I love my friends at Mindy Bianca Public Relations’ firm. I really do. But if I hang with them much longer, I’m going to have to consider re-upping my gym membership to the mega level because they sure do like their food whether it’s the Cajun Bayou Food Trail, Meat Plus Three, Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival, 11 great cake places they suggest stopping at in honor Duncan Hines who was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, King’s Cakes and all other yummy Mardi Gras foods, and Four Great Christmas Holiday Destinations and we know what that means–lots of cookies, candies, and cakes. Oh, and I almost forgot–there’s Branson at holiday time when they bake about 30,000 fruitcakes each year and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas where the list of foods includes herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham, eggnog cupcakes, gingerbread-dusted funnel cakes, and chicken pot pie in a bread cone along with a libation called Spazzy Sparkleshot
And now, just in time for National Burger Month, they’re on to Spartanburg, South Carolina where a year ago the former mill town introduced their SpartanBURGER Trail (yes, they’re really called “SpartanBURGERS” and it has nothing to do with the Spartans of Michigan State University) a name honoring both the city’s residents and culinary culture. Since the trail’s inception, additional stops have been added to ensure even more juicy options for visitors to choose. All it takes to travel the trail is a cell phone to check in at each stop. The more stops you eat at, the more swag you earn. And we’re talking burger socks–we’re talking serious swag.
AAnd what is also great–no matter your dietary restrictions or preferences (we’re looking at you, gluten-free vegetarians!), classic burger culture has evolved so that now EVERYONE can enjoy the month dedicated to one of America’s most favorite foods.
Why’s the trail such a tasty triumph? Sure hand-crafted, creative, and definitely yummy are part of it all but credit goes to the chefs and owners at these burger-centric restaurants who are a major part of what makes Spartanburg a delicious destination.
Check out some of the burger stops HERE.
Classic Burger Experience: Sugar-n-Spice
212 S. Pine Street, Spartanburg, SC 29302
Sure, burgers have evolved over the years and now they’re not just the traditional patty, LTO, cheese and bun. But what if that’s your thing? What if you yearn for the good ol’ days when a burger was just a burger? Head to Sugar-n-Spice, a classic drive-in that has only changed its menu once in the 60+ years it’s been open. This place serves as a reminder of not only where the humble hamburger started, but also Spartanburg’s growing food scene. The walls are covered in memorabilia from the community, along with photos from the founders’ homeland, Greece, for an extra-personal touch. Customers come in as strangers and leave feeling like family – perhaps one of the many reasons this retro joint is still thriving more than half a century later. Of course, we recommend any of the classic burgers, which are best enjoyed with a side of fries or onion rings. (Or both. Who are we kidding? They’re THAT good!)
Minority- and Woman-Owned: Chef Ae’s
288 Magnolia Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306
Chef Amonrat “Ae” Zavala brings authentic flavors from her home country of Thailand in every dish she serves at her restaurant … with an American twist, of course! She hasn’t always been a chef dreaming of serving fusion cuisine, however. Formerly a yoga teacher living in Miami, Zavala found her true calling and it led her to Hub City. She’s never looked back. To get a taste of the perfect Thai/American flavor fusion, we recommend ordering the Isan Thai Sausage Burger. This beef patty is topped with American cheese, Thai sausage, pickles, the traditional LTO and the restaurant’s homemade bang bang sauce.
Featured Main Street Business: Burgar
137 W. Main Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306
Full of local businesses from coffee shops to breweries to art galleries, Main Street is a prime example of how Spartanburg has transformed from a former mill town and railroad hub to a thriving area full of growth and opportunity for those who live, work and visit this part of South Carolina. Main Street boasts a few stops on the burger trail, but this one is a stand-out to us. Burgar offers a variety of unique takes on the classic patty, including the Aloha Hawaii Burgar with grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, kale, caramelized onions, grilled pineapple and a creamy chipotle sauce. You can stop in, grab a bite of “burgar” and feel good knowing you’re supporting a Main Street business … all while getting a tasty burger that makes you remember you’re smack-dab in the heart of Spartanburg.
Woman-Operated: Southside Smokehouse
726 S. Howard Avenue, Landrum, SC 29356
Former South Carolina Chef Ambassador Sarah McClure churns out barbecue and Cajun-inspired dishes at Southside Smokehouse. Her success as a chef has led her to represent the state of South Carolina as a Chef Ambassador, nab the runner-up spot in Guy’s Grocery Games, and be prominently featured in several publications. These accolades are apparent at Southside, as what was once a roadside BBQ joint is now a thriving, eclectic spot for a myriad of unique and modern flavors. While Sarah offers a classic burger and even a Bayou Burger, we opt for the FGT & Pimento Cheese Burger because the fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese toppings embody our favorite foods of the South.
Epicenter of Spartanburg’s Food Scene: Cribb’s Kitchen
226-B W. Main Street, Spartanburg, SC 29306
With a variety of restaurants all over Spartanburg County, the Cribb family is an essential chapter of the story of Spartanburg’s booming food scene. One of their most popular joints, Cribb’s Kitchen, hosts an annual burger cook-off. Each year, the winner of the cook-off receives the honor of seeing their burger added to the Cribb’s Kitchen menu – and therefore available to everyone traveling the SpartanBURGER trail. This year, the Berry Good Poppin Jalapeno Smash Burger was the cook-off winner … for good reason! Fresh jalapenos are smashed into the beef patty, which is then topped with American cheese, candied jalapeno bacon, Lake Bowen Lager whipped cream cheese, crispy jalapenos and finished with a Raspberry Weisse Is Right sauce. Put all this between a sesame brioche bun and you have patty perfection.
Does it sound great? Are you ready to hit the road? The people along the SpartanBURGER trail await. @VisitSptbg
A Little Burger History
According to the National Today, a website that lists all the national holidays, the name “hamburger” derives, of course, from the city of Hamburg, Germany. Some residents of Hamburg were headed as far west as the eastern shores of the United States during the 18th century. Many of them brought a snack called the “Hamburgh sausage.” This snack, like its cousin the “Rundstück warm,” combined a meatball similar to the Swedish meatball with a slice of bread for utensil-free handling.
But, and this is according to an article on Food & Wine magazine’s website, the first burger may actually date back to 1st Century AD Rome and a dish called Isicia Omentata that we don’t think you’ll like that much at all as it was made of minced meat (we’re not sure what kind of meat) and also contained pine nuts, pepper, and flavorings of wine and garum. The latter is a fermented fish sauce used in ancient times. As for Omentum, it’s the Latin word for caul fat, an ingredient widely used in historical and traditional Italian cuisine that would have been used in this dish to give the lean meat more flavor and taste.
If you’re interested in knowing more, The World Is Your Burger: A Cultural History, a book by David Michaels and published by Phaidon Press.