yeah, that Greenville

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There are 14 cities named Greenville in the US, with the one located in South Carolina arguably the most famous.  So, yeah that Greenville, as the saying goes.

Recently, I had the chance to briefly visit some friends in this area, and having no frame of reference to the area before, I can say it is a very nice place to live and raise a family.  It’s a real up and comer as I would say.  Lots of large suburban gated communities, which warms my suburb raised heart, yet there’s also a decently sized, vibrant, and young downtown.

so yeah, come visit that Greenville

I’d only ever been to Charleston, S.C., so not too familiar with the more inland communities of the Palmetto State.  Greenville is near Bob Jones University and Furman University, two institutions with which I am very familiar (Bob Jones was featured on the OC, and I have a pal who went to Furman).  And you can’t escape the blinding orange everywhere from Clemson fans, who converge on this city after they graduate.

First impression is that it is very clean.  There are lush forests for miles and miles, and foliage is gorgeous!  The  yellow and red leaves line the roads that are only interrupted by the appearance of tidy shopping centers that can be found in any American suburb across our fine country.  The homes here are massive, people have well manicured lawns and SUVs and it’s very serene.

Apparently there is a large German population in this city due to the nearby BMW factory.  I did not know this about South Carolina, but there is a ton of manufacturing here, bringing in a very diverse population.

There’s also a very young population from the college towns and you can see their youth and liveliness in the city’s downtown.  There is Main Street that basically traverses the whole city, lined with boutiques, hip eateries, hotels and mice.

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i smell a rat

Yes, mice, but not the vermin-y kind.  The cute placed there on purpose kind!   These bronze mice were started as a part of a college project and they make for a nice hide and seek as you stroll.

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the nose knows

Because I love a good pun, eating at Nose Dive, a restaurant that has a literal schnoz above a burger as its logo was a must.  This bustling restaurant serves good fashioned American gastropub fare from chicken and waffles to delicious burgers and sweet potato fries.  It hits the spot and is family friendly.

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peace out

Just down the block is the Peace Center, which was actually named for a person and not as a symbol of unity and tranquility as I had previously expected.  This is one of the city’s main performing arts centers, and right now Hamilton is in residence.

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Perhaps the best feature of this downtown is Falls Park on the Reedy River, an oasis of a waterfall tucked away in an urban park.  There’s a very large suspension Liberty bridge, the perfect, picturesque landscape.  There are well kept and manicured gardens/lawns and I could see how this park is very popular with its citizens.

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Walking back towards Main Street, you’ll see new mixed use developments juxtaposed with abandoned mills.  These mills were the industrial driving force around the turn of the century, and now they’ve been repurposed into open event spaces.

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Make sure you check out the Mast General Store and O.P. Taylor’s toyshop, two institutions in the quaint downtown area.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it.  The best thing about the south is its food.  Damn do they know how to cook down here.  I truly feel like I can only get really good biscuits in this part of the country and the only way to eat them is by drenching them in white peppery sausage gravy.

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Biscuit Head is a colorful, eatery popular with locals because of its many outstanding biscuit based dishes.  It’s yellow submarine meets a Phish concert inside, but they make their own hot sauces (blueberry jalapeno and banana buffalo anyone?) and their iced chai was one of the best I’ve had in awhile.

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Smaller cities often have very vibrant local communities that support their homegrown businesses.  M. Judson booksellers is a very charming book nook in an old bank, and everything about it is perfect.  They have a counter made of books and they sell “mystery” books by local authors.  My friend gifted me this as a souvenir, and it’s such a great idea.

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Inside this store is the Chocolate Moose bakery, and it is a great place to post up with a book and snack on some scones and cupcakes.

Possibly a sign of old age, I really like spending time in my friends suburban neighborhoods.  My friends live in the city of Simpsonville, and this is as nice of a place as you can imagine.  Everything is planned and manicured and it’s great.  There’s cute little boutiques like Southern Girl Chic, an outpost of the Maple Street Biscuit Company (they love their biscuits here), and Lowe’s, which is a higher end grocery that has its own tap room inside.  It reminded me a bit of Dierberg’s (for all my STLunatics) or like Bristol Farms.

Because there is a strong European contingent in this city (again, who knew?) there’s some really good options for dining.  I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at the popular Trappe Door, which is a semi-underground Belgian tavern hideaway.  This would be a super romantic spot to have a cozy meal.  I love Belgian restaurants and believe we don’t have enough of them.  I always go to Pomme Frites in NY (I know it’s fries but I mean seriously, the dipping sauces).

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Belgian beer, specially any in the La Trappe family is my favorite.  Their brews are just so much more full bodied.  Boulets Liegeois were SO GOOD. SO. GOOD.  Traditional meatballs made with apple butter and served with, you guessed it, pomme frites.

Finish your meal off with a rolled ice cream confection from Creme Shack just down the street.  I know, a fad food, but it is still delicious.  It’s a sweet treat to end a sweet trip to Greenville.

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