On some days, it’s hard to even find a spot in the parking lot of Home Team BBQ, the popular new barbecue spot that recently opened in the Holland Park development on Laurens Road. Would-be diners wait outside for a table, while to-go orders stream out the front door.
It’s one of many thriving new restaurant concepts to have opened in Greenville over the last year, and it might not have opened at all were it not for euphoria.
In its 16th year, the annual nonprofit food festival will be hosting 32 events with 60 chefs, musicians and beverage professionals from Sept. 16-19, including seven Michelin-starred chefs collaborating on three guest chef dinners.
“I’d never even been to Greenville before we did our first euphoria,” said Taylor Garrigan, operating partner and executive chef with Home Team BBQ.
Both Taylor and Aaron Siegal, Home Team’s chief operating partner, hail from Charleston’s culinary scene. Familiar with white tablecloth establishments, they’d started Home Team BBQ with the goal of combining the high-end service of fine dining with what Garrigan called “a more even-keeled-priced restaurant with a good vibe.” With an original location in Charleston, they were looking to branch out.
But Greenville was never on their original list of prospective cities in which to expand.
“I don’t know if any of us had spent a bunch of time in Greenville until we started going to euphoria,” Siegal said. “We were looking in Columbia, in Charlotte. But when we visited and saw how Greenville was such a growing town, such a cool town, we felt like we wouldn’t be opening up a restaurant in some totally new city. It felt like we already had a fan base here.”
Beyond the local impact, euphoria has become a recruitment tool for Greenville’s culinary scene — and for Greenville as a whole.
Morgan Allen, executive director of euphoria, said that’s hardly a unique story. After each year’s event, she hears about restaurant owners calling around to put in feelers for a new concept.
“We hear rumbling every year, real estate agents reaching out to inquire about available space,” Allen said. “Anything actually opening then could happen in a year, two years, three years down the line, but euphoria has set a lot of the groundwork for bringing new chefs here.”
Allen pushes back against the claim that euphoria is some singular force driving the growth of Greenville’s food scene, but she said it can act as a showcase for what the city already has to offer.
“I don’t know that we can necessarily be credited with making people come here, but offering that window into Greenville, people see it really feels like home,” Allen said. “We have that southern hospitality and such a diverse offering of talent.”
In the past year, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on so many local restaurants, euphoria served a different role of supporting local eateries rather than highlighting what they have to offer: working with local nonprofits, coordinating CARES Act funds from the federal government, organizing food drives for those at-risk in the community.
Now this year’s event will be not just a return to normal, but a step forward toward what comes next for the city.
“Just knowing that people here are excited and anticipating what you’re bringing to the table, it’s a great feeling,” Garrigan said. “It makes signing on the dotted line a lot easier.”