From food trucks to food halls to the mall, Greenville’s food scene continued to expand both its menus and its venues in 2019. In this food rewind, we look back at the new players and the beloved restaurants which comprised the Journal’s top food stories of the year.
Taco Casa has kept its tried-and-true menu for over 34 years. The restaurant, located at 1002 N. Pleasantburg Drive, has managed to maintain a strong customer base despite the rise of high-end taco shops. “We aren’t a froufrou taco shop, we are just an old-school taco house,” he said. “We aren’t trying to do too much and not be what everyone else is.” Taco Casa opened its doors Oct. 15, 1985. “We really care about our customers and they really care about us,” Hart said. “It’s a two-way street.” Taco Casa regulars are loyal, with some eating at the restaurant daily. They also helped our Taco Casa article be the most-read food article of 2019.
The highly-anticipated new Saltwater Kitchen seafood restaurant from Rick Erwin Dining Group opened May 23 at Haywood Mall, under the leadership of executive chef Josh Thomsen and general manager Mark McCalmont. The decidedly Southern menu highlights Thomsen’s strength of showcasing fresh, seasonal ingredients in an approachable way. Founder and owner Rick Erwin said the menu items, including sides, total 30 or fewer, allowing for more creativity and quality control from the kitchen.
After five years of dreaming, four years of planning, three years of tenant shuffling and two years of construction, The Commons food hall opened Nov. 26. The 12,000-square-foot food hall at 147 Welborn St. was first announced four years ago for former warehouse space that will sit squarely in the center of the future Unity Park, and has gone through multiple variations before this final version that those involved believe reflect the relationship Greenville’s restaurant community has built. The Commons features vendors such as The Community Tap, Bake Room, Methodical Coffee, Golden Brown & Delicious and Automatic Taco.
The Shake Shack burger — a smashed, griddled patty and melted American cheese — has become an imitable menu item for many restaurants hoping to replicate the fast-casual chain’s craveable signature sandwich. The nearest Shake Shack to Greenville is in Charlotte, North Carolina. This year, a Greenville restaurateur has taken up the mantle with his new concept HipBurger, which launched as a food truck in August. A brick-and-mortar location in Mauldin is slated to open in early 2020. The owner, Daniel Knowlton, said food trucks are having a bit of a heyday in the Upstate, which is why he first chose to launch a mobile HipBurger. Knowlton said the market isn’t saturated yet and that the Greenville community is uniquely supportive of local businesses.
“A tortilla is a blank canvas, and we see pizza in the same category,” said Farmhouse Tacos co-owner Christopher Williamson. With that explanation, it makes perfect sense the same team from the popular Travelers Rest taco shop opened a nostalgic pizza joint in April of this year in the recently closed Monterrey Mexican Restaurant at 1813 Laurens Road. Opening Farmhouse Pizza two years after opening Farmhouse Tacos and one year after opening gastropub Hare & Field in Travelers Rest wasn’t really the game plan, Williamson said. But the opportunity to purchase a pre-market property in a prime location where he and his wife, Katie, grew up was too good to miss. “Not only is Laurens Road home, it’s going to be the next big thing,” he said. As with their other two restaurants, everything will be made from scratch and ingredients will be sourced as locally as possible. “Farm to pizza,” Williamson said.