Finding a top-notch meal in Greenville isn’t difficult – pretty much, if you can make it to Main Street and you’ve got plastic to burn, you’ll never go hungry. But as Greenville’s restaurant scene evolves, newcomers can easily miss some of the great Greenville eateries that having been packing in the locals for decades. Best of all, none of these will break the bank! Want to know where real Greenvillians chow down? Here are five of our favorites, each with a rich history, generations of die-hard regulars, and price points that will leave a jingle in your pocket.
Mike & Jeff’s
2401 Old Buncombe Road
To tell the truth, we’re not sure how long this barbecue establishment has been around, but judging from the building, it might be the oldest anything in Greenville County. OK, that’s not entirely true; plus, the owners are proud of their little BBQ shack on Old Buncombe Road. It’s a dive experience in the classic Southern barbecue sense, and there’s no shortage of locals sitting at the simple wood tables at lunchtime. But we don’t think it’s the atmosphere that brings ’em in – it’s the pulled pork, plain and simple.
1002 N. Pleasantburg Road
Here’s one with an interesting history: It was originally part of a short-lived Tex-Mex fast-food chain back in the late 20th century; when the chain died, the local franchisee changed the name – but pretty much nothing else – and that’s Taco Casa as it sits today. We wouldn’t for a moment pretend that this is authentic Mexican, but it is authentic Greenville, and the Casa is a popular family eatery, especially on Friday nights and after youth sporting events, when it’s not unusual to see at least one team scarfing down Taco Casa tacos.
The Clock No. 3
1844 Wade Hampton Blvd.
Greenville almost lost The Clock No. 3 a few years ago when the owners announced they were closing. Their loyal customers would have nothing to do with it, however, and this favorite remains open today, one of the few remaining Greenville drive-ins straight out of the 1950s. If you want to sound like a local on the first trip, just order a chili cheeseburger half and half and a tea (notice we didn’t say “sweet” tea; that’s pretty much a given). And if you’re wondering, there are several Clock restaurants around town with similar fare – they’re all family owned, and share a rich history with other local restaurants with names like Pete’s, Petee’s, Como Pete’s, and Carolina Fine Foods.
Tommy’s Country Ham House
214 Rutherford St.
You have to give owner Tommy Stevenson props for his dedication to the daily grind: Every morning for decades, the restaurateur has left his home in Western North Carolina to drive down the mountain in time to open this popular restaurant for the coffee-and-breakfast crowd. We’re not sure if Tommy ever takes a vacation; we always see him there. Not only is Tommy’s popular with locals from construction workers to federal judges, it’s a must-hit stop for candidates on the campaign trail during every national election. But it’s all those Southern classics on the steam table that keep the regulars coming back. Since Tommy is a commuter, you have to catch him at breakfast or lunch; the Ham House is closed for dinner.
Tanner’s Big Orange
322 S. Pleasantburg Road
The second of our picks that used to be a true drive-in, Tanner’s Big Orange has been delighting Greenvillians since 1943, which might also be the last time the faded orange awning got a fresh coat of paint. But Tanner’s loyal customers probably don’t notice, and if they do, they’ll tell you it just adds to the charm. Tanner’s is known mostly for its hot dogs and other drive-in fare, but the thing a native will tell you about is the refreshing fruit drinks, including the namesake Big Orange. And if you’re going to a party hosted by a Greenvillian, there’s a good chance Tanner’s party punch will be served.