Tupelo Honey Cafe – Asheville, NC

Tupelo Honey
First let me say… there are SO MANY AMAZING restaurants in and around downtown Asheville, NC.  This is just the first of many that I will be checking out and sharing with you here… but it is a wonderful one to start with… The TUPELO HONEY CAFE.

One word of warning. Do not come here to eat if you are in a hurry, because you will almost certainly have to wait a good long while for a table. That is because it is so good, everyone wants to eat here! But DO WAIT! It really is worth it! Tomato Pie
A special the day we came that is not normally on their menu, a tomato pie was so tasty!

Grits Okra AsparagusCorn Green Beans and Salad
Veggie plates are always a fantastic choice here since so many choices are on the menu. The grits are smooth and succulent, and a perfect compliment to the asparagus and okra. The corn was super sweet and green beans were too! 
Red Shrimp and Grits
I think the biggest surprise was my Shrimp and Grits. I have ordered it in many different restaurants around the Carolinas, but it us usually with brown gravy and sausage.  This is the chef’s signature dish, called Brian’s Shrimp and Grits » Seven large delectable shrimp served over goat cheese grits with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce.
Different, yes. Delicious, ABSOLUTELY!

If you are ever in or near Asheville, NC and have only 1 meal there, make Tupelo Honey Cafe your pick.  You will not be sorry!  *(though more great options to be featured soon!)

Downtown Asheville
12 College Street
Asheville  North Carolina  28801

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Sunrise Cafe – Chesterfield, MO (suburban St Louis)

I love breakfast. It IS the most important meal of the day, right?

I remember as a little kids getting to go out to eat on trips to have breakfast and what an amazing difference it was having breakfast in a restaurant instead of at home.  Cracker Barrel, Waffle House, Denny’s and IHOP were the choices I remember growing up, as well as the occasional McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, but now there are so many other great places to nosh at breakfast time, so I look for them.

Last week I was in St. Louis for a conference and found a little place just south of town and  it was wonderful.  They even are so proud of the fact they are an “independent restauranteur” that they print that fact right on the front of their menu!
Sunrise Cafe

They so focus on the food, they do not even have a website… but there are lots of places that list reviews or suggestions for it and most are great.  Here is YELP‘s take.
I did manage to find that they do have a Facebook page.

My omelet was called the Spanish Dawn. It was big, fluffy and felt like there was 6 eggs in it… though I am assured it was just 3.  The best part was the spicy chorizo sausage. Gave the omelet the kick it needed! The sour cream and guacamole helped cool that spice down and worked so well with the eggs.  Plus the salsa and guac were made fresh and tasted great.
Southwest Omelet

My friend got a southwest omelet which looked equally as savory with its pepper jack cheese on top!
Omelet

Service was great and the coffee was fantastic. Most local breakfast places like this do not ever seem to have good coffee. Theirs was very robust.  They have good food, great service and hearty coffee which helps keep themselves going – even though 3 doors down is a “St. Louis Bread Company” chain store (like a Panera).

One advantage they have over folks like Panera, is that they serve a full breakfast menu, not just bagels and eggs.  Everything from oatmeal to omelets, from pancakes/waffles to biscuits/gravy, from corned beef hash to steak & eggs.  All you would want. (Even Cream of Wheat!)  Another advantage they have over the competition is that they do not just serve breakfast, though with the name SUNRISE CAFE that may not be as obvious. They have a great selection of lunch & dinner options (sandwiches, soups, salads, burgers, fish, BBQ, ribs, steaks, etc) and even do appetizers and sinful deserts!

Another great example of why we need to “break the chains”… eat LOCAL.  It is just better.

🙂

Blue Marlin – Columbia, SC

Wow. No surprise that once again, we had an amazing meal.  Like the history of this great restaurant (being located in Columbia’s old downtown train station) the food here has a long storied tradition of being fantastic.  Steaks, Seafood, Pasta and more, are all highly recommended at this classy restaurant in The Vista district.

Thankfully we were able to get a table on short notice with 6 people (thanks Open Table!). It is a bit loud in there at times when it is crowded, so it is not really ideal for an intimate quiet dinner, and even a business meeting could be tough on a crowded night, but the food is so good you will not be talking anyway!

For an appetizer we tried their Fried Green Tomatoes. They were perfect. Tart, but sweet, with a spicy sauce. (and it counts as a green vegetable!)
Fried Green Tomatoes

For dinner I usually get shrimp and grits (their speciality) or the salmon steak, but this time got Tilapia Charleston, which is pan seared and covered in a shrimp and crabmeat cream sauce, laid over a bed of amazing creamy Adluh grits with green beans. (my mouth is watering as I type… it was that tasty!)
Tilapia Charleston

My wife got Flounder which was also excellent, though was far too much food for her to eat, so she brought about half of it home.
Flounder Dinner

If you are interested in trying their world famous, award winning Shrimp & Grits, but do not want to commit to a meal, there is a small single size portion on the appetizer menu. That is a perfect way to experience it without too much risk. (but rest assured you will love it!)
Shrimp and Grits

I am always so happy to get to eat there and so far, it has never failed to be fantastic!

www.BlueMarlinColumbia.com

*Tip for first timers… if you want to try it without breaking the bank, LUNCH or even Sunday Brunch has the same exact food, at a much less expensive price. Try that then once you know you love it, come back for a night out!

Beacon Drive-In – Spartanburg, SC

When we first moved to Columbia, SC from the big city of Orlando, FL, I was disappointed the there were not as many big chain stores I was used to having nearby. Like the fact there is no Apple Store (Greenville or Charlotte are not close enough for me).  However we were thrilled that were SO MANY great local restaurants, because in Orlando all we really seemed to have were chains.

Watching a PBS special about great places to eat in South Carolina, they mentioned the Beacon Drive-In located in Spartanburg.  Then a few months later we met a women from Spartanburg who told stories of going there as a teenager with her husband (then her boyfriend) and made it sound SO GOOD!  So on our next trip toward Asheville, we stopped by!
Beacon Drive-In
The iconic sign still stands and directs you back in time. Then you go inside to order. It is like stepping back in time when you walk in. Opened in 1946, and the man at the front (J.C. Strobel) has been there helping call in the orders for all the customers since the very beginning!  In fact, they even say you gotta “CALL IT” when you step up.  Be ready and know what you are getting, otherwise they will move you out of the way so others can order!  The line moves FAST!  *(see what it is like on this video link).

That is him, standing off to the left of my kids….
When you get to the Beacon, you gotta "Call It"

We managed to order and get down the line only to find they do not take debit or credit cards (they will take checks which we were thankful for…) and get ready to chow down!|
YUMMY BURGERS AND FRIES AT BEACON
I got (and loved) the cheeseburger and I had to get it “a plenty”.  That is what they call their “meal” deal there and means it come with fries AND onion rings! It is something that started back in the days after the depression and when times were hard, but you could get a meal there for just a little money but the meal was “a plenty”.  *(if you get your meal “a plenty” just know you can share your fries and rings with a friend… no need for both of you to go “a plenty” or you will NEVER eat it all!   And in case you are like my daughter and you do not like burgers or hotdogs, do not worry. They have tons of other options!  She got chicken soup and ate every drop!

Check it out if you are ever anywhere near Spartanburg.  It is good old-fashion fun!
*(and be sure and get some ice cream too before you leave!)

www.BeaconDriveIn.com 

Metro Burger – Greenville, SC

Couple of weeks ago, Tina and I were in Greenville, SC and before we headed to a movie, we wanted to find a bite to eat.  We had resigned to the fact we would be eating typical chain, fast-food, but thankfully we stumbled upon a local place that sounded interesting instead.

Metro Burger is a locally owned gourmet burger shop at 1102 Woodruff Rd, in the old Jack In The Box location, right across from the movie theater.  On the Metro Burger website, they list it as a chain (and have info about franchise options) but this is currently the only location.  I would LOVE to get one of these in Columbia!  It is so much better than a Five Guys or any other burger joint I have been into a while.

They have lots of great signature burgers on the menu, but also have a build-it-yourself option too, so you can create almost any possible combination.   Tina built a wonderful turkey burger with lots of great toppings (regretfully I did not get a picture of it…).  I had one of their signature items called a Carolina Slawster Burger!  Angus beef burger, blue cheese slaw, tomato and one onion ring!  It was delicious! And I was pleasantly surprised to see they serve Duke’s mayo with it! (my favorite!)

The Carolina Slawster Burger!

If you are looking to save money, and get a cheap, super-quick burger that is ready the moment you order it, head to MickeyD’s or something… but if you have a few minutes to wait, and can spend a little more, this is the place to get a burger in Greenville.

www.MetroBurger.com

***(And I will promise to frequent the location if someone in Columbia wants to open one up!  Just let me know!  🙂

Kovachi’s – Lexington, SC

On South Lake Drive, just south of Main Street in downtown Lexington, there is some great Greek and Italian food being cooked up at KOVACHI’S.

Kovachi's

We literally just found it by accident, as we drove around on a Sunday night looking for a good place to eat.  We had been running around town all day and were starving, but seemed like every place we tried was closed!  (Sunday night in a small town)  When we arrived we were a little concerned because there was almost no one there… but we had nothing to worry about. The food was great, and the portions were huge!  The kids meals were as big as adult meals at some places… And BONUS, we found out that it Sunday nights, kids eat FREE!  🙂

My wife was daring and got Spanakopita (cheese & spinach layered between phyllo dough), which was delicious.

Spanakopita

My daughter got the KIDS portion of Fettucini Alfredo and a salad (and had so much left over she had more than enough for lunch the next day).Fettucini

My son loved the Kids portion Pizza, which was big and thick on a hand tossed crust. (he added his favorite topping, onions, from his sister’s salad!)Pizza

My Gyro platter (Lamb) was really good and spiced just right. And with all the fries and hot, fresh pita great too, it was a lot of food.  Lunch the next day was not quite as satisfying since microwave-reheated lamb is not as good as it was right out of the oven, but still better than most of my lunches.

Gyro Platter

Casual atmosphere, with inside and outside dining.  Family friendly but not run over with kids either.

Kovachi's Outside

I made my wife very happy when I got her a desert to go… fresh baklava.  🙂  Baklava

Suffice to say I would highly recommend Kovachi’s for anyone looking for good authentic Greek or Italian.  Next time I want to try their “Taste of Greece” or “Taste of Italy” platters (which are big enough to split with a friend) and get a sampling of several more of their different specialties!  🙂

www.Kovachis.com