Rocket Surgery

People always ask me “What’s your favorite restaurant in Greenville”? When I consider all my equally delicious options, I tend to lean towards the places I eat at time and time again: Sidewall Pizza being one of those places. The reason being that Sidewall Pizza is about so much more than just good pizza. With a different flavor of homemade ice cream each day, hot sauce made from scratch and salads that almost rival the pizza, Sidewall Pizza is a goldmine.

So, when the rumors began that owner Andy O’Mara was going to open a new restaurant in Travelers Rest the city of Greenville was buzzing with excitement. Having only opened their doors a few weeks ago, Rocket Surgery has already lived up to the hype, focusing on the art of craft cocktails and elevated snacks. With a simple, casual atmosphere including large doors that let in a nice breeze, Rocket Surgery is the kind of place where relaxation is all but guaranteed.

As to be expected with one of Andy’s ventures, Rocket Surgery has a whole lot to offer besides just tasty food. Equally as impressive, their signature libations are raising the bar for handcrafted cocktails in The Upstate. Their drink menu is listed in order of booziness making the decision process a little easier on us all, and priced at $10 or less per cocktail. Can’t decide? Name your spirit of choice or favorite flavors and let the bartenders work their magic. My drink of choice is the Gabrielle consisting of gin, elderflower, gentian, honey, lemon and bitters. Not too sweet, a little floral, and slightly bitter, this cocktail is right up my alley.

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What style of food would you expect from a cocktail bar? Snacks, burgers, maybe something sweet…Rocket Surgery has all those options, but takes well-known “bar food” and turns it into something unique. Take their Fried Calamari, for example. Crispy pieces of calamari don’t just come with a side of marinara sauce, but instead are tossed in butter, garlic, roasted red peppers, sweet banana peppers, hot cherry peppers and kalamata olives then topped with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese. Something about the simple addition of peppers takes an okay appetizer and turns it into a complex, mouth-watering dish.

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Other scrumptious snacks include a straightforward Shrimp Cocktail with spicy cocktail sauce, Stuffed Olives perfect for dipping into their roasted garlic aioli and a unanimous favorite of our table, Crispy Brussels Sprouts tossed in a honey lemon sriracha glaze. Remember when brussels sprouts used to be everyone’s most-hated vegetable? That’s certainly not the case anymore. Especially when they get extra-crispy and then coated in a sweet and spicy sauce that makes you forget you’re eating a vegetable.

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Rocket Surgery does their burgers a little bit different too, by offering a wide-variety of “Snack-Size” portions, or what you may more commonly know as “sliders”. Order 1 if you just want a snack, or 2-3 for a full meal. They have everything from your traditional certified angus beef patty served with ketchup, Dijon mustard, butter lettuce, tomato and red onion, to a lamb patty with feta, spicy harissa and fresh spinach. Much to my surprise, being the meat lover that I am, the burger that stole my heart was the Falafel burger with pickled cucumber and tzatziki. The falafel patty itself is creamy and full of flavor with a punch of acidity from the pickled cucumber and light, refreshing tzatziki. I must note: Not only do all the burgers from Rocket Surgery come on a house made brioche bun, but they even make their ketchup, Dijon mustard, aioli, sauces and dressings in house!

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Be sure to follow Rocket Surgery on social media because along with their usual menu items, they offer dinner specials like this Hot Chicken Sandwich topped with butter pickles, garlic aioli, and served on the most delicious brioche bun in all the land. Here in the south, we take our fried chicken pretty seriously, and Rocket Surgery meets all my expectations with their spicy rendition of a southern classic.

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When a restaurant bakes their own brioche bread fresh every day, and they have Bread Pudding on the menu, you order it no questions asked. An astounding “mmmmm” fell over the table as we took our first bites of this decadent dessert. This is no average bread pudding; trust me I’ve tried a lot. Rocket Surgery pours an almost sinful bourbon cream sauce over the pieces of brioche bread then tops the dish with toasted pecans. Needless to say there were no leftovers.

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Rocket Surgery is open Monday and Thursday from 5:00PM-10:00PM and Friday – Saturday from 5:00PM-11:00PM. Don’t miss their Sunday brunch from 10:00AM to 3:00PM! I’ve heard they’ve got hot donuts…and, of course, boozy cocktails.

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euphoria 2017 (Bites of the Weekend)

Every year euphoria delights our taste buds with delicious bites from esteemed chefs around the southeast. Unfortunately, we will have to wait another 363 days for this event to roll back around next September, but until then I’ve highlighted my best bites from five euphoria events to hold you over.

Greenville Kick-Off Party: What better way to kick-off euphoria weekend than with a festive celebration filled with food crafted by Greenville chefs, a killer band, and drinks that keep on flowing? Held in The Old Cigar Warehouse, this event showcased all that Greenville has to offer, including my bite of the night coming straight from Coastal Crust food truck. I’m sure all of their wood-fired pizzas were amazing, but I had 2 favorites: Fig & Prosciutto and Butternut Squash & Red Onion. Simply put, Chef Matt knows good pizza and the quality of ingredients speaks for itself.

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Taste of the South: This event is for all the true foodies out there. Featuring celebrity chefs from all over the southeast, you’ll get to taste inspired dishes from renowned restaurants you’ve never been to…but may have always wanted to. Held in the picturesque Wyche Pavilion, complete with live music and charming strings of twinkle lights, Taste of the South is a winner. My favorite, and first, bite of the night was the Hot Quail Sweet Roll courtesy of Kenneth Gilbert of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Jacksonville, Florida. Upon arriving at Taste of the South, I asked a few foodie friends which dishes had been their favorite so far. Every single one said this sandwich, so of course I all but ran to stand in the long line to see what all the hype was about. This sandwich was simple, but perfectly executed. All starting with a crispy piece of fried quail, placed on a sweet Hawaiian roll (which, let’s be honest, is the way to go) and topped with a Datil pepper remoulade and dill pickles. If they hadn’t run out of this sandwich, I would have gone back for seconds, or maybe even thirds.

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Feast by the Field: All craft beer lovers, wine-o’s and foodies unite at this daytime event that features not only endless samplings of tasty bites, but also chef demos, a craft beer garden, wine sampling tent and more. Presented by GVLtoday, this event gets you in true party mode and has a little something for everyone. My favorite bite was hands down the Pulled Duck Confit by The Bistro Topsail in Surf City, North Carolina. The tender, flavorful duck alone could’ve been my favorite bite, but why stop there when you can serve it atop a corn cake, braised collards and top it all off with duck skin cracklin’? This is one of those bites I will keep craving time and time again.

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Big Easy Bash: Being the new kid on the block, the Big Easy Bash was a highly anticipated event that took place at Trailblazer Park in Travelers Rest. The theme of the night was all things New Orleans, including a New Orleans style jazz band, dirty rice for days, and of course beignets. My bite of the night had to be the beignets from Grits and Groceries and Chef Kevin Belton. I’ve never been to Café Du Monde to try the crème de la crème of beignets, but I bet you these were pretty darn close. Served piping hot, this beignet was melt in your mouth delicious with a dusting of powdered sugar to top it off.

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Sunday Brunch: Brunch is good enough as it is, but throw in some barbecue made by infamous pit masters and you’ve got an event that can’t be beat. We’re back downtown for this family-friendly event that welcomes local chefs, barbecue geniuses, and boozy brunch cocktails. My first stop was Lewis Barbecue where last year John Lewis served the most incredible brisket that I still think about to this day. His dish stole my heart again this year with fall-off-the-bone tender ribs, a piece of smoky sausage, spicy barbecue sauce, and pickled red onions. When barbecue is this good, there’s no need for all the sides and sauces.

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Now, the countdown begins to euphoria 2018! Be sure to follow @euphoriagreenville on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with all your favorite chefs and restaurants, and to be the first to know when tickets for next year’s festival go on sale! #isitseptemberyet ???

Growler Haus

The Village of West Greenville truly has it all: Wonderful restaurants serving inspired dishes that incorporate locally sourced ingredients, a coffee shop with a killer lavender latte, art galleries galore, plus a soon to be music venue. What more could you possible wish for? Owners of Growler Haus, specializing in craft beer, knew the answer to that question and opened their 4th location in The Village this past August.

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When it comes to a craft beer joint, atmosphere is everything. With a funky, comfortable vibe complete with plenty of plush seating, it’s an ideal setting to stay awhile and grab a beer, or two. But, Growler Haus has a lot more to offer than just craft beer. Their “Haus Bites” include elevated bar food like roasted brussels sprouts with bacon jam, signature burgers and flatbreads. Whether enjoying a Pale Ale or IPA, your appetite will surely not be forgotten.

What goes hand in hand with beer? More carbs of course! The soft, salted Brau Haus Pretzel hits the spot after sipping on flights of seasonal craft beers. It’s the size of your head, making this “small bite” ideal for sharing. But, you may not want to after tasting the beer cheese and spicy IPA mustard dipping sauces. Fair warning: this pretzel is oh-so-bad, but oh-so-good.

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Looking for something on the lighter side? Growler Haus‘ Let’s Taco Bout It: Mason Jar Salad is a whimsical spin on the classic taco salad. Complete with colorful layers of romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, black beans, corn, jalapeno, avocado, lime and crushed tortilla chips plus your choice of dressing, this dish makes ordering a salad not so boring.

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Served on their homemade stout buns, there’s a burger for everyone at Growler Haus. Beef, chicken or veggie…the choice is yours. I went with their classic Haus Ground Burger topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, white cheddar cheese and their signature Kentucky bourbon sauce. They have other signature sauces to choose from such as blueberry Dijon and sweet habanero, but I was drawn to the sweet and savory combo on this burger. I’m sure the Haus Chips are great, but I couldn’t stop reaching for the crispy Sweet Potato Tots served on the side.

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I was super excited to spot an unconventional menu item for a beer joint: Bao Buns. Growler Haus fills their buns with tuna poke or seared pork belly then tops them with flavorful, crunchy toppings. If you’ve never had a Bao bun before, don’t expect the texture of a typical slider, but expect something fluffier and slightly sweet. It’s almost like dessert on the outside, filled with savory components.

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Yes…there are still more carbs coming your way. Growler Haus has an assortment of flatbreads (aka fancy pizzas) such as The Bahamamon with Haus spicy pineapple jerk sauce, red beans, red onion and feta topped with fresh thyme plus an addition of avocado and chicken for a mere $2. This unique flatbread surprised me with flavors that don’t typically go together, but somehow made total sense. I’ve also heard great things about their T.A.B. flatbread with avocado cream cheese, tomato bruschetta, feta, arugula and balsamic glaze.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t save room for dessert this time (believe it or not) but I will most definitely be back for their Brau Haus S’Machos that includes bite-sized bites of that incredible pretzel, chocolate and toasted marshmallow. Serving craft beer and tasty bites in an inviting setting, Growler Haus just took The Village of West Greenville to a whole new level of cool.

Tom’s BBQ

Tom’s BBQ is no newcomer to the barbecue scene. Having been at its same location on Woodruff Road for over 30 years, I’d say it’s a staple for some good ole barbecue. So, why am I just now trying it? Because new owners, Brock & Beth Stevens are shaking things up a bit with a revamped dining room, as well as boosting their social media presence by posting drool-worthy shots of their hush puppies, mac and cheese and so much more.

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Besides the face-lift to the original interior of the restaurant, Tom’s BBQ is still very much the same; providing customers with the original flavor and recipes they started with. At Tom’s, it’s apparent that simplicity and ease are key. Order at the counter, have a seat and your meal is out in no time. The menu consists of all the BBQ essentials: sandwiches, plates, burgers and dogs, sides and desserts. Not surprisingly, I tried a little bit of everything…

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Here at Tom’s, they’re known for their pulled pork with the local favorite Cheerwine Sauce. So, we ordered one pulled pork sandwich and threw in a pulled chicken sandwich for good measure. Both sandwiches have a hint of smoky flavor that you crave when eating Southern BBQ. What took these sandwiches from good to great? The 8 different BBQ sauces to drizzle, or pour, on top. From sweet to mustard, classic to super spicy, Tom’s truly has a sauce for everyone. I especially loved the Cheerwine and the mustard sauces.

 

I must admit…when someone says “BBQ” I immediately think of all the sides and fixins. Yes, the meat is tasty all on its own, but I look so forward to filling my plate with cole slaw, baked beans…the list goes on and on. We ordered the Sweet Potato Crunch, Green Beans, Mac & Cheese and Hush Puppies. This Mac & Cheese should be pictured next to Mac & Cheese in the dictionary. It’s everything you desire in classic Mac & Cheese…creamy, fluffy with bites of sharp cheddar cheese mixed in. I like some texture in my Mac & Cheese, so the bites with the baked, melted cheese kept me coming back for more and more.

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I eat Hush Puppies during football season every single year from Maurice’s BBQ in Columbia, SC and until now no other hush puppies have rivaled those bad boys. Tom’s hush puppies are different, in the best way. They are ever-so-crispy on the outside and the inside melts in your mouth. Plus, they are on the smaller side, so you can eat more of them, right?! The Sweet Potato Crunch is basically a dessert, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that if you ask me. Mashed sweet potatoes come topped with a caramelized, crunchy coating of pecans and brown sugar creating a decadent side dish. Lastly, their green beans are as old school as you can get. Not too mushy, but not too firm, these green beans have an awesome flavor and texture.

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Banana pudding is one of my all-time favorite desserts, but it can go wrong so easily. Tom’s doesn’t mess around with their scratch-made banana pudding. It may not be the prettiest thing you’ve ever eaten, but it’ll stand up to any grandma’s banana pudding. You can tell this banana pudding was made with the classic ingredients: sugar, eggs, ripened bananas, milk and lots of vanilla wafers. What sold me on this banana pudding was the ratio of pudding to wafers. In each and every bite I got some slightly softened vanilla wafers, which, let’s be honest, is truly the best part of banana pudding.

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Leave it to Beth and Brock to plate up an awesome BBQ lunch in Tom’s charming, renovated restaurant, or call them to cater your next event or provide a “Piggy Pack” for your next tailgate. Tom’s BBQ is located at 1143 Woodruff Road and is open Monday – Saturday from 10:30am – 3:00pm.

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Clean Eatz

Oftentimes we choose what/where to eat based solely on convenience. Some nights we just don’t want to make the effort to find a recipe, head to the grocery store and prepare a meal. To make things even more complicated, some of us want a meal that is healthy, as well as satisfying. Clean Eatz is here to lend a helping hand with their nutritious, quick and easy dishes.

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Clean Eatz exemplifies the belief that being “healthy” is about so much more than just working out. What you put into your body will ultimately be the main factor in living a healthy lifestyle and simply feeling your best. Having just opened its doors on Pelham Road, Clean Eatz offers a daily menu, a grab and go cooler, guilt-free snacks/desserts and a weekly meal plan option.

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I have a feeling most of Clean Eatz’s clients will stop by in between meetings, on their way home from work, or after a tough work out sesh. Because, here’s the thing: As much as we all love those treat yo’self meals, during the week many of us try to eat as healthy as possible…and we want it to be quick and easy. You can easily dine at Clean Eatz and be in and out in 45 minutes or less, and for less than $10.

It’s reassuring when you know that anything you order off a menu will be a healthy option. That eliminates so much of the decision-making process right there! Staring with their snacks, the buffalo cauliflower is a customer-favorite tossed in buffalo sauce and served with fat-free ranch. It definitely packs some heat, so beware!

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You also have the option to build you own bowl. Choose your base, protein, up to three fresh veggies and a sauce and voila! Dinner is served! Our bowl came with brown rice topped with spinach, asparagus and tomatoes, a generous serving of perfectly cooked salmon, and a sweet chili sauce that I couldn’t get enough of.

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Not only can you build you own bowl, but you can also build your own burger! Start with a turkey, black bean, or bison burger and choose the style that best suits you. We went with the turkey burger teriyaki style served with pineapple, green peppers and teriyaki sauce for a sweet/savory combo that can’t be beat.

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Sometimes you taste something that’s described as “healthy” and you think “no way”. That’s precisely what I was thinking as I bit into the warm, cheesy and ever so savory Philly Flatbread. Clean Eatz fills this flatbread with tender, shredded beef, peppers, onions, melted mozzarella cheese and spicy ranch. Served alongside was a surprisingly tasty fruit parfait.

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Busy lifestyles don’t have to be a bad thing. In the Upstate alone, we have so many passionate individuals opening places similar to Clean Eatz to make our lives a little easier. All you have to do is find the one that works for you, and stick with it! My motto: Let’s embrace this “healthy-living” lifestyle, while also leaving room for cheats every now and then. Because it’s all about balance…right?! Clean Eatz is located at 3608 Pelham Road. They are open Monday – Friday from 11am – 7pm (for now) and Saturday from 11am – 3pm.

The Pantry Doctor’s Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats have been taking over our Pinterest boards for the past couple of years–tempting us with their creamy consistency and additional toppings that add texture and bite. Here’s the catch…very few of us have actually taken the time to purchase all the ingredients and prepare our oats the night before. That’s exactly why The Pantry Doctor’s Overnight Oats are flying off the shelves of many local markets around the upstate and into our fridges.

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Wendie Schneider, aka The Pantry Doctor, is a registered dietician and healthy living coach who believes wholeheartedly that you are what you eat. She started The Pantry Doctor blog/website on the philosophy of “produce before pills” and strives to help people better themselves by eating real foods, establishing a fitness routine, managing stress, and overall becoming a happier, healthier person.

When The Pantry Doctor asked me to sample some of her Overnight Oats, I was super excited as I try my best (when I’m not going out to eat all the time) to eat healthy. The biggest selling point of these oats is the sheer convenience factor. You literally fill the container with milk of your choice (I used almond milk), place them in the fridge overnight and they are ready to enjoy in the morning. Also, they are all packed with super foods that you don’t usually have in your pantry such as goji berries, spirulina, bee pollen and many more. With all of the flavors described below, I added a drizzle of maple syrup and some fresh fruit over the top.

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Here is my breakdown of flavors starting with my two favorites:

Beautie: With a name like “beautie” how can you go wrong? This flavor consists of rolled oats, collagen powder, walnuts, cacao nibs, chia seeds and acai powder. Little did I know, but acai is known as the “beauty fruit” because it is full of antioxidants and makes your skin look younger and healthier. I especially loved the big chunks of walnuts and hint of chocolate in this flavor.

Stress Less: We all need a little less stress in our lives. Full of the most unfamiliar ingredients of them all, this flavor includes rolled oats, dried blueberries, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, maca, red reishi mushroom powder and ashwaganda powder. So I may not know how to pronounce a few of those ingredients, but I do know that the dried blueberries added a slight tartness and chewiness that I adored.

Energee: The simplest of the flavors, Energee comes with rolled oats, goji berries, cacao nibs, chia seeds, unsweetened coconut, maca and spirulina. Anything with coconut and I’m a happy camper. Interesting fact: 57g per 100g of spirulina is easily digestible, plant-based protein. So, this flavor keeps you full and energized all the way until lunchtime!

Immunitee: This flavor includes the densest natural source of vitamin C in the world: camu camu! Along with the camu camu (which comes from a shrub found in the Amazon rainforest) is rolled oats, bee pollen, peanut butter powder, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. This flavor felt the most nourishing to me due to the peanut butter flavor mixed with a hint of cinnamon. It tastes delicious with some sliced banana.

If you want to make your own overnight oats, more power to you! But, I doubt they can stand up to the texture, flavors and quality of ingredients that come in The Pantry Doctor’s Overnight Oats. You can find these oats at Lowes Foods, Kuka Juice, Swamp Rabbit Café, Two Chefs and Healthletic Meals, or order them online through The Pantry Doctor’s website.

Grits & Groceries

For years now I’ve talked about making the roughly 45 minute drive out to Grits and Groceries in Belton, SC. If you follow them on social media, then you understand the cravings that emerge upon seeing their daily specials. Heidi, the chef and owner at Grits and Groceries, cooks up her eclectic southern dishes, while Joe, her husband, whips up his famous desserts. Located in a refurbished country store that was once a meeting place for the county, Grits and Groceries still serves as a place to gather and eat “real food, done real good.”

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Heidi and Joe are pioneers of the farm-to-table concept and continue to provide diners with a market-inspired menu with ingredients sourced within a 100-mile radius. Their philosophy: Can’t find locally sourced, in-season produce…change the menu. Their regular menu consists of good ol’ southern dishes such as a Warm Roast Pork Sandwich served open-faced on Texas Toast and a Palmetto Burger with a big scoop of homemade pimento cheese on top. Along with their usual menu, they also offer daily specials that incorporate Cajun, Creole and Southern cooking into one tasty dish. And, of course, Joe’s homemade dessert menu also changes daily including some of his specialties like Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie, Fried Hand Pies and ice cream made with Happy Cow Creamery products.

Upon entering the cozy, warm country store that is now Grits and Groceries, Heidi greeted me and my mom with a smile and some suggestions as to what we MUST order (because trust me, it’s more than hard to decide!). We settled on the Tomato Pie, Country Ham Balls and New Orleans Shrimp Po-Boy. The Tomato Pie is served as a whole, mini pie instead of a piece of pie and has a browned, crispy crust on top and along the sides. There’s just something about tomato pie in the summertime that makes you smile, especially Grits and Groceries’ tomato pie with a vibrant mix of fresh tomatoes, onions and creamy goodness on the inside.

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Every single ingredient in the mouthwatering Country Ham Balls keeps you coming back for more. A mixture of ham and homemade pimento cheese is fried to crispy perfection and placed on top of a slather of pepper jelly. It reminds me of the classic party appetizer with a hunk of cream cheese topped with pepper jelly and served with buttery crackers, except so much better. One bite into these crunchy on the outside, velvety on the inside balls and you’re hooked.

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Both Chef Heidi and Joe have years of experience cooking in New Orleans under esteemed chef Emeril Lagasse, as well as opening the award-winning Elizabeth’s restaurant, so I knew the New Orleans Shrimp Po-Boy had to be pretty phenomenal. Grits and Groceries keeps their Po-Boy pretty straightforward with crispy, fried shrimp, romaine lettuce and a creamy remoulade style sauce on top. What takes this shrimp Po-Boy from ordinary to extraordinary? The slight sweetness of the shrimp and the freshly baked hoagie roll. Yes, there’s a lot of bread on this bad boy, but you’ll need it to bite into the generous helping of shrimp, and to soak up all that yummy sauce.

Now to the toughest decision we made all day…what to get for dessert? We went back and forth between the homemade ice cream, warm banana pudding and many more tantalizing options before finally deciding on the Lemon Drop Pound Cake served with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries. It was hands down the moistest pound cake I’ve ever tasted with a vibrant lemony flavor. If you claim to not be a fan of pound cake, I bet Chef Joe will convert you into one.

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It’s apparent at Grits and Groceries that Heidi and Joe are committed to showcasing Southern food as it should be: simple, fresh and full of flavor. If anyone is up for a road trip, let me know and I will happily tag along. Next on my list will be their Saturday brunch to try their infamous Praline Bacon and a whole lot more. Grits and Groceries is located at 2440 Due West Highway in Belton, SC. Just look for the giant chicken! They are open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am – 2pm, Thursday from 10am – 2pm and 5pm – 9pm, and Friday and Saturday from 9am – 2pm.

White Duck Taco

I’m a little late to jump on the White Duck Taco bandwagon. My parents have been to White Duck Taco, my cousins have been to White Duck Taco, and 99% of my fellow foodies have been to White Duck Taco before I had the chance to check them out. Let me just start by saying, it was well worth the wait. What makes White Duck Taco extra special? It just happens to be located next to one of my favorite breweries in Greenville, Birds Fly South.

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White Duck Taco’s menu has all the essentials that go hand in hand with tacos such as chips and salsa, margaritas and even some sweet bites for later. Follow the duck prints, place your order and spend around $10 for a couple tacos and a drink. That’s a winner in my book. I visited White Duck Taco with two friends and we ordered 5 different tacos, 3 glasses of refreshing sangria (choose from watermelon or peach) and a decadent dessert. Here’s my taco breakdown…

Fish Taco: I am obsessed with fish tacos…especially when the fish is flaky and grilled to perfection. White Duck Taco tops their fish taco with pico de gallo, slaw and chipotle crema. Too many places ruin a simple, but awesome fish taco by piling on topping after topping until you can’t taste the fish anymore. Here, the fish (tilapia) is the star of the show and is further complemented by the crunchy, tangy slaw and creamy sauce.

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Korean Beef Bulgogi Taco: Anything with Korean flavors and you’ve got my attention. At White Duck Taco, beef marinated in a flavorful sauce comes topped with avocado puree and Kimchi. Kimchi adds a punch of acidity that balances out the richness of the beef and creamy avocado. When it comes to this taco, you had me at Kimchi.

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Bangkok Shrimp Taco: This taco exemplifies that sweet and spicy combo that just can’t be beat. Tender pieces of crispy shrimp are tossed in a sesame glaze giving them a sticky, crunchy coating that keeps you coming back for more. As if that doesn’t sound good enough, they top that crack-like shrimp with a cucumber chili aioli.

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Mole Roasted Duck Taco: Duck, duck…taco? I’ve only had duck tacos once before, and they were pretty amazing, so I was eager to try White Duck’s version that starts with a mole roasted duck that melts in your mouth topped with an apple-cranberry salsa and crema. Think Thanksgiving meal meets Mexican spices/flavors and that’s what you get with this taco.

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Crispy Pork Belly Taco: I have to admit, I’m usually not a big fan of pork belly. Typically, I find it to be too chewy and too fatty…not a good combo if you ask me. But, with this being the award winning taco at Tacos and Tequila, I knew I had to give it a fair chance. This taco may have just been my favorite of the day. The pork belly was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and topped with pickled watermelon rind and the most amazing green onion sauce. I would kill for that sauce recipe and would put it on EVERYTHING!

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And, of course, it wouldn’t be a meal with The Upstate Foodie without dessert. White Duck Taco has 2 desserts on their menu: Salted Caramel Macaroon Pie and Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème. The Pot de Crème with a pistachio crust and cinnamon whipped cream was the ideal bite to end this taco party. One large spoonful of that rich, creamy chocolate mixed with crunchy pistachio and hint of cinnamon cream is all you need, but I won’t judge if you eat the whole thing.

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There are plenty of taco joints in the Upstate tempting you with their creative toppings, craft cocktails and flavorful sides. White Duck Taco is here to give us another take on tacos that’s bound to excite and deliver…plus that have refreshing Sangria that’s perfect on these brutally hot summer days. They are located at in Hampton Station next door to Birds Fly South Brewery and are open Monday – Saturday from 11:30am – 9:00pm.

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Diner 24

We are all aware that Greenville’s foodie scene has been thriving over the past two years. New restaurants are opening faster than we can visit them. Whether you want pizza, tacos, or pretty much any other cuisine, Greenville’s gotcha covered. But, what about after all those restaurants close for the night? Or, what if you’re craving breakfast food, but it’s dinner time? That’s where Diner 24 comes to the rescue.

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Located where Charlie’s Steak House once was, Diner 24 opened its doors on Monday and is ready to provide customers with classic diner food, as well as homemade desserts and locally sourced coffee around the clock. Yes, you read that correctly. Diner 24 will serve breakfast staples such as Classic French Toast and Biscuits and Gravy, as well as standard lunches like a Patty Melt and Reuben 24 hours a day. Not only that, but they also boast daily dinner specials from 4pm – 10pm. I for one am looking forward to Chicken Pot Pie Sundays.

With it being 12:00pm on a Wednesday afternoon, I combined two meals in one and enjoyed both breakfast and lunch at Diner 24. Fair warning: Everything you order at Diner 24 is HUGE, in a kind of amazing way. So, definitely plan to share with a friend, unless you have a hankering for late night food after a night at Ink n’ Ivy, in which case, go all out. David, @Greenville360, and I ordered the Buttermilk Pancakes, Hangover Helper, Triple Decker Club, and Monte Cristo. Let’s just say there were definite stares from other diners and we had plenty of leftovers.

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I have a hard time going out for breakfast and not at least having a couple bites of pancakes. There’s just something about their fluffy texture with butter and syrup on top that can’t be beat. Diner 24’s buttermilk pancakes are about as traditional as you can get. Fluffy, slightly sweet and huge…they sure are tasty. I would highly suggest ordering them with a side of bacon, as there’s nothing better than that salty, sweet combo. Also, Diner 24 knows how to cook some bacon. I probably commented on how amazing the bacon was cooked 12 times during the meal.

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We’ve all had those days where the fun times you had the night before made for not so fun times the next day. The Hangover Helper is here to alleviate some of those days for all of us with a large skillet of crispy hash browns layered with cheddar cheese, bacon, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, sausage gravy and 2 eggs with a side of toast. I would eat this dish after a few drinks, hungover the next day, or if I was feeling just fine…it’s really that good. That flavorful, creamy sausage gravy really helps to marry all of the flavors of this oh so good, but oh so sinful dish.

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Yes. A club sandwich is a pretty straightforward dish. But, there are small details that make all the difference in creating a classic club sandwich, and Diner 24 has mastered those details. First of all, the layers of toasted white bread maintain their crunch even after being stacked and layered. Secondly, the tomatoes and lettuce taste fresh and aren’t mushy. Lastly, Diner 24 keeps it old school with American cheese. An added bonus: you can try the perfectly crispy bacon on this sandwich.

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For the grand finale, not only for its size and presentation, but also for its buzzed about presence within Diner 24 already…the Monte Cristo. Okay, so I’ve never had a Monte Cristo before, but was familiar with the concept of combining sweet and savory into a turkey sandwich and frying it. Picture the most extreme version of my initial thoughts, and you’ve got Diner 24’s version. I’ll break it down for you. The sandwich itself consists of ham, turkey, cheddar and Swiss cheese between white bread that gets fried…very fried. Then, the sandwich is topped with powdered sugar and a side of raspberry preserves for your dipping pleasure. This dish is anything but ordinary.

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Diner 24 is committed to maintaining the feel of a classic diner, which is exactly the kind of place we’ve been missing. You won’t find any alcohol on their menu, but it’s an ideal spot to stop by after consuming some. I can’t wait to try some of their “Sweet Treats” like classic cherry pie or, my go-to, a Cookies and Cream Shake. Diner 24 is located at 18 E. Coffee Street across from Ink N Ivy. Of course, they are open 24 hours!

Basil Thai Restaurant

We all have a go-to takeout Thai spot that we swear is better than any other.  My personal favorite is Thai Restaurant located on Augusta Road.  Some nights, there’s nothing better than a massive portion of spicy, heartwarming Pad Thai straight from a Styrofoam box.  When Basil opened its doors in downtown Greenville, I was skeptical if it could maintain the same consistency that I get from takeout Thai, but here’s the thing…It’s not trying to be takeout Thai.

Owners Henry and Chai Eang, who also happen to be brothers, immigrated from Cambodia in the 1970s with a vision to bring authentic Thai cuisine to the southeast United States.  Their first location opened in Charleston, SC and after years of progression and rave reviews, several other locations popped up.  Luckily, Henry and Chai decided upon Greenville to be their next venture.

Basil’s expansive menu offers a variety of authentic Thai dishes from appetizers, soups and salads to specialties and entrees.  It’s quite a challenge to choose just one dish to order, so I highly suggest going with a group of friends and ordering a few to share.  I dined at Basil with another foodie, and we shared the Fresh Basil Rolls, Green Curry with Chicken, Shrimp Fried Rice, and two desserts.  At the end of our meal, we realized that none of the dishes were too spicy, but you could add heat as needed with their signature sauces on the table.

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The Basil Rolls are such a simple, fresh dish to start your meal.  They are stuffed with shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts and basil then wrapped in rice paper.  Just the roll alone is wonderful, with the subtle flavors of fresh basil and shrimp, but don’t forget about Chef Suntorn’s sweet and spicy house sauce served alongside.

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I absolutely adore curry dishes.  Nothing is as comforting and delicious as slightly creamy, flavorful curry spooned atop sticky white rice.  Basil’s curry ups the ante by somehow incorporating a burst of freshness I’ve never noticed in a curry dish before.  Their green curry sauce has a subtle heat, a balanced flavor of kaffir lime and comes mixed with bell peppers, bamboo shoots, eggplants, green peas and basil.  We asked for our curry with chicken, but honestly I wouldn’t have missed the protein one bit.  I could’ve eaten the curry with a spoon.

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Shrimp Fried Rice…doesn’t sound too exciting right?  Well, Basil’s fried rice is in a whole other category.  The savory, flavorful rice is delicious as is, but comes incorporated with onions, scallions, carrots, green peas, egg and shrimp.  This dish was the ideal canvas for tasting all of the house sauces.  That little added heat was just what this understated, yet oh so tasty dish needed.  An added bonus: Fried Rice makes for some pretty amazing leftovers.

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After eating a large quantity of Thai food, dessert should be something refreshing, cool and not overly sweet.  We decided upon the Mango Sticky Rice.  About halfway through this initial dessert, Chai insisted we try the Trio of Creme Brulee.  The Mango Sticky Rice comes with beautiful slices of fresh mango, as well as a bed of sticky rice covered with a decadent coconut based sauce.  The slightly tart flavor of the mango was the perfect counterpart to the creamy, sweet rice.  The Trio of Crème Brulee was truly something special.  Three little ramekins come to the table full of three different flavors of crème brulee: Chocolate, Coconut and Green Tea.  Each flavor had that torched crust just waiting to be broken into with creamy filling hidden underneath, but the flavor that stole my heart was the coconut.  I urge you to try all three and decided for yourself.

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I am anxiously awaiting my next visit to Basil Thai Restaurant in the hopes of trying many more of their authentic Thai dishes including Basil Duck, Larb, Pad Woon Sen and other names I can’t quite pronounce.  Part of the fun of going out to eat is trying new dishes and experiencing other cultures.  With a contemporary, hip atmosphere like Basil, and owners like Chai and Henry who are committed to perfection, it’s the perfect place for just that.

Basil is located at 9 N. Laurens Street in One City Plaza.  They are open for dinner Monday – Thursday from 5pm – 10pm, Friday & Saturday from 5pm – 11pm and Sunday from 5pm – 10pm.  Stay tuned for their lunch hours!