When Tony comes to town: Greenville, SC
‘Deep dish is pizza like Olive Garden is Italian’ –Anthony Bourdain on Chicago pie
I don’t think I’ve made any secret about my admiration for Anthony Bourdain. His ability to mix snark with cerebral endears me to his writing both in print and on television. He does what I’d like to do, he does it well, and he does it without much apology. There’s a lot to admire there. The quote at the top is fairly classic Bourdain. He takes a staple of Chicago identity and reduces it to its essence. And again, he does it without pulling the punch.
So, as is my wont, I tossed the quote out to friends and Twitter followers. My buddy Chilly asked, “If you were hosting Anthony Bourdain for the day in G-Vegas, do you know where you’d take him?” And the meme was born.
The idea behind this is pretty simple. Bourdain won’t be going most places. They don’t interest him or don’t make for good TV. Still, we live in these towns and they are interesting to us. That’s why we stick around.
When Tony comes to town: Greenville, SC
Segment 1: Henry’s Smokehouse
BBQ is like pizza. If you’re from one place, everybody from every other place else does it wrong. I’ve lived just about everywhere BBQ is a big thing. I never lived in Texas, but half my family is from there, so I consider myself qualified. Of all the places I’ve lived that value regional BBQ, I actually like Carolina BBQ the least. (Come on, I’ve lived in Missouri and Mississippi). Still, of all the BBQ shacks in the Carolinas, I’ve yet to find one I like better than Henry’s Smokehouse in Greenville.
When I had people from all over the country come visit me for Bradoween 5, I hired Henry’s to cater. People sat in my garage sweating their ass off, drinking real sweet tea and eating Henry’s. Some of those folks still talk fondly about that. I think Bourdain would, as well.
Segment 2: Karrie’s Kafe
Karrie’s Kafe is basically a deli. It’s moved since I started eating there, but the proprietor is still behind the counter and is still one of the best local cooks. Karrie may not have a fancy joint (she currently operates out of a strip mall) but her food is top notch. It’s hard to find better soups in town, and I don’t expect to ever find a better chicken salad–anywhere.
Karrie, who moved from her first location after a battle with the “neighbors” would also be a good person to talk about the changing culture in Greenville.
Segment 3: The Steak House Cafeteria
This place is actually well out of town, but the drive to Walhalla from Greenville would provide a good look at the Clemson campus. Now, I am normally suspicious of any place with “cafeteria” in the name. The Steak House is different, primarily because it has some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. My friend Nick Nygro introduced me to the place about ten years ago. It is a traditional “meat and three” joint on the main drag through Walhalla, SC up in Oconee County. Bourdain couldn’t get out of South Carolina without doing a Meat and Three segment, and the Steak House would be my first choice. Plus, it’s not too far from the Chattooga River (home to the movie Deliverance and some great white water).
Segment 4: Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe
Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe does not have a long history in Greenville, but you wouldn’t know it. The place is around a year old and is already establishing itself as the go-to place for acoustic music lover. Greenville has a great tradition in music from Piedmont Blues to Blue Ridge bluegrass. Smiley’s caters to that stuff, as well as folk, alt-country, and anything else that can be played on an acoustic guitar. Its chef, Smiley, is actually a foodie and serves up more than bar food. I go for the beer and music, but would show up even if the place went dry. I like the place for Bourdain because it represents a lot about how new Greenville and old Greenville are coexisting and even getting together. Once a thriving textile mill town, Greenville fell on hard times before establishing itself as a center for technology, the automotive industry, and even retirement. Smiley’s sits in old Greenville, but in a part that is on its way back up. The little arts district sits on the perimeter of a beautiful park (the waterfalls and landscaping would make for great b-roll). The hippie vibe at Smiley’s might be a bit much for the punk rock Bourdain, but I think he could get around it.
On warm nights, the owners, chef, and even customers sit on the back deck and play music. Enough music from the royalty free catalogs get played that TV crews could get by with some good sound without having to pay out the nose.
Back-ups: If any of the above places fall through or don’t fit into the production schedule, the following joints could fill out the time:
Feel free to participate. I went the above route based on the people behind the businesses, the stories behind the businesses, and the fact Bourdain is less about eating fancy, and more about eating well in places that give a feel for the culture and people of the city.
I like the idea of filling out an entire hour-long show on your own blog, but you can drop one or two ideas for your town in the comments here or, if you are a Twitter person, put one there with the #bourdainmeme tag and When Tony comes to town: City name.