ROAD TRIP: Smoke on the Water, Greenville SC
When we visit Asheville, it just works out that we take a break in Greenville, South Carolina. This is a quaint city of about 60,000 and is experiencing some urban revitalization as areas which were once drab and struggling are now making a dramatic change for the better (read more about Greenville’s urban revitalization). Just as in Atlanta ,we are seeing waves of former suburbanites re-entering the city. The same is true for smaller towns such as Greenville and restaurants are a big part of this. Smoke on the Water is just such a restaurant and a refreshing spot in the center of downtown Greenville.
Located on Shoeless Joe Jackson Square (read more about the story behind Shoeless Joe Jackson), Smoke on the Water brings “urban trendy” to Greenville while keep it’s strongly Southern roots. The Smoke on the Water tagline is “a saucy Southern tavern” and YES, it lives up to it’s name. Other than it’s favorable ranking on Urbanspoon (#1 for casual dining in Greenville at the time of this writing), I was also a sucker for the name being a lifelong Led Zeppelin fan.
Lunch was in full swing when we arrived at Smoke on the Water. The place was packed with people taking a break from work to dine with their co-workers and business associates. There were many large groups of six and more but we were seated right away and soon had our refreshments.
They have a great menu with everything from barbeque (which is one of the more popular menu items), burgers and more traditional Southern dishes. The daily special was Shrimp & Grits which Melanie ordered. I stuck with my new-found tendency to avoid red meat and selected the grilled salmon.
Cornbread was served when our drinks were brought. Characteristically departing from their Southern roots, the cornbread is sweet “Yankee” cornbread. This sent Melanie into a rant about cornbread and how it is to be properly prepared. She cited the most authoritative source when it comes to Southern cooking, her mother (whom we affectionately call “Mema”) and Melanie proceeded to tell me how cornbread “should” be prepared and went into a ten minute dissertation to enlighten me. This led her to Google where she found this delicious gluten-free cornbread recipe which further stated her point of avoiding sweet “Yankee” cornbread.
We decided to get started with the Fried Asparagus. Melanie spotted this long before I did and she really deserves a big hug for this! What a unique delight! Asparagus is a gentle vegetable that one must be careful with in order to avoid overcooking and these were done PERFECTLY! A really great start to the meal!
Smoke on the Water walks a fine line as it is loud enough to have a vibrant pulse, too loud to hear the subtle background music, yet still able to comfortably hear your lunch conversation. I can only guess than once happy hour gets started though, the volume picks up a little more and the place may get a little noisier at night.
Melanie LOVED her Shrimp & Grits. Served tails on, the presentation was marvelous! Her only negative comment was that she felt the sausage mingled among the grits, was too spicy for her liking. I, however, thought they were right on.
My grilled salmon was really wonderful! Full of flavor and perfectly prepared it was simply outstanding. The potato salad accompanying it was equally worthy of praise but the cole slaw was a tragic disappointment. It had a vinegary bite to it that I really did not care for. I would rather see a hint of horseradish added to this to give it the kick that good cole slaw should have. The only other observation I had was that the plate size was so large it diminished the servings. The serving size was adequate and certainly plenty of food but on a such a large plate it did not appear so at first glance.
Smoke on the Water was a great find for us and is sure to be a treat for locals and travelers alike. Guten appetit!
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