Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
As a fourth-generation South Carolina farmer, I’m always interested to see how chefs showcase our regional staples on their menus. While Spartanburg County is renowned for peaches, our unique corner of South Carolina is home to a number of seasonal delights. I talked to three local chefs about the ways they highlight our area’s artisanal foodstuffs and here’s what they had to say.
McClellan Urban Eatery
Classically trained Le Cordon Bleu chef William “Bill” McClellan moved to Spartanburg to open a series of steakhouses for a corporation. When he decided to leave his former employer, he realized he was in love with the area, and chose to stay. The Chicago native grew up in a neighborhood known as Wicker Park, where little family eateries dotted the neighborhood. His intimate Spartanburg outpost, McClellan Urban Eatery, at 253 Magnolia Street, is indicative of the diverse influences that were instilled in him as a child.
African-American artwork lines the walls, and old-school soul music pours out of the sound system, cloaking the environment in an easy, but sophisticated, atmosphere. “I want diners to feel like they’re at my home—I want to treat them like guests at my home—relax. I want to really bring food and art and culture together. I want people to leave out of here knowing they got something really good to eat—that they got an experience.”
The food he ate during his childhood also influenced the collection of dishes that diners will find on the menu at his neighborhood eatery. The foundation of his offerings come from the recipes that his grandmother brought with her from Mississippi to Chicago. He also inherited a respect for sustainability and thus sources most of the produce for his dishes from local farmers.
The restaurant’s menu holds a number of classic Southern staples like chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits, but there are also experimental dishes at play, like his collard green wontons and his Southern Fried Lasagna. The lasagna, a dish created during McClellan’s travels around the country, boasts a breaded lasagna tube stuffed with a meat sauce and ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses mixture on top of a marinara sauce with garlic cream cheese. There also are lighter options on his menu—the Salmon Club Sandwich is a customer favorite, and his berry salad is on the fast track to becoming a seasonal favorite. To round out your dining experience, try his award winning cheesecake, or the warm bread pudding with a white chocolate glaze.
In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the South Carolina/North Carolina border lies Stone Soup restaurant. Chef and owner Suzanne Strickland found the inspiration for the outpost’s name in a folktale of the same name, where a woman brings a community together by making a pot of soup for everyone to share in the midst of hard times.
The philosophy at the center of the story, the notion that if everybody comes together everybody benefits as a community, influenced the way Strickland approached the presentation of her eatery, located at 1522 East Rutherford Street near Landrum.
Stone Soup originally was a market and café, but Strickland found that her patrons wanted a place to gather and enjoy nourishing food, and the establishment evolved into a full-service restaurant. The décor in the renovated home presents diners with a refined but casual aura, where first-timers are greeted as warmly as weekly patrons.
Strickland emphasizes the importance of local artisans and their edible wares, and she makes a point to utilize a number of local farms and vendors. Strickland and her staff make everything from scratch, including salad dressings. The local produce rotates based on season but some featured items like beef from Brasstown Beef, and coffee from Little River Roasters are staples.
The chef gets the inspiration for her menu from a variety of sources: “I read a ton of food magazines. I just love food so I get inspired, and I take something and develop it for lunch and dinner to constantly create something new.”
She also prides herself on offering dishes with complex layered flavors. Key examples include the savory/sweet pairings highlighted in her rosemary shortbread in the café, and the roasted sweet potatoes with caper vinaigrette. The Chicken Pasitanto, showcased on locally-made focaccia with its accompanying black bean and corn salad, is a bestseller, and the Sunburst Trout is another standout: it comes butterflied and pan seared in brown butter and almonds.
Come here for the lighter, unexpected twist on comfort food and Southern staples.
Two Samuels Restaurant
Not far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Spartanburg sits Two Samuels. The restaurant, located at 351 East Henry Street, is a collaboration between Sammy B. Ridgeway and his son, Carter Samuel Ridgeway. Carter grew up in the restaurant business, watching his father run a popular local fish camp. With more than 40 years of restaurant and catering experience between them, the Ridgeways decided to enter a new era when the younger Ridgeway graduated college. In that way Two Samuels is a fusion of new-world techniques cemented on the foundation of an appreciation of great seafood.
Innovation and collaboration drive the pair to try new things, and that is exemplified in the way dishes are served in this American cuisine bistro-style setting.
The Ridgeways believe in working with local and regional vendors, and the dining establishment sources from local purveyors for fresh fruit, summer vegetables, and root veggies. There is an emphasis on serving domestic meat and fresh catch seafood from the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina. “We try week to week to keep a featured option, usually a seafood option that pays homage to the fresh local catch idea.” The bone-in pork chop with sautéed mushrooms and Brussels sprouts is a customer favorite, and the Ahi tuna and basil-encrusted salmon dishes pay homage to the Ridgeways’ seafood loving past. The full-service bar, climate-controlled wine room, and sound of instrumental jazz permeating the space create a light, elegant, but casual dining atmosphere. If there’s one thing that Casper Ridgeway wants you to know, it’s that you don’t have to dress up to eat at his establishment: “We’re perceived as a fine dining establishment that’s very upscale, but there’s no need for coat and tie. We serve everyone. If you’re wanting a good meal prepared by a chef, there’s a range of options.”
Latria Graham, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.Latria Graham is writer, editor and cultural critic currently living in Spartanburg. Her interests revolve around the dynamics of race, gender norms, class, nerd culture, and—yes, football. You can find out more about her here.
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