An Explosion of Taste in Spartanburg

Diners eating food at a restaurant.
Free-Photos / Pixabay

Go back a few years and it wasn’t unusual to hear that Spartanburg residents were heading to Greenville to dine. An explosion of taste has rocked Spartanburg since then, and the rhetoric is changing.

In early 2016, a community assessment by OneSpartanburg asked 3,180 residents to rate Spartanburg County’s quality of life assets. Dining opportunities fell in the bottom six of ranked assets, and although stakeholders noted that there had been many positive developments in recent years, the clear consensus was that Spartanburg must expand its menu. Forty-three percent of respondents thought Spartanburg’s dining options were average, and another 33 percent marked them as very poor. Only 24 percent of respondents thought Spartanburg’s dining opportunities were where they needed to be: excellent. If the assessment was given again, just two years later, we’d expect to see that number rise.

Dining hubs across Spartanburg County have flourished since the assessment was given. The most prominent destination for hospitality, Downtown Spartanburg is in the midst of a restaurant boom.

In 2018 alone, Downtown Spartanburg has seen authentic additions that range from sandwich shops like It’s Banh Mi Baby, to fine dining experiences including Rick Erwin’s Level 10. By the end of the year, twenty-four new restaurants will reside in Downtown Spartanburg, creating a tasty corridor through the heart of the City. Main Street, Wall Street and Magnolia Street are filling in as the city’s prime dining area, with expanded sidewalks and outdoor dining options attractive to restaurateurs and diners alike. The announcements continue to come, with Spartanburg staples The Peddler and Le Spice, and Greenville concepts Spill the Beans and The Flat all moving into Downtown’s dining district.

“Spartanburg has become a dining destination for independently-owned concepts like the newly opened The Kennedy, Fr8Yard and The Silo, but also for established restaurants like Farmer’s Table, Wade’s and Willy Taco,” said regional food writer Stephanie Burnette, @EatDrinkCarolinas. “I get asked where to go eat in Spartanburg weekly now by those willing to drive up to an hour. It’s unusual and noteworthy that restaurateurs have found success in Spartanburg at every level of dining and for more than just dinner, where alcohol often drives revenue.”

And, there’s room for more. Residents are keeping their ears to the ground for announcements of major anchor restaurants at the Montgomery Building and the historic Citizens & Southern National Bank, which previously housed Wild Ace.

What about the restaurants that have shuttered their doors? While we’re sad to see them go, they represent a regular churn known to the hospitality industry. The data is available to back up the anecdotal evidence that Spartanburg is growing: hospitality collections continue to set records year after year, both in the City of Spartanburg and countywide.

Other municipalities throughout Spartanburg County, are adding flavor, too. A flurry of restaurants are popping up in the downtowns of Woodruff and Landrum.

Gaither Ray’s on Main, a barbecue restaurant, opened in Downtown Woodruff in late 2016, followed closely by a 1950’s themed sandwich and hot dog shop called Jonnie Dog’s and More. The restaurants are joined by Humble Grounds coffee and tea shop and The Wine Gallery, all adding to the hospitable revitalization of Woodruff’s Main Street.

In Landrum, more recent additions like Soulisa’s Fine Thai Dining join long-time favorites like The Hare and The Hound and Stone Soup Market and Café. Speaking of Landrum, it’s home to 2018 South Carolina Chef Ambassador Sarah McClure of Southside Smokehouse, one of four ambassadors selected by the state to showcase SC’s culinary prowess. McClure is the second in as many years to hail from the Hub City, following 2017 SC Chef Ambassador William Cribb, known for being one of the masterminds behind Hub City Hospitality’s family of restaurants.

“Hosting back-to-back SC Chef Ambassadors is an indication that people outside Spartanburg are starting to recognize our culinary assets,” said Chris Jennings, executive vice president of the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Spartanburg is really starting to make a name for itself as a foodie destination.”

Spartanburg made its South Carolina Restaurant Week debut in January 2018, joining eight featured areas from across the state. For 11 days, 15 restaurants showcased specialty multi-course menus, drawing diners into Spartanburg establishments and pumping dollars into the economy.

From Southern favorites to international cuisine, Spartanburg is on the rise as a hub for authentic hospitality.

Prepared by Naomi Sargent, Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce.