By Jan Scalisi , produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
If you’re visiting Spartanburg County—and would like to think that you’re doing a fine job of taking in its special culture—be sure to do this before you leave: Relax your belt buckle a notch, loosen your traveling pants, and take in some Southern-style comfort food. The locals will tell you that you haven’t experienced our true culinary character until you’ve tossed your diet aside and ticked off a meat-and-three (that’s one meat, three vegetables, best served with sweet tea and dessert) at a classic Southern restaurant.
And they’d be right.
Meat-and-three restaurants are a long-standing Southern tradition, defined by a casual atmosphere, down-home dishes, and treasured family recipes. On their menus, you’ll find the day’s meat choices, and in the next column, you’ll find the day’s vegetable selections. And shortly, you’ll find yourself in a delicious dilemma. Mouth-watering Southern specialties such as fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, beef hash, and stew beef and rice tempt you in the meat column, while a selection of as many as 15 vegetables—from turnip greens and sweet potato casserole to creamy cole slaw, speckled butter beans, and fried okra—call to you from column two. (Hold on—is macaroni and cheese a vegetable? It is here, and it’s worth suspending your disbelief to give it a try.)
The South’s famous sweet tea is the perfect chaser, accompanied, of course, by a warm basket of homemade cornbread and/or biscuits. Slather on the butter, add pepper vinegar to the greens and tuck in. But leave room for Southern-style desserts, including banana pudding, sweet potato pie, peanut butter pie, and all-American apple pie.
You can feel good that you’ve had a nice serving of vegetables and culture, and that you’ve come to the right place if you choose a meat-and-three restaurant in Spartanburg, which serves this authentic Southern cuisine with pride. Spartanburg’s oldest and most famous meat-and-three restaurant is Wade’s Restaurant (1000 N. Pine St.), a family-owned and operated restaurant now in its 68th year. Known for its delicious homemade yeast rolls and serving fried chicken every day, Wade’s Restaurant started as a grocery store with a lunch counter and has evolved over the years into a bustling restaurant with more than $7 million in annual sales. Long a local favorite, Wade’s is recognized far and wide for its friendly service and consistent food, so much so that it won the Southern Living magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award among family restaurants in 2008. Perhaps Wade’s famous billboard campaign helped its name recognition—a series of ads featuring vegetable puns that has amused locals and visitors for years, and frequently uses citizen suggestions for its themes.
Touring downtown Spartanburg? A meat-and-three for lunch can be had right on Morgan Square at Delaney’s Music Pub & Eatery (117 W. Main St.). An Irish pub, Delaney’s offers a set meat menu that is pretty expansive —from pork chops to Shepherd’s Pie—and veggie selections that include seasoned mashies, sweet potato fries, stuffing, and steamed cabbage. Beer is on tap, as well as a regular menu of entrees, salads and sandwiches. Like Key Lime Pie? Delaney’s claims to have the best in South Carolina.
Additional local delicious meat-and-three choices include the ʼ50s-style Bantam Chef Chesnee (418 S. Alabama St.), Holden’s Ranch (580 Southport Road in Roebuck), the Lake Bowen Fish Camp (8580 Highway 9 near Inman), Mullinax Restaurant (4340 S. Pine St. near Whitestone), Rachel’s Pauline Café (2960 Highway 56), and the United House of Prayer for All People (660 S. Church St. in Spartanburg).
Jan Scalisi, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Jan Scalisi is a freelance writer and editor who also serves on Spartanburg’s City Council. She loves her town, good books and good movies, dancing until the lights go off, and all kinds of design.