The knowledgeable staff at Heroes & Dragons unveils an eye-popping array of previously owned fiction and fantasy collectables that stretches across a 12,000-square-foot facility. More than 5,000 toys ($2+) vie for countless hours of playtime, including G.I. Joes that defend American soil, Jedi knights that settle intergalactic disputes, and Transformers that clutter fast-food drive-thrus. Superhero action figures spanning the past 40 years of fictional crime fighting ($12 average) occupy shelves in their original packaging, and their literary counterparts grace the pages of more than 100,000 back-issue comics ($2–$10).
Every day, Rita's serves up fresh, fruitified Italian ice ($2.09–$2.99) in more than 30 flavors (several are sugar-free), including strawberry, cotton candy, Swedish Fish, chocolate chocolate chip, piña colada, mango, green apple, and wild black cherry. Along with creamy ice, Rita's also sells icy cream. Case in point: Rita's famously frozen old-fashioned custard ($2.49–$3.49), a robust dish that—like revenge—is best served cold in a cup, cone, or overflowing El Camino truck bed. Rita's custard involves a different freezing process than ice cream and boasts creamier texture that makes regular ice cream feel like gravel sprinkled with sandpaper shreds. Rita's most popular frozen treat, gelati ($3.49–$3.99), takes its cue from brunch, twilight, and sporks and blends two great things to create an even greater thing—in this case, the flavorful variety of Italian ice with the smoothitude of frozen custard. Rita's also offers an assortment of specialty Misto shakes ($3.89–$4.29), and fat-free soft-serve Slenderitas ($2.49–$3.49), all of which make for a tasty treat as well as a deliciously soothing topical treatment for chicken pox.
Runner-up for the Free Times' Best Hot Dogs 2010 award, LuLu's Hot Dogs is a savory-smelling franks factory that crafts several variations of all-beef grilled dogs. Ravenous diners can customize their frankfurters ($2.50) by choosing three of LuLu's 11 toppings, with options such as chili, cheese, relish, and jalapeño peppers, or opt for a specialty breed such as the sauerkraut-smothered german shepherd ($2.50). Wash it down with an ice-cold Miller Lite ($2.50) or a refreshing soft drink ($1.50). Now open until 9 p.m. every day of the week, Lulu's hosts midday lunch-grabbers and pooped-out party-goers alike at its nostalgic chrome-plated lunch counter with comfy rocking chairs. Devoted LuLu's customers can use this deal to inch a little closer to reaching 100 hot dogs eaten and landing on the shop's hallowed Wall of Fame.
Caprioska welcomes visitors with a menu of upscale eats. Jump-start a dormant digestive system by choosing the chorizo, a pair of Argentine sweet sausages served with chimi-churi ($7.95), or win your taste-buds' hearts by offering them eight sauce-tossed wings ($6.95). Continue the quest for cuisine with a beef Caprioska burger ($7.95) or sirloin steak ($12.95) accompanied by the sweet music of a vegetable medley and mini baked potatoes. Pescatarians can pick a maritime meal, such as the grilled salmon flanked by sautéed asparagus and rice pilaf with a red-pepper coulis ($13.95), and fowl-focused diners can indulge in the spicy buffalo-chicken wrap ($7.95) or chicken alfredo ($9.95).
The recently renovated Polliwogs (formerly Icy's Sports Bistro) flings together locally sourced ingredients, including fresh seafood from South Carolina's coast, to craft a southern- and Cajun-inspired menu of homegrown delicacies. Rescue a delicate crab cake, which dodges the drizzle of remoulade sauce by hiding beneath a portobello mushroom umbrella ($16). Firefly shrimp or salmon, sautéed with sweet-tea vodka and andouille sausage, recline atop cheese grits ($12), and shrimp or oyster po' boy flatbread sandwiches team up with a fresh-faced spring mix and fried green tomato ($9). Bottled microbrews, including RJ Rockers' summery Son of a Peach from Spartanburg and Thomas Creek's dark Deepwater Dopplebock from Greenville, pour forth regional pride by enthusiastically chanting the names of state lawmakers.
At The British Bulldog Pub, British-born owners Mark Bowyer and Bill Quirk team up with the American-born Rob Sharpley to create a fun-for-all atmosphere that's enhanced by live music, televised games, and a profusion of frothy ales on tap. While English Premier League soccer games engage fans throughout the bar, patrons may peruse chef Damian Wanek's authentic pub menu, introduced by starters such as the scotch egg ($8), hard-boiled and hidden from pipe-smoking detectives under the disguise of breaded ground sausage. At dinner tables, traditional island favorites such as bangers and mash ($11) share space with more imperial international cuisine, such as the braised chicken curry ($13) backstroking in a creamy and tomato-y sauce. The beef-and-Guinness pie ($10) encapsulates braised beef, mushrooms, and vegetables under a baked, flaky crust and may be chased with bites of Guinness chocolate cake ($6) or Guinness-coated high-fives.