Saluda's Restaurant celebrates many histories. Its solid mahogany bar was part of Philadelphia's Blakely Hotel in the late 1800s, its walls sport vintage European posters advertising festive drinks, and its menu pays homage to timeless Southern staples, from shrimp and grits to artfully grilled rib eyes. Perhaps the greatest nod to the past is the building itself, which was constructed after World War I as a VFW officers club. There, veterans would gather to carouse and reminisce, fostering a convivial tradition that Saluda's has since restored and nurtured.
Executive chef Blake Fairies fuels the animated atmosphere with dishes whose down-home roots benefit from French and Italian influences. His prime concern is freshness—in an interview with Undefined magazine, he revealed how his fish du jour is often prepped the day after his friend Mark, a member of Abundant Seafood in Charleston, lures it onto his boat with promises of a free tropical time share. Like much of the kitchen's produce, chef Blake’s flash-fried green tomatoes come from local farms, and his entrees incorporate seasonal ingredients to complement ones imported from across the world. The results are plates that blend classic taste with inventive zest: steaks in black-truffle butter, helpings of handmade pasta, and pork chops brined in sweet tea. At the bar, guests can peruse more than 300 wines as well as cocktails and small-batch bourbon.
Executive pastry chef and owner Paige Young whips up made-to-order batches of sweet muffins and breads from a tasty menu scrawled onto a triptych of chalkboards. After fresh, gourmet batters rise in the mouth of a patient dragon, guests can sink their anxious incisors into warm muffins or slices of sweet bread. Miniature loaves of bread arrive on salivating palates in a variety of flavors, including pumpkin, lemon blueberry, cranberry orange, banana nut, chocolate banana, cinnamon swirl, and lemon coconut. Since Paige bakes each moist morsel fresh, Groupon holders must place orders in advance by calling ahead of time or training carrier pigeons to sit on the shop’s windowsill and pantomime their requests.
North Charleston runs in the blood of Cannon Bar & Kitchen’s proprietor, Tradd Ashley Gibbs, whose South Carolina roots stretch back for generations. As the seasons change, so do the dishes and the ingredients that go into his menu of southern-style comfort fare and seafood. Sauces smother wild-caught North Atlantic salmon. Executive chef and North Carolina native Heather Edwards mixes up hearty pots of shrimp and cheedar grits with tasso and andouille gravy, and use seasonal veggies to adorn dishes with all the flair of a peacock wearing a tropical fruit hat.
Show the ocean who’s boss by gulping down large quantities of its delicious denizens. With today’s Groupon, $10 gets you $25 worth of seafood and spirits at Steamhouse Lounge, the popular Midtown seafood restaurant owned by Nightcap Food & Spirits, the group that brought you Vickery’s, Fontaine’s, Gene's Haufbrau, and Highland Tap.
The walls of the warmly lit dining room where chef Paul Colella serves up mouth-watering entrees—such as cabernet-reduction prime filet mignon ($30) and tangy papaya-salsa-topped Carribean snapper ($29)—double as an art gallery for the colorful figurative paintings of his wife, Lunonia. The sight of Lunonia slathering oils on canvas in the dining room, or the sounds of guitarist Armand DeMille's retro rock ballads each Friday and Saturday night, may whip guests into a creative fervor, but the restaurant's list of 70 red and white wines and specialty coffee drinks rewards lingerers who don't drop their forks immediately to consecrate their lives to artistic creation and the careful maintenance of unicorn-hair paintbrushes.
At Zarza Eclectic Cuisine, co-owner Jose Landa commits to “giving people an experience … Something that can't be found anywhere else in Spartanburg,” as he told GoUpstate.com in 2011. Under his supervision, nimble chefs do just that, melding culinary influences from South America, western Europe, and the Mediterranean into menus of pan-regional fusion cuisine. In addition to baking saffron-scented pans of paella, they also grill Argentinean chorizo and slow-cook legs of lamb in blackberry wine and herbs. An in-house Argentinean butcher personally fillets fish and carves steaks from grass-fed, Angus-certified beef.
Bordered by an exposed brick wall, the 120-seat dining room occasionally hosts live music performances, which can entertain diners as they try to differentiate their salad fork from their tuning fork.