When I think of awesome restaurants, fun things to see and do….. I definitely do not think about venturing out to The Olde English District of South Carolina. Let’s be real, when I moved to Charlotte almost 2 years ago, I moved to be close to EVERYTHING!!! I mean, I’m a city girl who loves to have restaurants and attractions at an arm’s reach. Oh and shopping….. lots of shopping!!! Well, that mindset changed after I had the opportunity to go on a 2 day culinary road trip and an overnight trip to South Carolina, just a short 30 minute drive from Queen City. I was joined by a few of the city’s best food writers and bloggers and I got to experience an amazing food filled trip with lots of historic stops on the way! Places I would’ve never known existed if it weren’t for the amazing tour guides and people that accommodated us with open arms. Let’s get started shall we?!?!
Early morning on day 1, all of us met at The Flipside Cafe in Ft. Mill, SC for a fantastic breakfast, meeting the amazing Chef/Owner Amy Fortes, and learning about locally sourced ingredients of southern dishes on the menu and what some of Amy’s favorites are. Amy has an extensive background in the culinary world and just meeting her I truly sensed the strong passion she has for cooking. She loves cooking breakfast and that is her favorite aspect of what she does. When asked what the most popular dish is on the menu, it is the Shrimp and Grits, and now I see why. Flipside Cafe utilizes at least 5 producers from different local farms. I had dined here once before and already tagged them as having the best damn sweet tea in the Carolinas! But I had never tried their breakfast/brunch. Some of my favorites were the warm scratch made pretzels and Amy’s White Cheddar Pimento Cheese, Carolina Grits, Potatos Bravas, and The Fort Mill Biscuit Bake. ALL were insanely delicious and must tries on the menu.
With full bellies and on to a little scenic drive, our next stop was Windy Hill Orchard, a family owned and operated apple orchard and hard cider producer, started by a couple, Fritz and Catherine Gusmer in the late 1980’s. They are open every fall from Mid August-December 5 days a week and in the Spring open on the weekends. “Picking Season” starts mid September and finishes up early to mid October. Their orchard offers every apple from my personal favorite, Pink Lady apples to Gala apples to the not so pretty Russet Golden apples. They sit on about 10 acres of land and this was the first cidery in South Carolina. Cider is a great option because it is gluten free and all ciders are 6% alcohol. Not only do they offer 6 different hard ciders, they have these amazing hot apple cider doughnuts and boy are they addicting.
Well folks, I grew up on bbq all my life but OMG…. talk about a hidden gem in the town of Buffalo, SC. I present to you my top pick for bbq in the Carolinas…. MIDWAY BBQ. A simple motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has kept this family owned and operated bbq joint in business for over 50 years. I cannot say enough great things about this spot. From the staff, owners, and food, it is truly a gem. A Southern Legendary Gem….. Midway BBQ is famously known for its hash and spicy chicken stew. They offer over 30 meats and sides and can cater an army for $8 bucks a person….. Y’all heard right… $8 bucks a person and if you order off the menu a meat and 3 will run you $6.99. Not even shitting you. I was speechless for the next 2 hours because where else in the Carolinas can you get a meat and 3 for under $10 bucks. And needless to say their peach cobbler dessert will run you a whopping $.50 cents, like I wanted a whole tray for myself. Their old school sides are perfection and bbq is hands down in my top 3 all time bbq joints I have come across in my life. From sides such as sweet potato casserole to their collards and mac and cheese…..it doesn’t get much better than this.
Jay Allen, the owner and I after he treated us to a fantastic meal. I truly felt like family just hearing his story and the history behind this business. And just a little fun fact and another reason y’all should drive here to visit and get your grub on… Midway BBQ made the top 100 bbq spot list that you should drive 100 miles to eat this barbeque. Its totally worth the drive. People drive from all over to come to this establishment and damn nation, I can see why!!!
Not only can you find an awesome cidery and some bomb ass BBQ in South Carolina, but you can also stop and smell the roses in the beautiful Piedmont Physic Garden located in Union, SC. This botanical garden is a non profit garden where it houses a variety of historical and medicinal plants from around the world. This Physic Garden focuses on health and well being, puts on workshops on how to grow vegetable gardens and survival garden classes. There are interns that live on site 8 weeks at a time to help with the upkeep of the gardens. I have never seen such unique and stunning plants before until I stepped foot onto the gardens. The house itself is so lovely and is the perfect spot to have private tours and community celebrations. They truly want to impact the community and educate people how these plants have an affect on our daily lives, particularly in the health and wellness world. So they offer volunteering opportunities to all age groups and experience levels. Everyone is welcome to donate funds, time, or expertise to help support this non profit organization.
As the craft beer industry keeps expanding to cities near and far…. Legal Remedy Brewery was next on the list. Looking back on 2 minutes before pulling up to the parking lot, the sky fell out…..no literally the SKY FELL OUT. I’ve never seen it monsoon so hard, talk about perfect timing, lol! So, a craft beer was much needed that’s for sure. Legal Remedy Brewery had a really cool vibe and the space itself used to be an old car dealership, so when I was looking around and taking it all in, it definitely made sense. The windows and the space, you could tell that where we were sitting, eating, and sipping beers in the automobile showroom space at one time long ago. As the owner was bringing out menu items for us to try, we met and chatted with the “food lead”, Mike Ramsey. They don’t call Chefs… Chef, they go by food lead. Whatever the title may be, the food was more than just brewery bar food. We tried everything from smoked brisket sandwiches to pork schnitzels and southern poutine nachos. Then a quick tour of where all the magic happens.
After heading out from Legal Remedy Brewery, it was The Pump House time! This restaurant has been on my list for awhile now, so when I saw that this spot was on the list, I was like a little kid in a candy store! The Pump House has been open for 2 years and pretty cool story how it came about. So the owners were driving down the road and saw the pump house, and they envisioned it being a restaurant. Even though the structure had been built in the 1950’s, the architects and contractors said it was a solid build and they could basically build anything in the space. After lots of detailed planning and construction, The Pump House was brought to life.
Ending the night meeting Sous Chef Nigel Clark, as he prepared this glorious dessert, Cheerwine Cake that has two types of chocolate, cheerwine syrup, butter, and guess what?!?! NO FLOUR and its gluten free!
If y’all haven’t checked out The Pump House yet and want to go, I would highly recommend the fried green tomatoes, crispy calamari, drunken elk chops, shrimp and anson mills grits, cheerwine chocolate cake. All were really fantastic! Also, make a reservation to sit up on the top floor for an awesome view too or the patio. Cannot go wrong with either.
After a long day and late night of working and staying up way later than I should’ve…. I was super stoked to visit The Yolk Cafe for breakfast on our final day of the tour!!! Another spot that had been on my list and wowzers, I am so glad I can check this badboy off the list. It’s funny because right when I posted on my instastories I was at The Yolk, my inbox was blowing up with messages from my followers telling me “Get the potatoes, you have to get the potatoes”. Rest assured, I got the damn potatoes and ermagherrrrrddddddddd…. The best damn home fries I have ever had. Chef/Owner Gregory Collier is a super talented chef that was born and raised in Memphis, TN and attended culinary school in Scottsdale. He utilizes southern ingredients to make southern cuisine, but he puts a fresh spin on all his dishes. He works with as many local businesses and farms in the area, goes through an average of 3,000 eggs per week, and he strives to get the most outta every ingredient he can. Even though he’s a huge Tennessee fan, I’ll let that slide because the food made up for it, hahahahha (if you don’t understand…it’s a rivalry football thing…Alabama fans do not like Tennessee fans)
This whole trip is focused on The Olde English District which covers Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Union, and York Counties. We stopped by the super cute Visitors Center where it was a gift shop, tourist center all in one.
Mixing in the arts and history of the trip, we stopped by Metal Sculpture Artist Bob Doster’s Studio in Lancaster, SC. What a treat it was to meet such a talented man and tour his studio space. What a small world it is, as I found out that he created a piece for the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Atlanta, GA. Back when I lived in Atlanta and would meander around through Saks, I remember seeing that sculpture as it towered over me as I went up the escalators. Not in a million years did I ever think that 10 years later, I would meet the artist himself.
This particular sculpture I found so intriguing and it’s actually cut outs of the students hands at the School For The Deaf and Blind.
Down the street, we headed over to The Native American Studies Center, a 15,000 sq foot facility that houses 6 faculty, an Archaeologist, Chris Judge, and five galleries.
As if I hadn’t already eaten my weight in food this trip, last but certainly not least are 2 more food spots. After leaving the Native American Studies Center, we walked up to 521 BBQ and met the owners and also the owner of Benford Brewing. Here we dined on pulled pork sammiches, fried pickles, fried okra, smoked wings and hushpuppies. Great lil hole in the wall bbq spot that definitely housed all the locals.
Five and Dine is a cool spot in Rock Hill, SC where they offer American Classics… With a twist! It’s located in the heart of historic Downtown Rock Hill on the site of the iconic civil rights sit-in where the “Friendship 9’s Jail no Bail strategy changed the protest movement. Inside the restaurant they display the original bar stools and lunch counter where history was made and on the counter above each stool was each gentleman’s face and picture.
Chef Anthony Russo was raised in Upstate NY and has been in the restaurant industry all his life. Five and Dine has been open for 5 years and they have dishes such as mini doughnut cheeseburger sliders and my favorite menu item I tried was the Pot roast. It was fantastic and the perfect ending to the perfect trip!
I highly recommend all the places I highlighted in this blog post. Overall, if you want to venture out of the city and have a full tummy and great experience in The Olde English District, look no further and GO!!! It was a blast and I will definitely be back!!!
The Sweet Seoul