Recently, as my wife and I reflected on how good a cook my Alabama mother was, I reminded her that with my mother and her southern meals, two things were paramount for appreciation:
First, my mother always said, “You eat with your eyes,” meaning that if the meal doesn’t look good, or fails the presentation test, expecting good taste to follow would be like welcoming fool’s gold.
Second, while my mother appreciated compliments, she preferred to hear how good the food tasted, and what about the dish made it taste so good, rather than getting thanked for how hard she worked. It took my wife almost 35 years to learn this lesson, though she always loved and appreciated my mother’s cooking. Of course it takes time and energy to make Roulage, barbecue ribs, or even fried chicken. But plenty of people can cook something forever, and it will still be bland and tasteless.
Fortunately, Greenville does not suffer from this problem.
Greenville offers so many diverse eating venues that it’s hard to keep track. So if you want to spend a good Friday and Saturday sampling, or over-indulging, here are four restaurants, representing traditional American and international fare, that know how to feed your eyes, your stomach, and your soul.
Friday morning/noon: OJ’s Diner
Begin on Pendleton Street at OJ’s Diner, serving breakfast or lunch (open only M–F). Service is cafeteria-style: for breakfast, you can order eggs any style and pancakes, too, but go through the line and sample the smoked sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, grits, or even the turkey bacon. I beg you, though: get the salmon patty (or croquette, as my mother called it). Man! If you opt for lunch, Friday is baby-back-ribs day, with fried okra, mac and cheese, greens, and Southern black-eyed peas. And the staff calls you “Baby,” too. 907 Pendleton St, ojsdiner.com
Friday dinner: Pomegranate on Main
After a long nap or walk on the Prisma Swamp Rabbit Trail, reserve a table at Pomegranate on Main for a Persian meal. Sample the Borani spinach, or my favorite, the Kashk Bademjan, and order a signature Pomegranate martini while you decide on a main course. You can go vegetarian here, but my Persian in-laws insist that the Soltani Barg kabob—one skewer of ground beef, one of tenderloin—is the most authentic choice. Salmon and lamb shank will make your palate pleased, too. All entrées served with plenty of rice. 618 S Main St, pomegranateonmain.com
Saturday lunch: Moe’s Original Barbecue
This Alabama-based chain not only serves delicious smoky pulled pork and ribs, but perhaps even better, they fry a killer catfish. My mother couldn’t fry it any better. Get platters for sure, which come with two sides and either hush puppies or cornbread. Sides can be slaw or baked beans, but there are better choices: squash casserole, boudin balls, gumbo, jambalaya, and collards. Once, they even had fresh mustard greens. Plenty of draft beer on the premises in this new enclave on Stone Avenue, right next to Coffee Underground’s new location. 109 W Stone Ave, moesoriginalbbq.com
Saturday dinner: Asada
Yes, get the tacos and burritos; they’re not the pre-formed, microwaved kind. Starting as a food truck, Asada has settled into a homey spot where corn tortillas are fresh and imagination reigns. My favorite is the grilled fish tacos, though the carnitas (pork) taco is a close second. But consider the Nicaraguan-style churrasco—marinated and grilled slices of tri-tip drizzled with homemade chimichurri sauce, served with seasoned white rice and escabeche salad, drizzled with house-made roasted beet vinaigrette, or for vegetarians, the grilled sweet potato and leeks sopes. The chips are hot and homemade, too. 903 Wade Hampton Blvd, asadarestaurant.com
Featured photo: OJ’s Diner