A visit to downtown Spartanburg on an empty stomach isn’t a good idea these days.
The Hub City’s urban center has experienced an explosion of new, mostly locally owned eateries and food-related business during the past 17 months, the likes of which it hasn’t seen in a generation, perhaps longer.
And patrons who choose to put the community’s epicurean boom to the test will find no shortage of dining spots that will satiate their taste buds without draining their bank accounts.
Seven restaurants have opened in downtown since May 2016, and nine more under construction are expected to begin operating in the coming months.
A spate of multimillion-dollar investments near Morgan Square and a change of ownership for several prominent buildings during the past two years could attract at least eight more eateries to downtown by 2018.
“Anytime you see the level of investment we are having in homegrown restaurants, it’s a positive and exciting sign,” said Jansen Tidmore, executive vice president of Spartanburg’s Downtown Development Partnership.
“As we often discuss quality of life, food is the most tangible contributor that comes top of mind for increasing that quality, and Spartanburg continues to bolster its great downtown offerings.”
“The expansion of existing restaurants and the partnerships for new ventures demonstrate that downtown Spartanburg continues to rise and is becoming the living room of our community,” Tidmore added. “The quality of these ventures will allow us to continue to build our Spartanburg story in recruitment efforts.”
The growth of downtown Spartanburg’s restaurant scene has been built on a foundation of stalwart spots, including Cribb’s Kitchen, The Lime Leaf, The Crepe Factory, Wild Wing Café, Monsoon Noodle House, Delaney’s Irish Pub, Groucho’s Deli, Hub Diggity, Health in Hand Juice and Smoothie Bar, Cakehead Bakeshop, Growler Haus, Renato in Centro, and others.
Developers and commercial brokers said interest in downtown, particularly from outside investors, is currently dominated by eateries.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in downtown from restaurants,” said Andrew Babb, a broker with NAI Earle Furman. “I think they have been attracted by the activity and momentum building around key developments in downtown. I expect that will continue. Every building on Magnolia Street [between West Main and St. John streets] has been sold to willing owners. I think it’s just a matter of time before we begin to see growth in that area.”
Here’s a rundown of the many new places where foodies can get their fix now:
Abbott’s Frozen Custard
100 E. Main St.
In March, Mark Khoury, a native of Rochester, N.Y., decided to bring his favorite childhood treat to downtown Spartanburg. Abbott’s Frozen Custard is located in a more than 1,500-square-foot space at 100 E. Main St. on the ground floor of the Palmetto Building between Groucho’s Deli and the Two Doors Down boutique. The store serves pies, cakes, novelty desserts, sundaes, sandwiches, and, of course, more than 100 flavors of Abbott’s Frozen Custard, which has been wooing patrons since 1902.
Downtown Deli & Donuts
147 E. Main St.
Spartanburg chef Elizabeth Evans decided in August 2016 that she wanted to get back into the restaurant business with a café-style eatery unlike anything that previously existed in downtown. She chose a space in downtown’s historic Bijou building, which years earlier had been renovated to resemble a European-style market. Downtown Deli & Donuts features a variety of vibrant, healthy breakfast dishes, a lunch menu with fresh and wholesome entrees, and, of course, gourmet donuts.
201 Wall St.
Greenville-based chef Malcom Garrison and his wife, Lexie, hadn’t yet gone through their nuptials when they announced plans in October 2016 to open a new concept, HenHouse Brunch. By December, the couple opened the restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Baguette & Co. in Spartanburg developer Royce Camp’s new building across from City Hall. They were wed a few months later, and their eatery, which features a range of homemade breakfast items, has so far had a happy marriage with downtown.
Hub City Scoops
147 E. Main St.
In June 2016, Spartanburg entrepreneurs Kathy and Mike Silverman increased their investment in downtown by opening their ice cream shop, Hub City Scoops. The store is in a 1,900-square-foot space in the Bijou building at 147 E. Main St. It features 28 flavors of premium ice cream from the Chocolate Shoppe based in Madison, Wis. With freshly made waffle cones, milkshakes, ice cream cakes, and more, Hub City Scoops is a popular after-dinner destination and a great a place to beat the heat.
121 Dunbar St.
Successful Thai, Pan-Asian, and Japanese restaurants have for a decade or more populated Spartanburg’s downtown food scene. But in November 2016, the city added its first Vietnamese eatery to the mix. Tony Nguyen and his wife, Thang Bui, who were born in Vietnam but met in California, opened Lemongrass Kitchen in the former Café Around the Corner’s dining room space at 121 Dunbar St. The restaurant’s menu features authentic pho and bun dishes, as well as Vietnamese coffee and tea. It’s a cozy place that punches above its weight on the flavor scale. Lemongrass was recently voted No. 1 on a list of the South Carolina’s 10 best pho restaurants by AmericanTowns Media.
Mezcal Taberna Mexican
141-143 E. Main St.
In May 2016, Janneth and Isidro Tamayo announced they planned to open their upscale Mexican restaurant on the ground floor of the historic Lundy Building across from Morgan Square. According to its website, Mezcal is “a celebration of traditional Mexican cuisine.” For lunch and dinner, customers can sample from a menu that includes a wide selection of salads, tapas items, sides, entrees, and desserts. The restaurant’s bar has a selection of craft beers, wines, and vibrant cocktails.
129 N. Spring St.
Fabian Mata’s love for great food and drink started at an early age. In August 2016, the young entrepreneur opened this new restaurant honoring his Mexican heritage, without taking it too seriously. Located in a former wine bar space in a ground-level space off North Spring Street, Nacho Taco takes casual dining to another level with elevated dishes and craft beer.
119 N. Church St.
In June, Nicole Sophabmixay and her nephew, Benny Chen, opened Pokenori, a restaurant serving poke, a traditional Hawaiian cuisine featuring cubes of raw fish. The 2,700-square-foot restaurant’s interior blends modern and industrial-chic styles with the historic character of the building. Sophabmixay and Chen said the eatery’s light fixtures were imported from a variety of different vendors in Taiwan.
The restaurant also features a blend of custom-made furniture, including a family-style dining table lined with stools made by Kevin Belue of Spartanburg-based K Riley Designs. Pokenori’s main counter is comprised of a concrete top with a stacked stone tile façade. The floor is a mix of poured concrete and brick. The restaurant also has an accent wall beside the main kitchen area featuring chalk art that has been sealed so it can’t be erased.
The Standard: A Refined Kitchen, Pi-Squared Pizza
1802 Drayton Road
These two new eateries are not in downtown, but they deserve a mention based on the energy and activity they have brought to efforts to redevelop the historic Drayton Mill into a vibrant mixed-use community. The Standard is a new concept by Greenville restaurateur Rick Erwin featuring tasty upscale, but affordable, cuisine. Pi-Squared Pizza is a Detroit-style pizzeria founded by entrepreneur Karen Rampey. The Standard is located in the mill’s former company store, and Pi-Squared is in a former warehouse space that comprises the Drayton Marketplace, the commercial portion of the development. Both restaurants are favorites of residents of the adjacent 289-unit luxury apartment community Drayton Mills Lofts. But they are doing their part to attract new visitors to Drayton.
Other downtown eateries coming soon:
Blue Moon Specialty Foods
130 S. Church St.
Owner: Chris Walker
Target opening: Fall 2017
In June, Spartanburg businessman Chris “Wishbone” Walker announced his plan to expand his homegrown enterprise Blue Moon Specialty Foods. Walker purchased the nearly 4,000-square-foot building previously occupied by A Arrangement Florist at 130 S. Church St. Blue Moon’s offerings include almost 100 items, including seasonings, sauces, dips, dressings, spreads, salsa, pimento cheese, compound butters, quiches, pies, casseroles, sides, beverages, meal kits, and special gift packages. The company’s wholesale business has grown to about 30 locations across South Carolina. But the new space will enable downtown patrons to stop in for a bite, or grab something to take home or back to the office.
Bond Street Wines
145 W. Main St.
Owner: Jeff House
Target opening: Fall 2017
Jeff House, owner of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bond Street Wines, announced in May he planned to open a retail wine shop in a 625-square-foot space on the ground floor of the former Carolina Gallery building at 145 E. Main St. across from Morgan Square. The store will feature about 250 wines from all over the world, an offering of craft beers, light fare, teas, and charcuterie. House said he plans to host wine dinners that will be held at Renato’s initially. Wine tastings will be held on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. The owner will offer free delivery and could have wine by the glass and wine flights.
The Farmer’s Table
149 S. Daniel Morgan Ave. (relocating)
Owners: Joel and Lenora Sansbury
Target opening: Early 2018
The popular farm-to-table eatery that sprouted in downtown Spartanburg a few years ago is expanding. In September, Joel and Lenora Sansbury, owners of The Farmer’s Table, said they will relocate their restaurant to a 5,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Zarza Eclectic Cuisine in the Gilbert & Son Co. Building at 149 S. Daniel Morgan Avenue. The Sansburys, who opened their popular dining concept almost six years ago, said they made the decision to move because they have outgrown their original 2,500-square-foot location in the Farmer’s Marketplace shopping center. The couple said their menu will remain pretty much unchanged. Dishes will still be crafted from fresh ingredients sourced from about 20 local farms and food businesses, including Great Harvest Bread Co., Happy Cow Creamery, and Little River Roasting Co. They plan to be open for dinner a few nights per week. A dinner menu will feature delicious seasonal items, the Sansburys said. The restaurant will serve beer and wine, even on Sundays. Lenora Sansbury said the couple plans to make some modifications to the new space, including expanding the kitchen and creating a private dining room. The whole restaurant will be available for rent on weekends for events, such as wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, and office parties.
125 E. Main St.
Owner: Hub City Hospitality
Target opening: Late 2017
Probably one of the most anticipated eateries under construction in downtown will not be a typical restaurant, but a vibrant outdoor beer garden surrounding a cluster of buildings made from recycled cargo containers. The concept will be owned and operated by the group behind the popular Willy Taco restaurants in Spartanburg and Greenville. FR8 Yard will occupy one-third of an acre of previously vacant property at 125 E. Main St. beside the Sparkle City Mini Putt.
221 E. Kennedy St.
Owners: William Cribb, Raj Patel
Target opening: Late 2017
Spartanburg chef William Cribb, with the help of his business partner Raj Patel, is going back to his roots with a new eatery that harkens back to the first 30-seat restaurant he opened in 2010 at 121 N. Spring St. The Kennedy will be in the 2,200-square-foot building previously occupied by Renato’s. The dining spot will feature smaller dishes crafted from fresh, local ingredients. Its menu will be innovative and consistently updated depending on what is in season. Cribb’s younger brother, Jamie Cribb, who cut his teeth at Wild Olive on Johns Island near Charleston, will serve as The Kennedy’s chef de cuisine. The food will be complemented by a selection of wines, craft beers, and cocktails.
AC Hotel, 225 W. Main St.
Owner: Rick Erwin Dining Group
Target opening: Late 2017
Greenville restaurateur Rick Erwin revealed in June that he planned to deepen his investment in Spartanburg with a new restaurant on the top floor of the new $20 million, 10-story AC Hotel under construction at the corner of West Main Street and Daniel Morgan Avenue. Level 10 will be a high-end concept modeled after Good Food in Montford in Charlotte, N.C. Led by chef Brian Lindsay, the restaurant will have a small menu of seasonal tasting-style portions of fresh pastas, seafood, and maybe one steak dish. The 5,500-square-foot eatery will open to an outdoor bar and private dining areas that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Miyako Sushi Group
118 Magnolia St. (relocating)
Owner: Josh Lee
Target opening: Late 2017
In September 2015, Josh Lee announced his intention to carve out a new future for his popular sushi restaurant in downtown. The owner purchased the former Magnolia Street Pawn Shop building beside the existing location it has been in since its inception in 2000. The owner decided to completely demolish the vacant shop to make way for new construction that will include a 5,000-square-foot dining room on the ground floor and a 2,800-square-foot bar and 2,000-square-foot patio upstairs. The new location will have seating for more than 260 customers. The rooftop bar will be called Bar 1884 in honor of the year the original building was constructed.
226-A West Main St.
Owner: RJ Rockers Brewing Co.
Target opening: December 2017
On Friday, Sept. 29, Spartanburg-based RJ Rockers Brewery Co. unveiled details about the new restaurant under development in 3,800 square feet of its existing space in downtown. The Silo will feature indoor, outdoor, and bar seating, as well as a private room that can accommodate up to 25 diners. Guests will be able to sip some local suds and sample delicious fare developed by head chef Clay McDonough. McDonough said the food will incorporate grains and other ingredients sourced from RJ Rockers’ brewing processes. The restaurant represents a more than $1 million investment that is expected to create at least 15 new jobs. It will feature a unique centralized ordering system that enables customers to roam around the brewery and order whenever they choose.
Spill the Beans
174 E. Main St.
Owners: Abram and Heather Curtis
Target opening: Spring 2018
Abram and Heather Curtis announced recently they will open a Spartanburg location of their popular Main Street Greenville coffeehouse-creamery, Spill the Beans. The couple signed a lease on 2,500 square feet on the ground floor of the historic Aug W. Smith building near Denny’s Plaza. The location is expected to open in the spring of 2018. The Curtises are the first business owners to ink a deal with Greenville-based Blue Wall Real Estate. Blue Wall is pouring $10.5 million into a renovation of the building to transform it into a mixed-use facility with 45 apartments upstairs and retail-restaurant space on the first floor.
Stoner’s Pizza Joint
256 N. Church St.
Owner: Stoner’s Pizza Joint
Target opening: December 2017
Georgia-based pizzeria chain Stoner’s Pizza Joint signed in early September on the 1,400-square-foot former Sake Grill at 256 N. Church St. beside the Spartanburg County Employee Health Clinic, across the street from the Spartanburg Marriott. Drew Ciccarelli, co-owner and head of franchise development for Stoner’s, said the company will renovate the space during the next few months, with the store expected to open in early December. The restaurant will have some dine-in seating, as well as takeout and delivery services. Its menu features pizzas, sandwiches, salads, calzones, Stromboli, wings, lasagna, and desserts.
Promising future downtown restaurant locations:
198 Main & Morgan
198 W. Main St.
Owner: Royce Camp
149 W. Main St.
Owner: Bill Barnet
Aug. W Smith Building
174 E. Main St.
Owner: Blue Wall Real Estate
The Farmer’s Table (becoming available in January)
401 E. Kennedy St.
Owners: JP and Lamar Baehr
127 W. Main St.
Owner: Sean McEnroe
Liberty Street Development
North Liberty Street
Owners: Jimmy Gibbs and Andy Cajka
McClellan’s Urban Eatery/Pierre’s
253 Magnolia St.
Owner: Sander Morrison
Miyako Sushi Group building (after relocation)
114 Magnolia St. and 121 N. Spring St.
Owner: Stathakis Two LLC
187 N. Church St.
Owner: BF Spartanburg