Just Blend

Let’s face it. We live in a constant state of being “too busy”. Whether you’re a parent, entrepreneur, side-hustler or just living life, it seems that everyone these days is looking to simplify their busy schedules. That’s exactly what Just Blend will do for you. “We prep your smoothies. You save the world.” Owner, Lizzy Hester, took her own life hack and now preps and sells her pre-prepped smoothies and granola for the rest of us to enjoy.

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Picture this: You’re hurrying to get out the door and remember that a “blend” is waiting for you in the freezer. Get out your blender. Pour in some milk of choice (almond milk is my go-to). Add the contents of your blend in. Then blend away and you’ve got the creamiest, most satisfying smoothie that’ll keep you full until lunch. Not only are these smoothies delicious, but also they are packed full of nutritious veggies like cauliflower, zucchini, spinach as well as nut butters and seeds.

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Let’s talk flavors. Lizzy created a blend for everyone. My personal favorite, because it tastes like chocolate ice cream, is The CHOCOLATE one. Who knew you could have basically a Wendy’s Frosty for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) and it could be healthy!? Take the basic blend recipe and add cacao powder and cashew butter for a more indulgent blend.

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Want some berries in your life? Just order The BERRY One with cauliflower, frozen berries, coconut milk cubes, a date, honey, chia seeds, peanut butter and banana. Tastes just like a peanut butter and jelly in milkshake form. Who wouldn’t like that?

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Then there’s The OG. The blend that started it all contains zucchini, cauliflower, spinach, coconut milk cubes, a date, honey, flax seeds, almond butter and banana. It’s perfectly sweet and gives you all the nutrition you need to take on the day ahead.

Last, but not least, The GREEN One for those of us extra-healthy people who don’t mess around with carbs. Swap the banana/berries for extra cauliflower/zucchini for a little less sweet, but still nourishing blend.

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A blend just isn’t a blend unless it’s topped with Lizzy’s grain-free OGG Granola. Filled with nutritious nuts and seeds, this chunky granola is the ideal mix of sweet and salty. Perfect for snacking, blend topping, or dessert time…the OGG Granola is a must.

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All blends cost $10, but head over to their website to check out Just Blend’s weekly subscription rates and place an order. Be sure to follow @justblend on Instagram to keep up with weekly specials and seasonal blends! You can also purchase blends and granola at Soul Yoga. Ready to take on the world? Just Blend is here to help you.

Photos By: Ally Martin –  https://www.allyannephoto.com

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Antonio’s Pizza & Pasta

When I think Italian, three things come to mind: huge portions, all the carbs, and great wine. At Antonio’s Pizza & Pasta, a family-owned Italian restaurant in the heart of Powdersville, SC, that’s exactly what you’ll get. I was pleasantly surprised as I walked in and saw a charming, rustic bar stocked with an array of wine choices and plenty of seating. Not quite what you’d expect from a pizzeria located in an unassuming shopping center. But truthfully, the food wasn’t quite what I expected either…it was better.

Antonio’s menu could be a little overwhelming. With choices of starters, soups, salads, pizza, pasta, entrees…the choices are endless and it seems you can’t go wrong with anything. My advice: choose one or two things you know you’ll love, then ask your waiter to recommend their favorites. Our non-negotiables were the Hawaiian Pizza (sub pepperoni for ham) and the Chicken Parmigiana.

I must admit, there are very few pizzas I don’t enjoy. With that being said, Antonio’s pizza meets all my requirements: Balanced ratio of sauce to cheese to toppings with a chewy crust that’s not too thick. Plus they have so many tempting options to choose from such as a Taco Pizza, Barbecue Chicken Pizza, and your classic Capricciosa Pizza with sausage, mushrooms, roasted peppers and mozzarella.

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I can’t get over this Chicken Parmigiana. Growing up, my mom made chicken parmesan frequently, but while she is an outstanding cook, she isn’t Italian. The Chicken Parmigiana from Antonio’s was certainly a step above my usual expectations, and is as authentic as I’d imagine you could get. The chicken is fork tender and topped with melted mozzarella cheese, served atop angel hair pasta and homemade marinara sauce.

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Now for our waitress’s recommendations: the Skylar and the Pescatore. The “Skylar” was surprisingly my favorite dish. Comprised of cheese ravioli in a pesto cream sauce, this dish sounds boring, but is anything but. It is extremely rich, so I’d recommend sharing, but the pesto sauce is surprisingly robust and light, even though it’s cream base. And truthfully, how can you go wrong with cheese ravioli?

The Pescatore is a classic Italian entrée ideal for seafood lovers like myself. Sautéed shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels are tossed in a spicy Fra Diablo marinara sauce atop your choice of pasta. You may also choose to forgo the spicy sauce, but I’d highly recommend it. The amount of fresh seafood in this dish is impressive, but the bold flavors stole the show.

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In usual fashion, we ended with dessert…”Death by Chocolate” to be exact. This decadent chocolate cake has layers of thick, creamy chocolate mousse as well as chocolate icing. Even after a heavy meal, we devoured every last bite. Soon to come, Antonio’s will be offering dessert pizzas! We were able to get a sneak peek of this dessert pizza topped with Butterfinger, chocolate chips, and a caramel drizzle.

You may argue that Greenville has plenty of Italian restaurants, but there’s no place quite like Antonio’s; where everybody knows everybody and the owners are clearly passionate about what they do.  Antonio’s is located at 142 McNeely Road in Piedmont, SC.  They are open Sunday 11:30am-9pm, Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm and Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm.

A Field Trip to Ji-Roz

Many of you may already know this, but along with running The Upstate Foodie, I’m also a full-time Montessori teacher. Never before have those two worlds collided, until we discussed a field trip for our 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade children to taste and experience Greek cuisine. My mind immediately thought of Ji-Roz, an authentic Greek restaurant located downtown Greenville.

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Owner, John Makkas, was beyond helpful and enthused to provide our students with an approachable, yet diverse menu that would expand their palate far beyond their everyday school lunches. Their selections were Spanakopita, Brown Butter Spaghetti with Feta, Chicken Skewers, Pork Skewers and Pastitsio. You can imagine the expressions as we read the selections to them, with no mention of pizza, chicken fingers or grilled cheese.

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When we arrived at Ji-Roz, John greeted us warmly and showed us to our already set tables in the center of the restaurant. I should mention that they hosted 3 different groups of children during the lunch-hour, weekday rush. The excitement was contagious as you looked around and saw huge smiles, heard children talking amongst one another saying “yummm” and “this is really good!” It seemed the crowd-pleaser was the buttery spaghetti noodles with big hunks of authentic Greek feta.

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Teachers ordered off the regular lunch menu, so I shared the Dolmades and Santorini Salad with a coworker and was happy as can be. Ji-Roz does a wonderful job of preparing dishes that are hearty and satisfying, while also incorporating lots of fresh vegetables. Dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with rice, ground beef and herbs. Ji-Roz serves theirs with a slightly creamy and lemony Avgolemono sauce.

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The Santorini Salad has a lot going on, but all the components somehow work together to give you a sampling of some authentic staples of Greek cuisine. To create this melting pot of tastes, they begin with their traditional Greek salad consisting of fresh Tyger Farm’s greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, imported Greek olives and an extremely generous serving of imported feta cheese. Then, the salad is topped with a huge scoop of Greek potato salad. Greek potato salad is vastly different than your traditional mayo based potato salad. Fork-tender potatoes are mixed with EVOO, red onion, fresh lemon and parsley to create a lighter version of a lunchtime favorite.

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Rest-assured this will be one of those field trips our students talk about all year long! The service and professionalism of all the staff at Ji-Roz was quite impressive, and it was wonderful to see such consideration towards creating a memorable experience for our students. Be sure to follow Ji-Roz on social media to keep up with their specials!

The Black Thai

“Live free or Thai hard.” That’s the motto behind The Black Thai and owners, Dean Johnson, Brayden Wynn and Charlie Phillip, who set out on a mission to serve American-Thai food straight from an unassuming food truck. Inspired by their time living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, these three friends share a love of food, cooking and relating to others, which pushed them to make their dream a reality.

You can find The Black Thai (sometimes known as “Bolo”) all around Greenville with an ever-changing menu that’ll keep even regulars surprised. What exactly is American-Thai food you may be asking. Think traditional Thai dishes, with a funky American twist.

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Take their Pad Thai Fried Rice, for example. This dish has all the elements of Pad Thai you’d expect: scallions, red peppers, cilantro, peanuts and some spice, but instead of traditional Thai noodles, you get perfectly cooked fried rice. The rice is a perfect base for this dish because you get a little bite of every component with each delicious forkful. Add chicken and you’ve got one filling dish!

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You simply can’t have a Thai inspired menu without a curry dish. And let me tell you, Black Thai’s is out of this world. My friend, who considers herself a curry connoisseur of sorts, ordered this dish and said it was the best curry she’s had in Greenville. Their Yellow Curry consists of potatoes, broccoli, peppers, baby corn, onions, carrots and the most complex and satisfying curry sauce. There’s a delicate balance of sweet and spicy that just keeps you coming back for more.

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When I used to think of broccoli salad, my mind immediately pictured a Southern-style picnic or cookout. So, imagining Thai Broccoli Salad is a little perplexing. That’s exactly why you MUST try this dish for yourself. Tossed with sunflower seeds, cilantro, red onion, craisins and a peanut vinaigrette sauce, this dish offers a bright and refreshing side to any of their dishes.

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Although I don’t have a picture of this dish, I feel I must pay my respects to the Black Thai Burger. This was the first dish I ever had at Black Thai, and as corny as this may sound, it was love at first bite. Served on an English Muffin, this burger consists of ground chuck, duck and bacon and is topped with Muenster cheese, famous “Bolo Sauce” (similar to a thousand island, but with a kick) and shishito peppers. One juicy, flavorful bite into this burger and I guarantee you’ll fall head over heels too.

While these are some of their signature items, The Black Thai is always changing things up with specials such as Buffalo Shrimp, wontons, Brussel Box and more. Be sure to follow @TheBlackThaiGVL on Instagram so you’ll never have to ask, “Where’s Bolo?”

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Foxcroft Wine Co.

Foxcroft Wine Co. is just what Greenville’s been missing.  Essentially, it’s a wine bar with refined gastropub style food in a laid-back, yet trendy setting.  Foxcroft Wine Co. is the kind of place you’ll find yourself at time and time again. Because really…who doesn’t love good food paired with an excellent glass of wine?

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Whether you want to pick up a bottle, enjoy a glass of wine with one of their small plates or sit, sip and stay awhile for a full meal, Foxcroft Wine is an ideal spot.  This quote from general manager Eric Heidal sums up what Foxcroft Wine Co. is all about: “Being a retail wine shop as well as a wine bar and restaurant uniquely positions us to provide exceptional value to our customers. The great benefit for our dine in customers is the ability to purchase wine at a minimal retail markup as opposed to a much higher restaurant markup of 200-300%. The only rule we do have is a corkage fee of $10 for wine bottles under $29.99 purchased for consumption on-site.” As you know, my expertise isn’t in the realm of wine, but I am beyond excited to share my adoration of the food at Foxcroft Wine. I’ll leave the wine pairings to the experts….

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Foxcroft Wine Co.’s menu features starters, flatbreads, signature dishes and sweets that focus on using local farmers to provide fresh, seasonal food.  Their House-Made Ricotta with lemon, herbs, pepper, olive oil and crostini is a light, pleasant start to your meal, but my favorite starters have to be the Truffle Fries and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts.

I first had these brussels sprouts at the Foxcroft Wine in Charlotte where my sister immediately declared them her favorite thing on the entire menu.  You really can’t go wrong with caramelized brussels sprouts tossed with butternut squash and cashews, then drizzled with a chili-soy glaze. The irresistible sweet/tangy/salty flavors of this dish make it a huge crowd-pleaser, so I’d encourage you to order more than one.

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There’s something so undeniably delectable about Truffle Fries.  Even if you go into a meal with the intentions of eating somewhat healthy, it’s really difficult to say no to crispy fries drizzled in truffle oil and topped with a mountain of shaved parmesan.  Serve them with a side of aioli and you’re really done for. Foxcroft’s truffle fries have the perfect ratio of fry to cheese to truffle, making them truly irresistible.

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Foxcroft Wine’s signature dishes are the best of the best.  Be sure to look back at my Bite of the Week where I featured their burger (which just may be my favorite burger in the Upstate at this time).  It’s truly a superior burger. In the mood for something a bit more refined? Their Pan-Seared Scallops served over Anson Mills farro, confit lemon, garlic and cherry tomatoes may be on the lighter side, but the flavor is anything but.

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If you enjoy lamb, I highly suggest ordering the Lamb Sliders.  Foxcroft creates these flavor-packed sliders with ground lamb that’s so perfectly tender it melts in your mouth, and tops it with harissa, cucumber and chevre.  The cool crunch of the cucumber rounds out the savory components of this scrumptious bite.

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When it comes to dessert, there’s only one way to go.  And that’s with Foxcroft’s house-made “Famous Doughnuts” severed with chocolate and salted caramel dipping sauces.  First decision…cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar? After that, choose the dipping sauce of your pleasure and prepare for utter decadence.  I could eat the caramel dipping sauce with a spoon.

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While Foxcroft Wine Co. started as primarily a wine bar and retail shop, it has developed over time into a gathering spot for families, business professionals, wine-os and foodies alike.  So, as if you needed another reason to treat yourself to great wine and delicious food, now you have a pretty convincing one. Foxcroft Wine Co. is located at 631 S. Main Street. Their retail shop is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-11pm and Sunday from 5pm-11pm and their kitchen is open Tuesday-Sunday from 5pm-10:30pm.

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The Lazy Goat Welcomes Chef Wilberto Sauceda

It was almost a year ago today that I first tasted Chef Wilberto Sauceda’s food. Since then, he has created a name for himself as an imaginative, passionate and talented chef who esteems high quality ingredients and ingenuity. Wilberto has recently taken over as Executive Chef of the beloved Lazy Goat restaurant by Table 301 and I couldn’t be more excited.

When Chef Wilberto walks through the doors, you know he’s going to shake things up, in the best way. While Lazy Goat will hold firm to their staples such as fried goat cheese balls, crispy brussels sprouts and paella, Wilberto is working diligently to create some innovative dishes that will undoubtedly elevate the menu. So, when we were asked to come try some of these dishes, we happily obliged.

This sashimi trio is about as close to one of Chef Wilberto’s signature dishes as you can get: almost too gorgeous to eat, delicately constructed and extremely refreshing. The dish consists of Hamachi from Japan with Peruvian citrus, blue fin tuna with harissa and lemon juice, and snapper with orange juice, citrus and fresno peppers. As I worked my way around this dish, the flavors kept building and changing, making me want more and more.

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Next up, a buttery scallop served over Freekeh grains, tomato, okra, and asparagus topped with basil pesto. Sounds simple, and it is, but that little bit of basil pesto goes a long way in providing that oomph of flavor needed to balance this dish. And when the scallop is one of the best you’ve ever had…it’s hard not to swoon.

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Another standout dish from Chef Wilberto is his infamous Loup de Mer (Mediterranean Seabass). This dish starts with a chipotle cream sauce, topped with braised greens and pan seared loup de mer, then finished with a lemon beurre blanc sauce and toasted pistachios. Usually you see braised greens with something southern such as fried chicken for instance, but somehow all these contrasting elements work together in perfect harmony.

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From sea to land, we welcome the pan seared marinated wagyu steak topped with a salad of frisee dressed in a cardamom vinaigrette, pepper relish, fried ginger and pickled cauliflower. Leave it to Chef Wilberto to take something typically extremely hearty like steak and transform it into a sophisticated dish that is unlike any you’ve tried before.

Saving the most comforting dish for last, we ended on a lamb chop served with couscous tossed in shallot, kale and white wine butter and finished with a pickled oyster and anglaise. As if that wouldn’t be enough, these components were served atop a fresno aioli with a smoky, spiciness that made this dish stand as more than just your average, well-executed lamb chop.

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It wouldn’t be a tasting menu by Wilberto without a whimsical dessert. Allow me to introduce the Lazy Trio: Foie Gras Lollipop with blueberry pop rock, Orange Pannacotta and a homemade Chocolate Iced Donut with Sprinkles.

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Be on the lookout over the next couple of weeks for some additions to The Lazy Goat’s menu such as Wagyu Steak, U10 Scallops, Burrata Salad, Agnolotti, and of course…Loup De Mer. With The Lazy Goat’s loyal following, and Chef Wilberto’s background in Mediterranean cuisine, it’s sure to be a match made in heaven.

Monkey Wrench Smokehouse

No, it’s not a hardware store. Just the latest fun adventure from Sidewall Pizza and Rocket Surgery owners Andy O’Mara and Loren Frant. Monkey Wrench Smokehouse offers BBQ smoked right on the back porch, delicious sides with a creative spin as well as homemade desserts. Set right along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, I can imagine Monkey Wrench as a dining destination for families, tourists and pretty much anyone who loves simple, great food in a casual atmosphere.

Feel free to start your meal with one of their barrel aged cocktails or a beer from their impressive craft beer list. Then, venture on to their starters and order some signature Smoked Belly Corn Dogs or Bacon Fried Hoe Cakes. Being the seafood lover that I am, we ordered the Smoked Salmon Dip served with grilled baguette. Monkey Wrench grills their bread on a wood-fired grill, giving it a smoky, charred flavor that complements the creamy salmon dip with fresh dill perfectly.

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When I saw that Monkey Wrench serves their House Hot Link Sausage Dog in a toasted King’s Hawaiian roll, I was sold. Rarely would you say “I’m making gourmet hot dogs for dinner tonight.” Which is exactly why you MUST order this one and let Monkey Wrench do the work for you. Topped with mustard and hot cherry peppers, this “fancy” dog is delicious. But really…can anything taste bad inside a King’s Hawaiian roll??

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If you want to try a little of everything, The Smokehouse is calling your name. A sampling of pulled pork, brisket, half rack of ribs, wings, sausage with three sides, cornbread and house pickled veggies, it’s not for the faint of heart. As you taste the array of meats, don’t forget one of their homemade sauces ranging from a sweet and spicy Cheerwine flavor to a mustard-based Carolina sauce. The ribs though don’t need a single bit of sauce added to them and are the definition of finger lickin’ goodness. The smoked chicken wings impressed me the most with their extra crispy skin and tender, smoky meat.

What goes hand in hand with BBQ? Equally tasty sides of course. Their cornbread is more like a corn cake with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and hint of sweetness. It’s not your average dry, lackluster cornbread. A nuance to BBQ sides, Cauliflower Casserole, stands out among the rest. While of course the Mac & Cheese is a crowd-pleaser (and Monkey Wrench’s comes with an irresistible crunchy topping) something about the creamy, caramelized cauliflower casserole stole the show.

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As with Rocket Surgery and Sidewall Pizza, you can’t leave without ordering dessert. The Caramel Apple Cobbler is decadent to say the least. It comes to the table in a blazing hot skillet with a browned, slightly crispy edge and gooey center with cooked apples and caramel. The scoop of Sidewall vanilla ice cream is truly the cherry on top. When I think BBQ my mind goes directly to banana pudding. Monkey Wrench serves theirs in a wine glass layered with pudding, bananas, whipped cream and vanilla wafers. Even though you maybe shouldn’t eat toooo much of it, it’s easy to devour their rendition of a timeless dessert.

Monkey Wrench is located at 21 South Main Street in Travelers Rest, SC. They are open Tuesday – Saturday from 5:00 – 9:00pm.

Trattoria Giorgio

Upon stepping into Trattoria Giorgio, you are transported to a charming, family-run restaurant in Italy where the food warms your heart and soul. Since opening in 1996, Trattoria Giorgio has become an institution for authentic Italian food in Greenville. Chef Giorgio Todisco’s dishes showcase his culinary journey around the world with its humble beginning in the kitchen alongside his mother and grandmother in Bergamo, Italy.

Trattoria Giorgio is a hidden gem. While there are many other Italian restaurants in the Greenville area, Trattoria Giorgio is now my #1 recommendation with authentic, quality Italian food similar to what you’ll find in New York, or even Italy. Chef Giorgio is committed to using the finest meats available, as well as hand-picked Italian ingredients.

Their menu is the ideal size. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll find that I always comment on the menu size because, let’s be honest, a HUGE menu means less quality dishes. Trattoria Giorgio offers a few antipasti such as mussels & clams, larger entrees like Veal Scallopine, and a few desserts. The first bite I took was a hunk of their fresh-baked bread dipped in olive oil and I was hooked. We all knew we were in for one incredible meal if even the free bread was this fantastic.

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We tried our best not to indulge too much in the bread though, because there was much more eating to be done. We started with the Mozarella Caprese, Ravioli Alla Argosta (Lobster Ravioli), and Insalatona (mixed greens salad). Offering a rich dish like lobster ravioli as an appetizer is a genius idea. There was just enough decadence to this dish to keep you wanting more, without ruining the rest of your dinner.

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Both of the salads are understated, yet delicious with subtle flavors that make all the difference. The slices of fresh mozzarella on the caprese salad were unlike any I’ve had before, with a level of creaminess that is impressive.

Bread, pasta, bread, pasta, carbs…that’s how this night seemed to be going, but I was totally okay with it. Next up we ordered the notorious Pappardelle Bolognese, Linguini Verde Mari and the perfectly cooked Filet special. Usually I am 100% a red sauce pasta girl, but the Linguini Verde Mari was the star of the show this evening and is a dish I’ve craved every day since. Consisting of linguine pasta tossed with large shrimp sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, white wine and a fresh basil sauce, I must’ve said 10 times “This is really my last bite.”

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My usual order at any Italian restaurant are classics like Bolognese and lasagna, so it’s no surprise that Trattoria Giorgio’s Pappardelle Bolognese made me very happy. Their homemade meat sauce clings to the thick, al dente pappardelle creating a perfect bite every time. If you’re craving comfort food, this is the dish for you.

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Being the avid dessert fan that I am, I’m ashamed to say I had never had a cannoli until dining at Trattoria Giorgio. Now, I’m already thinking about when I can get my hands on another one. This cannoli is super crunchy on the outside and filled with a thick and creamy vanilla frosting with chocolate chips all throughout. Because we couldn’t decide on just one, we also ordered the Mousse al Ciccolatto (Chocolate Mousse). Sinfully decadent, this dessert is for all you chocolate lovers out there.

With a location in the heart of downtown Greenville, Italian food that simply can’t be beat, and a “sit down and stay awhile” kind of atmosphere, Trattoria Giorgio is pretty special. They are located at 121 S. Main Street and are open Tuesday – Saturday from 6pm to 9:30pm.

The Upstate Foodie’s 11 Favorite Restaurants of 2017

The first question I’m asked after telling people that I have a foodie Instagram and blog is “Where are your favorite places to eat in Greenville?” I realized that I’ve practically memorized this list and it hasn’t changed much over the past year. So, here it is. My 11 favorite restaurants in the Upstate (because I couldn’t just choose 10), in no particular order, determined solely by the frequency I recommend them to others and eat at them myself.

Pita House: I just happen to live about a mile away from Pita House, so it is my go-to place for take-out. Specializing in Middle Eastern food, Pita House is a great healthy-ish option. Just note that they only take cash or check! My usual order: The Middle East Plate with Gyro (comes with hummos, falafel, tahini salad and vegetables) and extra white and red pepper sauce.

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Happy and Hale: I’m not sure how I survived without Happy and Hale in my life. Everything on their menu is nourishing, delicious and healthy. Whether you’re in the mood for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a snack, Happy and Hale has plenty of options. My usual order: The Incredibowl with half kale half mixed greens, golden quinoa, roasted butternut squash, black beans, roasted beets, pumpkin seeds, avocado, mint, lemon tahini dressing and lime.

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ASADA: ASADA was my very first spot I wrote about on The Upstate Foodie, so it holds a special place in my heart. Owners Gina and Roberto were inspired by Latin American cooking and flavors, so started ASADA as a food truck serving out-of-this-world tacos. Now, ASADA is a thriving brick and mortar providing us with much more than just tacos. My usual order: Carnita Taco with a side of guacamole.

Asada | Greenville, SC | The Upstate Foodie

Sidewall Pizza: Sidewall brings together all of my favorite things: pizza, salads, ice cream and beer. Naturally, I go here every single year for my birthday and many more times throughout the year. It’s pretty apparent from my Instagram page that Sidewall Pizza never loses its charm in my eyes. My usual order: Greek Salad and (depending on who I’m sharing the pizza with) a half Margherita half Protein, or half Margherita half Hawaiian pizza.

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GB&D: This may be my most dined at spot of 2017. Everything at GB&D is not only delicious, but also beautiful and inspired, incorporating local ingredients into every dish. Their weekend brunch (ahem…doughnuts!) is incredible, but GB&D is also ideal for a quick lunch or cozy dinner. My usual order: GB&D changes their menu regularly, but I am always drawn to their Bibimbap, any of their salads, or their burger (with THE best fries ever).

Trappe Door: While we’re on the topic of amazing French fries, Trappe Door serves their “frites” with a trio of mayo in the flavors of your choice. Located below Barley’s Taproom with arguably the coziest ambiance in Greenville, Trappe Door specializes in hearty, comfort food and an impressive beer list. After dining here for my birthday dinner, I’ve recommended it to many other people! My usual order: I’ve only been here a handful of times, but adore their Frites, mussels, and Braised Short Ribs.

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Jianna: For all the pasta lovers out there, Jianna is the place for you. Located in a picturesque setting looking out on Falls Park, it has become an every-popular destination for a nice, celebratory dinner. You won’t find your traditional lasagna or spaghetti with meatballs on their menu, but instead think fresh oysters, simplistic pasta made by hand, and a Char-Grilled Chicken that will make you wonder why you usually never order chicken at a restaurant. My usual order: Start with the Ricotta Crostini with truffle honey, sea salt and grilled ciabatta…ALWAYS and the Spaghetti TBG (tomato, basil, garlic).

The Anchorage: I love everything about The Anchorage from their handcrafted cocktails to their elegant yet trendy atmosphere. Chef Greg McPhee’s attention to detail is apparent in all of their beautifully designed small plates. Their menu is constantly changing based off what’s in season, but I always start with the “For the Table” charcuterie board…and dessert is a must.

Bacon Bros.: Don’t be fooled. While Bacon Bros. does serve some pretty phenomenal bacon and meats, they have many other fame-worthy dishes on their menu. What I adore most about Bacon Bros. is that they have a little something for everyone, so it’s a win-win with a large group of varying likes and dislikes. My usual order: Devil’s Dust Eggs and The Burger or Shrimp and Grits.

Tsunami: I’ve been going to Tsunami for years, and it is still my #1 spot for sushi in the Upstate. The fish is always fresh and I can order the same thing every single time and be assured that it’s just as good as always. My usual order: Ginger Salad topped with seaweed and the Rainbow Roll–If I’m craving something more indulgent, I’ll convince someone to share the Surf and Turf Roll with me.

Kitchen Sync: The coolest thing about Kitchen Sync is that it’s the first certified “green” restaurant in Greenville. It is also a breath of fresh air as it’s located on Laurens Road so you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of parking. Kitchen Sync says it best, calling itself a “soulful neighborhood restaurant with farm fresh scratch-made fare”. My usual order: The Shrimp Burger, any of their pizzas or the Tomato Pie (but only in the summer as it’s seasonal).

There you have it.  My 11 most recommended and frequented restaurants of 2017.  Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t many other restaurants in the Upstate that I love, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for us!

tacos & mas

What makes a restaurant truly special? I think we would all agree that consistency, customer service, and quality of ingredients are three key factors. tacos & mas goes above and beyond those qualifications in more ways than one. Upon walking into tacos and mas, one will be graciously greeted by owners Hector and Ana Batista who, after years of management experience in the culinary realm, ventured out to open their own restaurant with cuisine inspired by authentic Latin flavors.

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tacos and mas isn’t your typical taco joint. Think casual taco restaurant meets grandmother’s kitchen in Dominican Republic. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to sit down and stay awhile, and Hector and Ana are pleased to oblige. There are personal touches throughout tacos & mas such as the tables built by Hector himself and the large painting done by an artist from Dominican Republic. The food at tacos & mas even incorporates flavors straight from Ana’s mom’s cooking.

Their menu is broken up into aperitivos (side dishes), meat, seafood and vegetarian tacos with homemade flour or corn tortillas, & mas (& more, larger entrée size dishes). tacos & mas had me at “free chips and salsa”. It’s a small gesture, but it goes a long way. Two staples: Homemade Guacamole and Beef Empanadas are just about as flawless as you can ask for. My unexpected favorite aperitivos was the Yuca Frita. Similar to a french fry, except much larger with a smoother texture, this dish consists of fried cassaba with a delicious, creamy alcaparra dip with tangy flavors from the fresh lime, cilantro and capers.

I’ve now eaten twice at tacos & mas and can honestly say that every single taco is outstanding and priced at $4.50 or less. I won’t bore you with the description of allllll the tacos, but I will tell you which ones stood out among the rest. I’m a sucker for Cuban sandwiches, so naturally the Cubanito with flank steak, sweet plantain, avocado and black beans is my #1 pick. As with all the meat tacos at tacos & mas, you can tell that true love has gone into ensuring it is as flavorful and tender as possible. The sweet plantains are simply the “cherry on top” of this scrumptious taco.

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Following closely behind is the el ranchero (the farmer) with slow mojo cooked pork, chicharron, roasted corn, and green tomato. The drizzle of chilled green tomato sauce elevates this taco with a zesty punch of flavor. The last two tacos are tied for spot #3: Balcalao con Cerverza with Dos Equis battered cod fish and cabbage-radish slaw and the Camaron with sautéed shrimp, charred tomatillo and cilantro. Both of these tacos were fresh and bright, as all fish tacos should be.

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Upon my next visit to tacos & mas I will promptly order the Sandwich Cubano and the Ropa Vieja Cubana with braised flank steak, rice, beans and sweet plantains (notice a pattern here… J) Hector said that he wants his customers to “feel like family” at tacos & mas. I would say he’s succeeded.

tacos & mas is located at 802 S. Road in Greer, SC off The Parkway. They are open Monday – Friday from 11:00am-9:00pm and Saturday from 2:00pm-9:00pm.