Anchorage

As promised in our Ultimate Greenville recap, we are doing a full review of our meal at Anchorage. Anchorage is located on the western edge of town in the “Village of West Greenville”, an up and coming area. While there were empty storefronts nearby there also was a cool-looking coffee shop, a music venue and a small outdoor concert going on when we first arrived. When it comes to the meaning of the name Anchorage, think ships, not Alaska. I think it goes without saying that an Arctic-themed restaurant in western South Carolina would be strange.

Anchorage farm-themed mural

Much like crossing the Atlantic by ship seems tediously slow, our meal at Anchorage moved at a snail’s pace. And it’s not a cultural thing, either, us impatient northerners. There really did seem to be some confusion in the kitchen. We could tell, because we were sitting about five feet away from the small open kitchen. Still, we had not seen my family in months, so we did not mind the slow pace. Also, we were in a vacation-mode. Come what may, brother.

Both Marnay and I started out with well-made cocktails. Marnay went with the Bombeyonce, with gin, chartreuse, orange fennel shrub, floral bitters and lemon, a refreshing beginning. I went the tiki-route with The Village Swizzle: Angostura rum, Gosling Black Seal rum, falernum, lime and Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters.

Anchorage cocktails: Bombeyonce and The Village Swizzle

The five of us ordered nearly everything on the menu, although I will mostly focus on what Marnay and I ate. When eating at a restaurant with a such a large and diverse group, it can be difficult to come to a consensus when the menu is not divided into the “traditional” appetizer, entrée, dessert format. Luckily, our server sensed that we were having trouble and suggested that we order a few small plates to share as our first course. He waited until we completely finished eating and then came back for round two.

Anchorage pickled Royal Red Gulf shrimp

The pickled Royal Red Gulf shrimp was a standout from the first course, especially the contrast between the vinegary shrimp, the heat from thinly-sliced jalapeños and the cooling, partially caramelized grilled watermelon. The showstopper, though, was the perfectly browned Bahamian fish fritters, filled with clean-tasting and fresh conch, wreckfish and one other fish, the name I unfortunately do not remember. The fennel salad on the side brought a welcome lightness to the hot and crunchy fritters. We liked it so much that Marnay ordered it as her main course!

Anchorage Bahamian fish fritters

The best presentation of the evening was the cornmeal fried Virginia oysters. The fried oysters are served on the half shell, dressed with pickled green strawberries, fennel and dill and then placed on top of coarse salt, meant to resemble ice. Green strawberries are in ingredient that we are just starting to see on menus, and they are something that chefs can really be creative with.

Anchorage cornmeal fried Virginia oysters

Our server explained that most people order dishes to share, but he didn’t blink an eye or pressure us when we each got our own dish. I am fan of burrata, but it can be difficult to eat with bread when the bread comes on the side. Maybe “difficult” is not the right word, but it is at least one more step. Well, Anchorage solved the problem by serving their hand-pulled ramp burrata and salsa verde on top of housemade bread, topped with fried capers, dill and chili salt. All of the flavors were perfectly layered and went together like a dream. My family’s main courses, for the most part, were hit or miss. The Reedy River Baby Lettuces, grown on Reedy River Farms, a one-acre plot located less than a mile from downtown Greenville, were incredibly sweet and had a pleasantly leathery texture. On the other hand, the Bethel Trails Chicken Larb and the Baked Garganelli pasta with grilled squash were flat out misses.

Anchorage hand-pulled ramp burrata and salsa verde

Now, the whole meal had been a bit slow, starting with our drink orders, but it was when we ordered ice cream for dessert that things came to a grinding halt. As I mentioned earlier, we were sitting near the kitchen, so we were able to figure out that the delays were due to some confusion in the kitchen, not our server. Our server handled everything very well. Still, we had nowhere to be so we did not mind. It helped tremendously that our server had given us good service all night and that put us in a good mood.

Dining at Anchorage in Greenville, SC with our family

Despite the pace of the meal, Anchorage is restaurant we would return to. The food was good and the thing that we will remember the most was the superb service.

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Bahamian Fish Fritters

Address
Anchorage: 586 Perry Avenue Greenville, SC 29611

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Ultimate Greenville Weekend: Part 2

Note: We divided our Ultimate Greenville Weekend into two posts. Click here to read Part 1.

Saturday

Because we were so tired on Friday, we went to sleep early but also woke up early. We left the house and walked to Methodical Coffee, a third-wave coffee shop located in an office building downtown. We sat upstairs, listened to tunes on their record player and ate one of the best almond croissants we had ever had. Afterwards we checked out the farmers market on Main Street and purchased a drawing of the Swamp Rabbit Railroad, which is now the location of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. We talked to the artist for a while and she said that it took her 40 hours to draw, using only dots!

Methodical Coffee with an almond croissant in Greenville, SC

We had been carrying helmets around all morning so that we could try out Greenville’s bikeshare system, B-Cycle. Greenville has a good amount of bike lanes and a tremendous amount of bike shops, which reflects a healthy biking culture. We rode east from downtown, down a large hill on Washington Street and then into Cleveland Park, home of the Greenville zoo. We dropped off the bikes and walked around but then headed uphill back into town. It was time for lunch!

Paul biking with B-Cycle in Greenville, SC

We met my parents at their hotel and then drove to Swamp Rabbit Café. Unlike Friday morning, when we made a very brief stop there, now we had time to check the place out. The outdoor pizza oven was open so my Dad and grandfather shared a nice thin-crust pie. Marnay and I ate picnic-style, choosing from the selection of mostly local products in the market: La Quercia prosciutto (delicious but not local), housemade stecca, a focaccia-like bread, local salami, local mozzarella and local strawberries. It was truly a feast! The mozzarella, made just up the road in Travelers Rest, was the star of the show. That and the bread!

Swamp Rabbit Cafe picnic in Greenville, SC

My parents dropped us off at our Airbnb, but we were not ready to rest. We walked about two miles through some interesting areas to the Birds Fly South Ale Project, which when we looked at the map later was actually very close to Swamp Rabbit Café. The brewery had garage-style doors that looked out onto a grassy lawn and it was a great place to spend the afternoon hanging out, drinking some brews.

Our dinner reservation that night was Jianna, the much-anticipated new Italian restaurant from Chef Michael Kramer. The second-story views overlooking Falls Park could not be beat, but our server was not well trained and had no idea what he was doing. The food wasn’t bad, but what will remember the most was server, especially compared to the incredible service at Anchorage the night before.

Jianna

Post-dinner, we walked to Falls Park on the Reedy, the beautiful park that is the centerpiece of Greenville. The only other place that we’ve been to where it seems as though the town was built around the waterfall is Niagara Falls. The best way to view the waterfall is from the pedestrian-only suspension bridge.

Falls Park on the Reedy waterfall in Greenville, SC

Sunday

Sunday was unfortunately our last day in Greenville. It was only a partial day, as we had a 3:00pm flight home. We woke up early (6:30am) in order to make the most of our time. It was lightly raining, the first non-sunny day since we arrived, but we still set out on foot and headed towards Methodical Coffee. We enjoyed their coffee but unfortunately they did not get their delivery of pastries until after we left.

Marnay at Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, SC

After having a snack on the go, we spent more time walking through Falls Park. It’s clear that the city put a serious investment into the park, and boy did it pay off. You could say that the entire town is built around the park, much in the way towns are built around transit. We capped things off by sitting on a wooden swinging-bench and took in the sights for one last time. Until next time, Greenville! If you are interested in visiting Greenville, I strongly suggest taking the train at least one way. It is a unique experience and while it takes longer than flying, it is much more comfortable.

Places we visited
Amtrak Crescent

Swamp Rabbit Café 205 Cedar Lane Road Greenville, SC 29611

Swamp Rabbit Trail

OJ’s Diner 907 Pendleton Street Greenville, SC 29601

Anchorage 586 Perry Avenue Greenville, SC 29611

Methodical Coffee 101 N. Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

B-Cycle Greenville

Birds Fly South Ale Project 1320 Hampton Avenue Ext Greenville, SC 29601

Falls Park on the Reedy 601 S Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

Jianna 600 S Main Street Greenville, SC 29601

Ultimate Greenville Weekend: Part 1

Thursday

This Memorial Day Weekend, we took Amtrak’s Crescent from Washington, DC to Greenville, SC. That’s right, we took at 10 hour, overnight train to South Carolina! We stayed in a sleeper car, which included our own bedroom and own bathroom. When we boarded the train, we met our extremely helpful sleeping car attendant who showed us around our room, gave us bottles of water and then made a dinner reservation for us.

Paul boarding the Amtrak Crescent train at Union Station

The room was nicer and more spacious than we imagined. We had bunk beds, although they were folded up at this time. The bottom bunk folded into a couch and we also had a fold-out chair along the window. There was a sink next to the couch, which was a minor inconvenience but not a big deal.

Amtrak Crescent train sleeper car room

We boarded the train at 6:15pm and at 6:45pm, it was time for dinner in the adjacent dining car. The dining car is community seating, so the attendant matched us up at a four seat table with our new friends, Al and Sheila (names changed), a retired couple from southwest Virginia. Our tablemates were great and very interesting—they were on their way back from Seattle so we got to hear what it’s like to ride the rails cross-country. We talked a lot about beer, one of our areas of expertise, and I let Al know about the soon-to-open east coast location of Deschutes, which will be in Roanoke. Al is a stout fan so I told him about the Abyss, Deschutes famous Imperial Stout, and he made sure to write the name down for future reference.

The décor of the dining car reminded me of a classic Jersey diner, although believe it or not, the Amtrak menu had more interesting options than traditional Jersey diner food. Plus, all of our food was cooked in a real kitchen located in the dining car. None of it was like the café car food in Northeast Regional trains, which gets “cooked” in the microwave. I ordered the Amtrak signature steak cooked to medium, which came with a side of succotash. The steak was a tad overcooked but still tasted good and the succotash tasted fresh. The best bite of the meal, in my opinion, was Marnay’s seared shrimp, served jambalaya-style. Marnay’s meal had some serious kick to it.

Amtrak Crescent train dining car dinner

After dinner, we went back to our room to relax, listen to Spotify and watch the Virginia scenery fly by through our huge windows. When it was time for sleep, our sleeping car attendant made our beds and gave us bottles of water. The last thing I remember before falling asleep was arriving in Danville, VA around 11:30pm. We had a short night of sleep ahead of us, since we were going to arrive in Greenville at 5:00am on Friday.

Amtrak Crescent train sleeper car beds

Friday

We got off the train in Greenville very early Friday morning and made our way to downtown. Of course, it was before 6am so there was not much that we could do. We were able to at least get some coffee at a hotel Starbucks to keep us awake and energized because we had a full day of exploring ahead. Fortified by coffee, we took a local Greenlink bus to Swamp Rabbit Café.

Marnay and Paul at Greenville station with the Amtrak Crescent train

Swamp Rabbit Café is a local produce market plus has prepared sandwiches and coffee and is located along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a transformative rail trail that runs through the region. The Swamp Rabbit Trail has spurred a lot of development in the area, particularly in Greenville and the nearby community of Travelers Rest. The café is an extremely popular stop for bikers along the trail, as it also hosts a bike shop. We sat outside at the café’s outdoor tables and relaxed for a while, then put on sunscreen and went for a walk!

Swamp Rabbit Cafe in Greenville, SC

The Swamp Rabbit Trail follows the Reedy River, and it was pleasant to walk along the shaded trail and watch as the water goes by. There is something about moving water that is just so relaxing. From the café to downtown Greenville, it is a little under 3 miles.

walking

However, we were not headed back to our Airbnb, located in a residential neighbor just north of downtown. No, we were headed for OJ’s Diner, a classic Southern meat-and-three. A meat-and-three is usually a buffet-style restaurant where a person chooses a meat option, usually fried chicken, pork chops, ribs, etc. and then three sides. Everything is scratch made and very inexpensive. To be honest, we were a bit intimidated because it was our first time and we didn’t even know how to order.

OJ's Diner in Greenville, SC

As it turned out, the staff at OJ’s could not possibly have been any friendlier. Our sweet teas were never empty for more than 30 seconds, as a server kept making her rounds. At the cafeteria-style line, I ordered fried chicken with turnip greens, pinto beans and a biscuit. Marnay ordered fried croaker along with turnip greens, rice and gravy and cornbread. From now on, when we think about fried fish, this is what we will think about. OJ’s is a place we would HAPPILY go back to.

fish

After some much needed sleep at our Airbnb, we made our way to dinner at Anchorage in West Greenville with my parents and grandfather. (Read our full review for Anchorage here.) Anchorage is a modern American restaurant that serves whatever is available and in-season from local farms. The restaurant is helmed by Greg McPhee, a Husk-alum. The outside of the restaurant is one large farm-themed mural, full of fruits and vegetables, and it is really quite beautiful.

Anchorage large farm-themed mural in Greenville, SC

The menu is mainly made up of small plates, and I believe that we got every single one to share among the 5 of us. The best bite of the meal was the Bahamian Salted Fish Fritters, which we liked so much we go two orders!

Note: We divided our Ultimate Greenville Weekend into two posts. Click here to read Part 2.

Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters

For our last dinner in Charleston, we went to Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters. Two days before we left for Charleston, Leon’s was named one of Southern Living magazine’s best restaurants in the South. Husk was on the list as well. Leon’s is another restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, so we had an early dinner. It was pretty crowded when we got there, and they stuck us in the corner. We were near the large garage-style doors, and it would have been nice if they were open. However, it was raining that day.

The food, though, was another story. We started off our meal with oysters from Prince Edward Island and Massachusetts.  I thought it was a little odd that there weren’t any local oysters, but then again I’ve never seen oysters from the Carolinas on a menu. The one oyster that stood out was called “Cooke’s Cocktail”, from PEI. They were huge!!!! But they also had the most interesting flavor. They were surprisingly salty for an oyster that meaty.

Our main course was fried chicken with a side of brussel sprouts. The brussel sprouts were fried and were cooked with red wine vinegar and piperade, which is a Basque condiment of onions, green peppers and tomatoes sautéed with Esplette pepper. The brussel sprouts were slightly crispy from being fried lightly, they had a tang from the red wine vinegar and they had a kick from the Esplette pepper. It was the best version of brussel sprouts that we’ve ever had. They were incredible! We each got two pieces of fried chicken: Paul had two pieces of dark meat and Marnay had two pieces of white meat. The chicken was very hot when it came to the table, like it was right out of the fryer. Fried chicken is easily the most popular dish at Leon’s, so I’m sure they make a ton every night. The chicken was served in a small plastic basket with red and white checked paper beneath it-very casual. The skin was SO crispy. It tasted like it had been fried twice, similar to Korean fried chicken.

When we started eating it, we were surprised that it was quite spicy. I smelled it when it came to the table and noticed that it smelled like Old Bay. I asked the server and sure enough, it was Old Bay. The chicken was absolutely amazing. I (Paul) think that it was my favorite dish of the trip. My mouth is watering while I type this! Overall, the food at Leon’s was excellent; the atmosphere leaves something to be desired. When you compare it to Xiao Bao, Xiao Bao wins on atmosphere alone. But my mind keeps coming back to that fried chicken!!

Address
Leons Fine Poultry and Oysters: 698 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Xiao Bao Biscuit

We left for Xiao Bao Biscuit around 5pm, because they did not take reservations. Halfway there, we got caught in a torrential downpour. Even with umbrellas we were soaked, so we took an Uber the rest of the way.

Xiao Bao is in a former gas station and auto repair shop. Where the pumps used to be, are now outdoor tables. The inside has a cool, industrial feel. We felt right at home as soon as we walked in because it reminded us of a place we would find in Silver Spring.

We started the meal with two local beers, Paul had a Westbrook Rye Pale Ale (from Mount Pleasant) and Marnay had a Coast IPA (from North Charleston.) The theme of the restaurant is Asian comfort food, this being a restaurant in Charleston and all. There are dishes from China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s a small plates restaurant, and we ordered three dishes from China to share.

All three dishes were amazing. The price point is very reasonable, and it’s a fun, hip environment with great music. Of the three restaurants in Charleston that we went to for dinner, this is the one we would go back to over and over.

Address
Xiao Bao Biscuit: 224 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29401

Husk

The night that we flew in to Charleston, we went to Husk. Husk is probably the best restaurant in the South, and likely one of the best restaurants in the country! The restaurant is in an historic mansion which was owned by a member of the Pinckney family, who were very prominent in the history of South Carolina.

We had a reservation at 10:15, but we preferred to eat earlier. Husk allows a limited number of walk-ins, so we arrived at the restaurant at 4:30 for their 5:30 opening.

We were the only ones there. Turns out that lining up outside restaurants before they open is not really a thing in Charleston. Luckily, Husk bar, next door, was open. The bartenders were both extremely knowledgeable and friendly. I had an Elijah Craig 12 year and Marnay had a “Charleston Light Dragoons Punch,” with the recipe from the Charleston Preservation Society.

At 5:00, we left to stand outside the restaurant. There were two other parties, and we ended up talking with them. One guy was a flower wholesaler from California who sold to Trader Joe’s. Another guy was from Northern Virginia, although his parents lived near Charleston.

The “walk-in” section was the upstairs outdoor patio, and it really is the best seat in the house. Husk organizes their wine list by soil type, which is a great idea. Gives you an idea of the “terrior” of the wine, the indescribably quality that comes from the earth in which the grapes are grown. Husk also focuses on pre-Prohibition Southern dry ciders.

Marnay had one “volcanic” wine and one “limestone:” a chardonnay blend and a sauvignon blanc. The chardonnay blend was here favorite. I had two ciders, the second of which was combined with apple brandy and tasted almost like a port.

Once we received our drinks, the server brought us homemade benne seed rolls with pork honey butter. They were absolutely delicious, and actually one of my favorite parts of the meal. The salad we started the meal with was one of the best salads we’ve ever had-maybe the best. All the ingredients came together SO well. The freshness of the local grilled peaches and the blueberries were balanced by the crispy ham. The Cheerwine vinaigrette could have been overpowering with sweetness, but it was subtle.

On the other hand, the Benton’s bacon cornbread was disappointing. There was virtually no bacon.

Marnay’s main course was local grouper in a mushroom “tea.” Husk gets all of their fish from one fisherman. He goes out into Charleston Harbor in the morning, catches the fish, and the restaurant serves it that night. I had Heritage Spot Pork from a farm in Florence, SC. Husk specializes in pork, so I had to get it. It was delicious, and it came with pot likker, which is the liquid the collards are cooked it. That stuff was so smoky and savory.

We were too full for dessert, so after dinner we walked home and went to sleep after our long day. Overall, Husk lived up to expectations!

Address
Husk: 76 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401