Background

Dexter Weaver, a Georgia Native, moved to Baltimore early in life, where his classmates gave him the nickname “Weaver D 43″, from his high school football jersey number. Weaver D found himself in a variety of retail and fast food settings. Through these endeavors Weaver crafted his catch phrase, “Automatic for the People,” to indicate efficiency, caring and quality. A co-worker suggested that if he ever went into business for himself, that should become his motto.

Fate eventually brought him back to Athens, where he used his business and culinary sense to establish a catering business in the late 70’s, early 80s. His business flourished, and he made a name for himself catering events for frat houses and other university events. In 1986 the old Riverside Cafe closed down, opening an opportunity for Weaver D. He leased the building and opened his soul food restaurant.

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Because he had catered so many university events, the place was immediately popular with students as a restaurant where they could get good home-cooked food. One of the patrons was none other than Michael Stipe of REM. In 1992 Stipe approached Weaver about using his catchphrase for the title of an upcoming Album, and Weaver agreed. Released in 1992, Automatic for the People was the eighth album by REM, and received a Grammy nomination. The album has the hits “Man in the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts.” It was also used as the title for a Sarah Connor Chronicles TV episode. (more…)

Breakfast in Monck’s Corner

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This is Part One of a three part post…

It was a second Saturday, and time for another Lowcountry Unfiltered outing, the first of 2014. Traditionally this has been our “Swamp Stomp” outing, dating back to when we trod through Congaree National Park in flood conditions looking for Championship Trees. We had several options, but decided upon a biking/hiking trek to Bonneau Ferry Wildlife Management Area.

Originally, I had planned to head down Friday and do some more photography and exploration in Berkeley County. However, the weather was not cooperating. The forecast was for a front to come through, with severe thunderstorms tracking across the coastal areas.

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I decided not to drive down on Friday, but did head out early Saturday. When I awoke the sky was lit up with lightening. I was beginning to question the wisdom of this trek. I already had my bike loaded up, so I went ahead and loaded my cameras and rain gear into the car and headed south.

Even on the road I was second-guessing my decision. Strong lightening strikes hit close to the car, almost blindingly so. Rain poured down. As I headed south the rain let up little by little, and on the other side of Columbia the sun even started to peek through for brief moments. Home would be drenched, but we might be OK. (more…)

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