The Best of the Upstate 2017: How You Should Vote for Food & Drink Part 1


Every year, The Greenville News sponsors a Best of the Upstate popularity contest that allows the community to nominate and vote on what they deem to be the “Best of the Upstate.”  Everything from “Best Fried Chicken” to, for some reason, “Best Church” are up for debate.  Unfortunately, what normally happens is that the true best choice doesn’t win and it goes to something that, while the masses like it, is closer to truly mediocre.  This is especially true in the Food and Drink category.  In most democratic processes, I am of the mind that there is no truly wrong choice and that arguments can be made for all eligible nominees.  However, dear reader, in this case, that is not true.  There are right and wrong answers here.  Most of this voting is flawed from the start as many of the candidates shouldn’t even be nominated for one reason or the other.  But since this is a popularity contest and not an actual best of, the general public wins out.  When voting, I have a few ground rules right off the top:

  • Unless absolutely, positively, only very necessary DO NOT VOTE FOR  NATIONAL OR LARGE CHAINS
  • If I have no real opinion or I cannot make a case in my mind that one of the nominees is the best of that category, I don’t vote.

So how should you vote this year to truly let the “Best” available win?  I’m about to tell you who to vote for in Food and Drink and why.

Best Bagels

  • Broadway Bagels
  • Sully’s Steamers
  • Panera Bread
  • Greenfield’s Bagels and Deli
  • Bruegger’s Bagels


No chains allowed so Bruegger’s and Panera are instantly out.  I really like Sully’s, but they focus more on bagel sandwiches than the actual bagels themselves, which leaves Broadway and Greenfield’s.  Both are very good at what they do, but the edge goes to Greenfield’s.  Their bagels are definately the best in the Upstate.  Find out more about them in this great piece Off the Grid Greenville did about them.

Best Bakery

  • Tip Top Cake Shop, LLC
  • The Buttercream Bakehouse
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes
  • Strossner’s Bakery, Cafe & Deli
  • The Bakery off Augusta


Nothing Bundt Cakes is a chain, so away it goes.   I think Strossner’s is overpriced for what you get, so they’re out.  Out of what’s left, I like The Buttercream Bakehouse the most, so it’s as simple as that.

Best Bar Staff

  • Tipsy Taco
  • Local Cue
  • Carolina Ale house
  • The Hide Out
  • City Tavern


Carolina Ale House is a chain and is also horrible so away it goes.  I’ve never been to The Hide Out, so it goes away too.  Out of the three left, I frequent Tipsy Taco the most and their bar staff, and staff in general, always does a good job, is friendly, and they have a great variety of drinks available.  For that, they get my vote.

Best BBQ

  • Henry’s Smokehouse
  • Bucky’s BBQ
  • Mike & Jeff’s BBQ
  • Mutt’s BBQ
  • The Smokin’ Pig


There’s only one of these places on Robert Moss’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the South.  It’s Henry’s.  And I agree with Robert Moss.

Best Beer Selection on Tap

  • Pour Taproom
  • The Southern Growl
  • Yard house
  • Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria
  • The Community Tap


Pour Taproom and Yard House are both chains, so they’re eliminated.  I love The Community Tap, but they only have 20 taps.  Barley’s (which is a regional chain, by the way) has 72 taps and The Southern Growl has 60.  Despite having 12 less taps, The Southern Growl is more local and also has a more interesting selection of beers on a regular basis.  So they get the nod.

Best Breakfast

  • Stax Omega Diner
  • Eggs Up Grill
  • Biscuit Head
  • Tandem Creperie and Coffee House
  • Stax’s Original Restaurant


Eggs Up is a regional chain and has a ton of restaurants, so they’re out.  Biscuit Head is really good at what they do, but they don’t have enough variety for best overall breakfast.  Same with Tandem.  So it’s Stax against Stax.  Stax Omega wins out due to having both classic breakfast items and more adventurous offerings, which is a broader spectrum than Stax’s Original.  I’ve never had a bad thing at Stax Omega so they come out victorious.

Best Buffet

  • Golden Corral
  • Green Tomato Buffet
  • Mutt’s BBQ
  • Big Boys Country Cooking
  • Soby’s Sunday Brunch


Golden Corral is a feeding trough for simple palates and a huge chain.  Mutt’s is fine, but not “Best” quality.  I haven’t been to the other two.  Soby’s Sunday Brunch stands out for the quality, variety, and sophistication of the items available all at a very decent price.  They get my vote.

Best Burger

  • Fuddruckers
  • Five Guys
  • Grill Marks
  • North West Grill
  • Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar


Fuddruckers, Five Guys, and Bad Daddy’s all are chains so they are thrown out.  Grill Marks makes mediocre burgers at high prices so I’m not voting for them.  If you have to vote, vote for North West Grill.  I’ve never been there, but it’s the only choice left.  I’m abstaining because The Cheeseburger House should posthumously win this award and since they’re not listed, there is no best burger.  RIP CHEESEBURGER HOUSE

Best Cafe/Coffee House

  • Starbucks
  • Coffee Underground
  • Coyote Coffee
  • The Village Grind
  • Methodical Coffee


Starbucks, huge chain, bye.  Out of the contenders left, Methodical makes the best coffee and has a great space.  They also play some awesome tunes on their turntable and the baristas (if I can even call them that as they seem higher than baristas) are great conversationalists while sitting at the bar.

Best Caterer

  • Good Life Catering Co.
  • Stax’s Original Restaurant
  • CHEF360 Catering
  • Chuy’s
  • Table 301 Catering


I have no opinion because I never get anything catered.  But don’t vote for Chuy’s.  You know, chains and all.

Best Chef

  • Greg McPhee – The Anchorage
  • Anthony Gray – Bacon Bros. Public House
  • Jason Scholz – Stella’s Southern Bistro
  • Adrian Carpenter
  • Xavier Bonnaffous – Southern Pressed Juicery


All of the chefs listed are extremely talented, but Greg McPhee has not only brought a different style of food and dining to Greenville, he’s done it in the Village and helped to spur the revitalization of that area of town.

Best Chinese

  • Oriental House
  • Lieu’s Chinese Bistro
  • Red Bowl Asian Bistro
  • China Restaurant on Woodruff Rd.
  • Chin Chin Chinese Restaurant


The actual best Chinese is at No. 1 China in the shopping center where the baby Bi-Lo/Stab ‘n’ Grab used to be.  This means I abstain from this category and would say vote for anyone but Red Bowl because it’s a chain.

Best Cocktails

  • Vault & Vator
  • Swordfish Cocktail Club
  • Up On The Roof
  • Nose Dive
  • The Anchorage


Did you know that Up on The Roof is owned by the people that franchise Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse?  Well now you do.  That’s too close to a chain, so they’re gone.  Now is where I have to disclaim I have some bias in this category.  I spent an afternoon with the guys that run the bar at The Anchorage, learning about their craft.  And that bias leads to them getting my vote.

Best Deli

  • Rick Erwin’s Deli
  • Midtown Deli
  • Jason’s Deli
  • Publix Deli
  • The Deli at Pelham Falls


Midtown, Jason’s, and Publix Deli are all chains, so buh-bye.  Honestly, I think you can make a case for either Rick Erwin’s Deli or The Deli at Pelham Falls and I have no problem with anyone who votes for either of them.  I just go to Rick’s more, and thus they get my vote.

Best Desserts

  • Brick Street Cafe
  • The Cheesecake Factory
  • The Chocolate Moose Bakery & Cafe
  • The Buttercream Bakehouse
  • Coffee Underground
  • Stax Omega Diner
  • Strossner’s Bakery, Cafe & Deli


Cheesecake Factory is a chain, so nothing for them.  Chocolate Moose makes great cupcakes, but don’t have a diverse enough selection of desserts.  Buttercream and Strossner’s close at 5 and 6 respectively, so no real chance to get an after dinner desert at either of those.  Coffee Underground’s strawberry cake is magnificent, but all of the cakes at Brick Street are on another level.  The best two are sweet potato and chocolate peanut butter.  That’s not a debate.

Best Downtown Bar

  • Up On The Roof
  • Ink N’ Ivy
  • City Tavern
  • Carolina Ale house
  • Vault & Vator


The best downtown bar is actually Connolly’s, but I’ll make due with what I have to work with here.  I hate rooftop bars and their gimmick to get people to go and have lower quality cocktails at higher prices.  So Up On The Roof and Ink N’ Ivy are both out for me, not to mention they’re both chains.  As stated before Carolina Ale House is terrible so it’s out, also a chain.  That leaves City Tavern and Vault & Vator.  Vault & Vator gets my vote as it’s a new concept, that actually has rules that you have to abide by, and has great cocktails by the American Grocery team.

Best Downtown Restaurant

  • Smoke On The Water
  • Soby’s
  • American Grocery
  • The Trappe Door
  • Hall’s Chophouse


Smoke On The Water isn’t even the best barbecue in town.  I’ve also had varied experiences at their restaurant, both good and bad.  Soby’s is consistent, but hasn’t modernized enough from say, 7 years ago.  The Trappe Door is very, very good.  But it’s not the best restaurant downtown.  I can make a case for either Hall’s or AGR being the best restaurant downtown.  They’re probably my top two, in fact.  However, given that Hall’s is a Charleston transplant and AGR has what might be the most modern, fresh, and consistently changing menu downtown as well as top notch service, cocktails, wine, and atmosphere, they get the nod.

Best Family Restaurant

  • Harbor Inn Seafood Restaurant
  • Azteca Mauldin
  • Inky’s Authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteaks and Hoagies
  • Stax’s Original Restaurant
  • Clock Fine Foods in Moonville
  • Big Clock of Berea


While I have nothing against the rest of the restaurants here, I love Inky’s food and they make you feel like family when you’re there.  There’s something for everyone at Inky’s and enough choices that even the pickiest of kids would eat there.

Best Food Truck

  • Asada
  • Automatic Taco
  • The Chuck Truck
  • ThoroughFARE
  • Henry’s Hog Hauler


Asada almost never takes their truck out anymore and Henry’s isn’t out and about usually unless it’s a special event.  This category should be for trucks that do business strictly from their mobile vehicle and not have brick and mortar stores.  Out of all of these, I love Automatic Taco.  I get a crazy craving for their hot chicken taco every now and again and their veggie is out of this world.  They don’t make a bad product.  Once again, I will disclaim that I spent about half a day with these guys, but I still would probably vote for them anyway.


There’s a TON of Food and Drink Categories so I’ll be splitting this into three parts.  Part two will come tomorrow so until then, GO VOTE.


7 thoughts on “The Best of the Upstate 2017: How You Should Vote for Food & Drink Part 1

  1. I agree with most of this, but want to point out that Pour Taproom is not a chain and should have won best beer selection on tap. Period. They have 70 taps and are a small family owned business. But I agree that Yard House is a chain and should not have won again this year. Unfortunately chains like McDonalds, Waffle House and Five Guys end up winning in most categories associated with food & drink, when it’s the small businesses that could really use the exposure.


    1. Hi Jess! Thanks for your comment. I’d you’ll go to their website you’ll see that they are in fact a chain. They have multiple locations across many states. While a local family might own the Greenville franchise, it’s a franchise of a chain. Thanks again for reading!


  2. Hi! Thanks for the link, but I’m very familiar with Pour, and very close to the family that started the business about 2 years ago in Asheville, NC. Since then, the location in Greenville opened a little over a year ago, and now there are 6 locations, 5 in the Carolinas & 1 in CA. It’s definitely not a franchise, and not a chain either in my opinion (defined as 10 or more locations with a central headquarters). I don’t know if you’ve visited Pour Taproom Greenville, or any of the other locations (3 of which opened this summer, so at the time of voting there were only 2 in the Carolinas, one in Asheville & one in Greenville), but they’re all very unique which is not characteristic of a chain/franchise. It’s interesting that you voted for Rick’s Deli & Soby’s, which both have several locations…I voted for them as well, but do you consider them a chain? Pour shouldn’t be eliminated just because they have a few other locations.

    I’d encourage you to visit the Pour Taproom in Asheville, and you’ll see it’s not a chain at all…the one thing they have in common is that you can pour your own beer, which is what makes it stand out from all the other nominees in this category. Asheville has its own food in house, while Greenville does not, but you can order from Gringo’s next door. Charleston just opened a few weeks ago, and they have craft cocktails, which are not available at other locations.

    The friendly staff, as well as community involvement, support of local breweries & bands, and dog friendly atmosphere are a few other things that set Pour apart in Greenville. Pour Taproom should have won this category, and it’s a shame that Yard House won again this year.


    1. I consider it at least a local chain. I also consider Barley’s a local chain. Even if each location is unique, that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re all under the same brand. However, I do like Pour. I like that I can go and try small tastes of things without buying a whole beer or committing to just one type.

      As for Rick’s Deli and Soby’s, those are the only locations for those particular restaurants. They are, however, both part of restaurant groups.

      If Pour would have won, I would have been fine with it. I’m more apt to vote for places that are one-offs or not affiliated with other places within the same brand or have other out of state locations. I think Pour is a great addition to downtown Greenville and I have no disdain for it whatsoever.


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