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!

Rick Erwin’s West End Grille: New Chef

One of the original, upscale steakhouses to open its doors in Greenville, Rick Erwin’s West End Grille continues to offer customers top-quality cuts of beef, flawless service and consistency that can’t be beat. You know exactly what to expect when dining at any of Rick’s restaurants, and that’s reassuring. But, a new chef is shaking things up in the kitchen at Rick’s West End Grille, and I for one couldn’t be more excited.

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Chef Wilberto Sauceda came all the way from Miami ready to showcase his talent in the newly food-driven city of Greenville. You can find him loading up his cart full of local produce the downtown market on Saturdays, or exercising his creativity in the kitchen at Rick’s West End Grille. I was lucky enough to attend a 9-course tasting menu courtesy of Chef Wilberto himself and can attest to his talent and creativity.

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Course 1: Gazpacho/Vichyssoise

This chilled, refreshing soup was an idyllic way to begin our meal. The creaminess of this soup was accompanied by the crunchy, salty bits of Marcona almonds and sweet, white grapes. I all but licked the bowl clean.

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Course 2: Focaccia Bites

Whoa. Get ready for this flavor explosion. The soft Focaccia bread is made in house and topped with flakes of sea salt. I would have been content with the bread alone, but no, Wilberto topped the Focaccia with a creamy mix of blue cheese and goat cheese, as well as a caramelized onion, finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. It was delectable enough to serve as a dessert.

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Course 3: Corn Cake topped with Foie Gras

Southern meets French cuisine in this little bite. The corn cake served underneath had a flavor-profile similar to that of French toast, but with a lighter texture. The Foie Gras was prepared seared to precision and fork-tender. I made sure to scrape up the beet puree served underneath with each bite.

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Course 4: Prosciutto Croquettes

Don’t know what a croquette is? Think “fancy hush puppy” with a whole lot more flavor. Each crispy on the outside, velvety on the inside croquette sat atop a different sauce: orange and tomato marmalade, goat cheese crema, or butternut squash puree. With each bite you got a little sweet, a little tangy and a little savory.

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Course 5: Greek Heirloom Tomato Salad

We were all longing for something on the lighter side at this time, and Chef Wilberto made our wishes come true with this lovely, refined salad. Served with juicy heirloom tomatoes, a hunk of feta cheese, crunchy bell peppers, olives, cucumber, and a housemade dressing, this salad was far from your typical Greek salad.

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Course 6: Japanese Kobe Ribeye Tartare

Swoon. That’s precisely what I did after taking my first bite of this flawless dish. If you’re unfamiliar with Japanese Kobe Beef, it’s basically the crème de la crème of meats. Wilberto served the beef raw and diced, mixed with rosemary, garlic, shallots, green onions, sea salt and lightly dressed. He then took things a step further and added thin, fried onions on top.

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Course 7: Seafood

For the seafood dish, Chef Wilberto served us a U5 prawn from South Africa atop Carolina Gold Rice from Anson Mills mixed with peppers, onions and a smear of creamy red pepper puree. Accompanying the prawn was Loup de Mer (Mediterranean Seabass) seared and topped with a beurre blanc sauce. The prawn was tender, with a slightly buttery flavor and you simply can’t go wrong with Anson Mills rice.

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Course 8: Meat

Naturally when dining at Rick Erwin’s, you are obliged to have a signature steak. Chef Wilberto created a playful tasting of two cuts of beef, one served with an Argentina style Chimichurri and the other with a parsnip puree. The meat was cooked to perfection and melted in your mouth. Served on the side was an imaginative take on butternut squash soup topped with melted fontina cheese.

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Course 9: Dessert

Why only have one dessert when you can have three?! Chef Wilberto spoiled us with a tasting of decadent chocolate cake topped with velvety chocolate mousse, a carrot cake cookie, as well as a rich, creamy crème brulee. The Crème Brulee stole my heart and was truly the “cherry on top” of an ideal evening.

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Locals and travelers alike, prepare yourselves for what Chef Wilberto has planned for Rick Erwin’s West End Grille. Rumor has it in roughly two weeks time, he will begin to incorporate some of the above dishes to their menu. If you’re looking for dishes that are innovative, bold, locally sourced and simply delicious, look no further than Rick Erwin’s West End Grille and the creative genius that is Chef Wilberto Sauceda.

Green Lettuce

Pssst…Green Lettuce has a new, simplified menu featuring healthy, Persian dishes for lunch or dinner. Having already established themselves in the downtown area as an ideal spot for fresh, nourishing meals, Green Lettuce owners figured out what their customers kept coming back for, and focused on perfecting those best-selling dishes.

I appreciate Mediterranean cuisine because of the simplicity of flavors, generous amount of fresh, grilled vegetables and protein, as well as a brightness that encompasses each and every dish. Don’t let the name “Green Lettuce” steer you away. Their menu offers a whole lot more than just salads, such as their creative appetizers, kebabs served hot off the grill, vegetarian plates, and desserts.

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Green Lettuce has your traditional Mediterranean snacks like Hummus & Dolma served with warm pita bread, as well as some original dishes like their Sautéed Eggplant served with crispy onion, mint and garlic (which I will most definitely try next time!). This evening, I tried the Hummus & Dolma and the Avocado Mix. Their hummus is as authentic as you can get; made in-house, it is creamy with a hint of lemon and topped with feta cheese. Paired with their hummus are comforting Dolma consisting of grape leaves stuffed with tender rice, lots of herbs, olive oil and lemon juice. If you’ve never been to a Persian restaurant before, this would be a great dish to start with.

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Their Avocado Mix is an unassuming combination of fresh avocado, sliced strawberries, grapes, cilantro and a special lemon dressing. I adore every component of this delightfully refreshing dish. In every bite you get creamy avocado, a slight crunch and sweetness from the grapes, tartness from the strawberries and the brightness of lemon. No way would I have thought up this salad on my own, so I’m glad to have discovered it!

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Cooked over an open fire, their grilled kebabs come with basmati rice pilaf and grilled tomatoes, as well as a hunk of lime for squeezing over the top. I tried the Boneless Chicken Kebab and the Shish (beef) Kebab. The chicken is fork tender with a nice char from the grill and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. The beef served with the Shish Kebab offered a meatier texture with equal amount of flavor and heartiness. Hint: The spicy green sauce served with the kebabs is delicious! Take a big forkful of the meat, rice and tomatoes, drizzle a little of that sauce over the top, and thank me later.

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I was almost too full for dessert, but after reading the description of the Persian Coffee Cake, I just had to have it. This coffee cake incorporates flavors and textures similar to a tiramisu, but with more spice. Let me break this down for you: Moist, spiced cake gets layered with a generous amount of light, vanilla frosting and is topped with chocolate shavings. With the overall texture of this dessert being light and not too sweet, it was a challenge to stop eating it.

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Green Lettuce has been open since November 2012, and I’m always surprised how many people haven’t dined there. It’s healthy, convenient and simple; all great characteristics of a restaurant if you ask me! Whether you want a quiet dinner out, or a nourishing meal to take home, Green Lettuce will take care of you. They are located at 19 Augusta Street and are open Monday – Saturday for lunch from 11am – 3pm and for dinner from 5pm – close.

The Common Cure

Common doesn’t have to mean boring.  It can also mean approachable, familiar, or simple; which are not too bad of characteristics when describing the food and atmosphere of a restaurant.  The Common Cure is a spot-on example.  Having opened its doors a little over 2 months ago, The Common Cure draws in customers who are looking for an easy, relaxed meal with that eliminates all the hustle and bustle some other restaurants entail.

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Calling themselves “a friendly neighborhood joint”, The Common Cure has already become quite the hit for families living in and around the Augusta Road area.  What used to be Local Taco is now renovated into a low-key restaurant serving “over the counter remedies” consisting of appetizers, wraps, burgers, sammies, and salads.  The outdoor patio area would be my go-to spot to enjoy one of their craft beers on draft and a no-fuss meal.

When you see three varieties of wings on a menu, you know the chef must be a wing connoisseur.  I was most intrigued by the Hog Wings, which are smoked pork shanks tossed in their house made Dragon Sauce.  These wings are BIG…and messy!  The smoky flavor comes out beneath the sweet, sticky, and slightly spicy Dragon Sauce.  Not feeling adventurous enough for a Hog Wing?  Try the Hot Wings or Smoked Wings both served with blue cheese or ranch dressing.

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The story alone sold me on The DCD Burger.  Standing for “dark corner dads”, The DCD Burger was created by a group of dads who live right around the corner and decided to check out The Common Cure on opening day.  Basically, they dreamt up their ideal burger and Common Cure owners put it on the menu the next day.  The DCD Burger starts with a brioche bun and a grilled patty, and then gets topped with a fried egg, jalapenos, cheese and that special Dragon Sauce also served on The Hog Wings.  If you like spice, with a little bit of creamy and savory components, this is the burger for you.  Another favorite is The Pharmacy Burger, which is an old-school smashed double-patty, with American cheese and pickles.  Doesn’t get simpler than that.

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And now, onto my favorite bite of the evening, the Chili Cheese Dog.  I find hot dogs to be pretty fantastic.  You can find a good burger lots of places, but there just aren’t that many restaurants putting time and effort into a good ol’ dog.  The Common Cure is an exception.  Their classic chili dog is straightforward: An all beef dog topped with house made chili and melted shredded cheese served on a New England bun.  Already having eaten plenty of food, I still could have devoured this entire hot dog no problem.  It’s just that good.

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The Common Cure was smart in their decision to add some healthy components to their menu consisting of a wide variety of salads.  We tried the sweet and savory Kale Salad, as well as The Grilled Romaine Salad.  The Kale salad was a winner and comes topped with dried cranberries, raisins, quinoa, shaved parmesan, and slivered almonds.  The addition of quinoa and slivered almonds creates a hearty, fulfilling meal.

The more I talk to people about what they are looking for when choosing a restaurant, the more I hear these words: location, consistency, and variety.  Basically, people want to eat somewhere easy to access and where you can please even the pickiest of eaters’ needs.  I can’t speak to the consistency of The Common Cure, having only dined there once, but I can attest to the prime location on the ever-growing Augusta Road and the variety of dishes found on their well thought out menu.

The Common Cure is located at 15 Conestee Avenue.  They are open Tuesday – Thursday from 11am until 10pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am until 11pm, and Sundays from 11am to 8pm.

Oakblue Kitchen

Oakblue Kitchen takes barbecue to a whole other level.  I don’t just mean they have some killer barbecue, which they do, but they serve up dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Greenville.  Southern BBQ meets Korean BBQ in the casual, funky setting that is Oakblue Kitchen.

Inspired by a heritage of Korean cooking, while also taking notes from Southern classics, Oakblue’s menu delivers a diverse mix of smoked meats, southern sides, and surprising flavors.  For example, their Ssam Plate is truly one of a kind.  Consisting of lettuce wraps filled with either pulled pork topped with chow chow, smoked brisket topped with pickled onions or Korean style short rib topped with kimchi, this is how you get to try a little bit of everything.  Drizzle their savory, spicy Ssam sauce on top, and you’ve got one flavor-packed bite.

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Another intermingling of Korean flavors and barbecue staples are present in their K.F.C. wings.  Standing for Korean Fried Chicken, these crispy wings are tossed in Ssamjang sauce and come to the table piping hot.  Don’t be weary of the Ssamjang sauce.  While it does pack some heat, it can easily be muted by the creamy blue cheese dressing that comes alongside.

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Now for a crowd-pleaser: The Fried Chicken Sandwich.  What’s not irresistible about a fried chicken sandwich?  Well…if the chicken isn’t crispy, bun isn’t toasted, and there isn’t a scrumptious sauce to drizzle on top, it’s a let down.  Oakblue Kitchen’s chicken sandwich meets all my specifications with a crispy, moist piece of chicken drizzled with hot sauce, topped with house pickles and served on a toasted bun.

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This next dish may get overlooked, but it is a contender for my favorite bite of the evening.  The Korean Philly takes the ingredients of your typical Philly cheesesteak (steak, grilled onion, peppers, and melted cheese between a sub roll) and turns the volume wayyyyy up.  To be perfectly honest, we were too full at this point to even eat the bread, but didn’t miss a beat as we dove right in with bites full of tender, marinated flank steak, sweet grilled onions and poblano peppers, and topped with melted queso cheese.

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Korean BBQ or Southern BBQ?  That’s the predicament at Oakblue Kitchen. We tried both plates that evening, so let me help you make the choice a little easier.  The Korean BBQ plate still comprises all the components you desire from a barbecue restaurant: tender meat, crunchy slaw, savory side, and a flavor-packed sauce.  At Oakblue, they just switch it up a bit with Galbi style short rib, Napa kimchi, roasted brussel sprouts, and a spicy Chogo sauce.  On the other hand, there’s your Smoked Brisket Plate that comes with pickled onion, BBQ sauce, and your choice of two sides.  We went with the oh-so-creamy macaroni and cheese and the crisp, fried okra.  In my opinion, both dishes were pretty impressive, but if you find yourself at a place specializing in Korean BBQ, go with that.

I should mention that Oakblue Kitchen offers a wide-variety of craft beers, as well as unique cocktails.  Don’t miss their Happy Hour with $1.75 domestics, $2 house liquors, $3 house wines, and get this…all starters 50% off!  Oakblue Kitchen is located at 109 N. Main Street next to Mast General Store.  They are open Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00am – 10:00pm and on Sunday from 10:00am – 4:00pm.

Two Chefs Cafe & Market

Two Chefs Cafe & Market has made a name for itself in the Upstate as a go-to spot for deli sandwiches, salads, soups and more.  With a new location downtown that includes a grab and go market offering local in-season produce, cheeses, milk, snacks and more, Two Chefs continues to expand and grow to meet Greenville’s ever-changing wants and needs.

Many of us are familiar with the deliciousness and ease that is Two Chef’s lunch.  Whether you want a salad sampler consisting of three heaping scoops of their salad selections (my personal favorite: Pesto Chicken Salad, Red Skin Potato Salad and Wild Rice Salad) atop a bed of greens, or something to dig your teeth into like The Grinder with layers of salami, turkey, ham veggies and provolone on sourdough, Two Chefs has your lunch requests covered.  What I’m here to showcase today, is their not so buzzed about dinner specials.

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If you’re looking for a casual, inexpensive dinner, that doesn’t skimp on the quality of ingredients, Two Chefs is sure to impress.  Their dinner specials change on a daily basis, so you won’t find yourself in a dinner rut here.  Another bonus: You are in and out fast!  At Two Chefs, you simply walk up to the counter, order your meal, have a seat, enjoy your beverage of choice and your food is out in no time.

The night I dined at Two Chefs, the dinner specials consisted of two soups, a salad and an entree.  After much back and forth, we decided on the salad and entree special, along with the recommended Grilled Chicken Quesadilla.  The mixed greens salad was topped with grilled chicken, fresh strawberries, candied pecans, Clemson blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette.  If you’re familiar with my blog, then you know I’m a sucker for a good salad.  This one met my expectations without a doubt.  I’m usually not an avid blue cheese fan, but the creamy, subtleness went so well with the sweet, crunchy pecans and tangy dressing that I couldn’t get enough.

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The entree special of the evening was unquestionably the star of the show: Think grandma’s cooking meets chef-driven talent.  This boneless smoked pork loin comes smothered in Hampton Farms BBQ sauce, topped with pineapple salsa and served atop a bed of roasted, mashed sweet potatoes and fresh green beans.  Nothing too fancy about this dish, besides the flawless presentation, but the ingredients and flavors spoke volumes.  Every element of this dish tasted delicious all together in one forkful.

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Don’t worry, you can most certainly order off Two Chef’s regular menu during dinner hours.  That’s exactly where I found the flavor-packed Grilled Chicken Quesadilla stuffed with tender white meat chicken, roasted red peppers, corn, black bean spread, and that oozing cheddar cheese.  I know what you’re thinking…what’s so special about a quesadilla?  Well, when the tortilla is crisped to perfection, the fillings are piping hot, and a heaping portion of guacamole is served on the side, it simply can’t be beat.

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Sometimes the simplest of dishes can be the ones you crave the most.  I must say, I find myself yearning for homemade, comforting meals like this one time and time again.  Be sure to follow Two Chefs Cafe & Market on Facebook and Instagram to see their daily dinner specials…or don’t, and go with the good ol’ fashioned menu we all know and love.  Either way, you’re sure to leave satisfied.