Iconic eateries make mouths water in this upstate South Carolina city
Nestled in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in upstate South Carolina, Spartanburg might not be an on-the-map foodie town like its bigger neighbor, Greenville, is fast becoming. But Sparty does just fine with its range of traditional Southern fare and new-South cuisine blending into an increasingly mouthwatering array of dining options. What still jumps out is the ’burg’s abundance of, yes, go-to burger joints. Here are five of our favorite spots for sizzling patties and sides (plus a few close contenders).
The Beacon Drive-In
A must-visit. From its huge open kitchen to its historic “calling” of each order from the counter, the Beacon deserves its iconic status. A simple décor keeps the proper focus on the heaping burgers crammed with toppings ranging from sweet slaw to thick tomatoes. Many locals consider the Beacon’s lemon-flavored ice tea a legendary accompaniment. As a finishing touch, the drive-in’s ice-cream station (our favorite: the peanut-butter malt) also satisfies.
Ike’s Korner Grille
Combining the folksy feel of a railroad-side haunt with a menu heavy on beefy specialties, Ike’s lives up to the raves it drew in Southern Living. “It’s a dive with a local-bar feel,” says Spartanburg native Craig Cash. The cramped environs and block wood tables aren’t fancy, but that’s easy to forget when the fried-bologna burger—a longtime favorite, whether slathered with chili or not—and pile of natural-cut fries arrive. Look for dollar-beer specials as well.
Nu-Way Restaurant and Lounge
Spartanburg’s oldest running eatery, since 1938, Nu-Way is smaller but just as iconic as its culinary counterparts. “It’s has a dive feel, not quite as much as Ike’s, and it’s famous for the homemade pimento-cheese burger,” Cash says. Really, any patty here is worth trying, from the Redneck Cheeseburger to a build-your-own laden with any of 10+ toppings (including fried egg). Local and bigger-name musical acts sometimes stop in to play Nu-Way’s small stage.
A classic family drive-in, Sugar-n-Spice has been grilling up Spartanburg original Souvlaki (marinated beef tenderloin with grilled onions), burgers and more since 1961. If you’ve worked up an appetite, consider the Jumbo Cheeseburger with fries or onion rings and add a side of slaw. “The portions are always plenty big,” says Cash, who knows a thing or two about hearty appetites—he’s a local high-school teacher and football coach.
The menu is broad, from salmon and ribeye to trout and duck, but the thickburgers at Cribb’s command many a diner’s attention. Among eight unique varieties, we’re partial to the Jamiepoo, whose ample toppings include frizzled onions, smoked bacon, pepperjack and cannonball BBQ. Stella Blue is a local favorite, too, with its blue-cheese crumbles, arugula and vinaigrette sauce.
Honorable mention: Jake’s Wayback Burgers
A quick stop for grilled favorites; locals recommend the double-bacon burger on sourdough. Two area locations. The Strip Club Steakhouse: Known for its grilled steaks (yes, including strip) but also boasts 10 burger specialties including fried-green tomato, pimento cheese and avocado. Dinner only except Friday lunch. Big Daddy’s. A drive-in with few frills but a rep for excellence. Try a double topped with “the works,” including chili and onions. Cookout: Yes, it’s a (rapidly growing) fast-food chain, but its wallet-friendly burgers, corn dogs and shakes taste more Mom & Pop than cookie-cutter.