It certainly doesn’t have the instant recognition of Greenville, SC or Asheville, NC, both nationally known foodie towns nearby. And considering it was only two years ago that a development/redevelopment project of both commercial and residential buildings began, it hasn’t taken long for people to notice there’s a boom happening in Spartanburg. And that boom is especially visible in the many restaurants in Spartanburg, SC.
Nicknamed Hub City in the late 1800s due to its role as a major transportation center, Spartanburg is working hard to remind visitors what the locals already know.
With its two-hundred-year-old music-making history, combined with art galleries, museums, over seventy-five public art installations, and literary arts venues lending to the State’s art commission designating downtown Spartanburg as a cultural district, Spartanburg, SC sparkles. At least that’s what residents say as they lovingly refer to their town as Sparkle City.
From the Chapman Cultural Center, the only place in the US where performing arts, visual arts, history, and science can be found under one roof, to the Spartanburg Art Museum – the oldest contemporary art museum in the South, to its Philharmonic Orchestra, Regional History Museum with one of the best map collections in the southeast, and its Historic Walking Tour with fourteen significant sights highlighting architecture, transportation, entertainment, and even war, it’s hard to believe this city has been under the shadow of neighboring towns for so long.
Once a former transportation hub and major textile town, Spartanburg, SC is now home to a lively culinary arts scene featuring breweries, coffee roasters, fine dining, and every ethnic food you could imagine.
Today, this medium-sized southern town, population 75,000, is home to six colleges and universities, BMWs North American Headquarters, and is enjoying a $292 million development/redevelopment plan that has people saying, “something’s happening in Spartanburg”. Its foodie scene shows it.
The next time you’re in the area, here are seven downtown Spartanburg restaurants worth the drive.
7 Best Restaurants in Spartanburg, SC
255 John B White Sr. Blvd. // 864-585-9387
With all the change happening in Spartanburg, there’s still a bit of nostalgia left.
The first thing you notice when you pull up to this Spartanburg landmark is the huge parking lot, lots of American flags, and of course, a beacon.
Inside is a rather industrial space that looks like time stood still. Flooded with fluorescent lighting, the huge kitchen is open to a vast dining area where customers seat themselves at vinyl-covered chairs and Formica covered tables.
Even the menu is huge. With over one-hundred-fifty items from a banana-mayo sandwich on white bread to sliced turkey, footlong Coney hotdogs, fried pickles, and Frito chili pie, to apple, peach, and pecan pie, not to mention malts and shakes, deciding what you want may take a while.
For those looking for lighter options, there is a surprising variety of salads including a strawberry and spinach salad and a coriander crusted ahi tuna salad. I say surprising because, with the number of greasy options that most people come for, salads are the last thing I’d expect to find on the menu.
The Beacon, opened in 1946, also holds some records. At the time of its opening, it was the second-largest drive-in restaurant in the country. Today it sells the most iced tea in the US. And I’m going to guess it’s still home to world-famous grease, as I like to call it, thanks to its famed Chili Cheese A Plenty, which I recommend everyone order during their first visit.
When you order anything with “A Plenty”, you get a heaping order of half onion rings and half French fries piled high – way high – on top of your burger of choice which is served on a Styrofoam plate that you carry to your table on a plastic, cafeteria-style tray.
This isn’t where you go when you’re thinking about calories or heart health. But it is where you go when you want what the Beacon is most famous for: lots of good food at a fair price, sweet tea, and generosity “a plenty.”
Long before food became Instagram worthy, The Beacon was born. Today it’s one of those places where every politician that comes through town goes, and where local families have gone for generations. It’s not trendy, but it is Spartanburg history, and worth the drive the next time you’re in the area.
Open seven days a week. Prices between $3 and $15. For remarkable comfort food, this is a great place to eat in Spartanburg.
1000 N. Pine Street // 864-582-3800
In 1947 Wade and Betty Lindsey opened a small grocery store with a lunch counter that sat six. Each day Betty would make a meat entree with vegetables. and prepare plates for local mill workers who were looking for an affordable home-cooked meal. Great success and demand for more options led to a lot of growth between then and now, but what remains is home-cooked meals, friendly services, and fair prices.
When you walk up to Wade’s you can’t help but notice the large neon sign out front that reads “have you had your vegetables today?”. Or the walls that are lined with the same cute cartoon vegetables that were used for years as billboard marketing material. Or the art deco style pendant lights that hang down from a drop ceiling are a nod to its history. All relate back to Wade’s history as one of the places to go to in Spartanburg.
Those in a hurry can go in the express room, where it’s cafeteria-style service. Further inside is a dining room with a sit-down table service.
Just as in the beginning, all the dishes are made from scratch with family recipes passed down through the generations. Each plate includes a yeast roll or cornbread, and coffee or tea. Prices range from $8 to $10 per plate and offer a variety of meat choices including grilled chicken, hamburger steak, and even spaghetti with meat sauce.
There’s a long list of vegetable and side choices including green beans, mac and cheese, and sweet potato souffle. For a list of the daily offerings check the website.
When I was there, I noticed it hard for guests to leave without a slice of pie too.
Pecan, apple and an assortment of other choices guarantee customers a full homecooked meal. Open seven days a week. For a taste of great food and a taste of history, make sure you visit this downtown Spartanburg restaurant.
226B W. Main Street // 864-699-9669
When you have a group of people and want to make everyone happy, this is where you go.
Creative burgers, salads, and wraps, as well as beer and cocktails, make up the menu. The atmosphere is modern, the service good, and the food, portions, and prices spot on.
Located in the emerging arts and entertainment area known as the Grain District, across from the new AC hotel, and next to the Silo at RJ Rockers, don’t be surprised if you find a wait. Reservations are accepted.
As an early dinner before a live concert at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, three friends and I stopped by Cribb’s Kitchen. Our table ordered sliced beef tenderloin with horseradish, Singapore duck rolls, and bacon-wrapped scallops, along with fried tofu skewers and goat cheese with wild mushroom tartlets for our vegetarian friend.
Considering this restaurant opened in 2010, long before Spartanburg started enjoying its revitalization, I’m happy to see it has become a Spartanburg favorite restaurant. Parking is sometimes challenging, but I suppose that comes with being downtown and being so popular.
With a diverse menu, good service, and cool and casual atmosphere, Cribb’s Kitchen is not only worth the wait, but it’s also worth the drive when you have a crowd you’re looking to please. Prices from $8 to about $28. Closed Mondays.
For an evening of fine dining before a cultural event, Cribb’s is one of the best restaurants in Spartanburg.
149 S. Daniel Morgan Avenue // 864-582-6554
A local farm to fork restaurant that prides itself on their motto “our space is your space”. This Spartanburg restaurant is also a great local venue for weddings, meetings, or special events. It features a full bar with handcrafted cocktails, and a menu serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch until 2 pm.
The interior is warm and modern. Exposed brick walls and rustic tables provide the perfect backdrop to beautifully plated food. To me, this place has brunch written all over it.
From locally sourced ingredients, The Farmer’s Table turns out creative burgers and sandwiches, and specialties like avocado toast, shrimp and grits, and paleo eggs benedict.
Perhaps my favorite is the Brussels, bacon, and goat cheese combo. Not just good looking, delicious too.
Whether you’re looking for a full meal, appetizer, or are just in the mood for one of many mimosas they make, featuring their fresh-squeezed juices, you can’t go wrong with a visit to The Farmer’s Table, located just off Main Street in downtown Spartanburg. It’s a great stop for food in Spartanburg.
2601 E. Main Street // 864-541-7981
There are a few things to know about this casual restaurant located nowhere near downtown Spartanburg. Expect a wait. But it’s worth it. Other things to know is it closes at 3 pm and doesn’t open on Mondays or Tuesdays.
And they serve crepes.
Sweet crepes like Nutella and banana crepes, and Meyer lemon and blueberry crepes.
And savory crepes with sausage, cheese, spinach, ham…basically anything you can think of can go in a crepe.
It’s worth noting that this French-inspired restaurant, Mon Amie, which means “my friend” in English, serves French toast, eggs benedict, omelets, salads, and even champagne. But to me, it’s all about the crepes, which is where my challenge begins whenever I visit Mon Amie.
I’ve never met a Nutella crepe I didn’t like. So, when I come to Mon Amie, I get the Nutella and Banana Crepe. If I’m lucky, I convince a friend to get a savory crepe too, and we split them. That way I feel like I’ve not eaten dessert for breakfast since the Nutella crepe is on the dessert menu.
Mon Ami has a handful of savory crepe options, but my favorite is Betty’s Perfect Breakfast Crepe. It’s a large crepe wrapped around two eggs, Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, crumbled SC sausage, and honey Dijon sauce.
Basically, everything here is French, with a southern twist. The interior is painted sunflower yellow, with black and white checked floor and black and white striped awnings.
But what stands out most is the open, center of the room crepe station, where you can watch your crepes made before your eyes. In keeping with the French theme, the chef wears a beret as he swirls crepe batter around with a wooden dowel, filling it full of whatever you’ve ordered. A counter around this station is available for patrons to sit at and watch the action while they eat.
With prices from $5-$15, and food and service consistently very good, Mon Amie is worth the drive. Make sure you experience one of the best Spartanburg restaurants for the food and the show.
187 N. Church Street // 864-913-1010
To be honest, this makes my list for two reasons and neither has to do with food.
One, the interior is gorgeous.
And two, they do coffee very well. I know. Once upon a time, I owned two coffee houses just outside of Chicago. So, when I saw the kind of product they were creating, I had to come to check this place out.
Housed in the beautiful historic Montgomery building, the inside is bright, open and airy, with high ceilings, deep navy walls, burnished gold fixtures, and the most beautiful floor tile! You’d think you might be in Morocco.
But it’s what happens behind the bar that counts. Perfectly pulled shots of espresso. Perfectly steamed milk. Microfoam, as the industry calls it.
Small bites include house-made bread that they turn into avocado toast, marmalade/whipped goat cheese/poppyseed toast, plus tomato tartlets, cheddar garlic biscuits, lemon poppy seed muffins, lemon scones, blueberry muffins. You get the idea.
Pharmacy Coffee, a Little River Roasting Co., takes its coffee seriously. Baristas are the best of the best, and the vibe is totally welcoming.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to hang out, read a book, work on your computer, or meet with a friend, Pharmacy Coffee is worth the drive. Open 7 am-7 pm daily. Closed Sundays. If you want something out of the ordinary, check out this Spartanburg restaurant.
225 W. Main Street // 864-596-5069
This is an example of what’s happening in Spartanburg. Located on the 10th floor of the new AC Hotel, which by the way is gorgeous inside and out, Level 10 is just as it’s touted, “elevated, global fare”. In Spartanburg! There was a time when no one would have imagined Spartanburg and elevated global fare to have anything in common. But it’s all part of the boom.
And at Level 10, famed restauranteur Rick Ewin has done it again with this upscale casual restaurant serving “modern south” cuisine with an international flair.
Always a fan of beautifully plated food and fun names, like grilled lamb lollipops, I was excited to visit Level 10. I went in the early evening, primarily because of the sunset view I had heard so much about. And what they say is true – with its outside patio overlooking the city the views and sunset are spectacular.
Along with beautifully plated food, I’m also a fan of small plates and lobster, so I ordered lobster gnocchi and a glass of red wine. Really, how can you go wrong? My friend had the seared scallops and a cocktail, which she said were perfect.
Level 10 isn’t cheap. But it’s not supposed to be. This is an elevated dining experience. That it’s a Rick Erwin restaurant lets you know in advance what you can expect – a great atmosphere, great crowd, great service, and of course great food. If you’re looking for fine dining in Spartanburg, this is the place. Open daily at 4:30. Closed Sundays.
Susan Dejanovic is a travel and food writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. She enjoys exploring new places and discovering local foods, then writing about them. Member: ITWPA