Downtown Spartanburg welcomed some new restaurants to the dining scene throughout 2020. COVID-19 had adverse effects on restaurants in Spartanburg and across the U.S.
But three new restaurants opened their doors and unveiled their concepts during the year, each bringing something new to Downtown Spartanburg.
Joining the roster of popular downtown staples are new favorites The Tulip Tree, Sophia’s Restaurant and The SamMitch Shop.
Joining the “restaurant row” of sorts along Morgan Square, The Tulip Tree brings elevated farm-to-table dishes and a casual-fine dining atmosphere to its restaurant at 121 W. Main St.
Nearly everything served at The Tulip Tree is sourced from the Carolinas and Georgia, with the exception of its extensive bar offerings. The restaurant has partnered with a host of farms across the area, like Tyger River Farms, Sweet Grass Dairy and more, and has a close relationship with RJ Rockers Brewery, just a quick walk down the street.
The Tulip Tree’s menu features appetizers and entrees that are distinctly-Carolinas. There’s beef braised with RJ Rockers Good Boy Stout, sweet tea-brined roast chicken, smoked Carolina trout and apple salad sliders, and of course, their take on shrimp and grits.
Along with their extensive cocktail list and a menu crafted by the Carolinas, The Tulip Tree showcases the work of local artists, both inside the restaurant and on the back of the building, facing West Broad Street.
Outside, the restaurant is covered in an eye-catching, vibrant mural alerting passersby that something interesting is inside. And indoors, there are more than 100 pieces of art from local artists and galleries on display. The restaurant has a catalogue of art that is not only on display, but available for purchase both in-store and online.
With its outer wall adorned by the popular Love Where You Live Mural, Sophia’s Restaurant opened in summer 2020, bringing a more approachable vibe to the classic Italian restaurant.
Family-owned and operated, the menu at Sophia’s features all the Italian and Italian-American favorites you’d expect, like perfectly-cooked spaghetti in the Spaghetti All’Arrabbiata, with a homemade tomato-basil sauce, chili flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the Spaghetti Aglio E Olia, with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. There are non-pasta-centric entrees too, like the chicken Marsala served with porcini mushrooms and a wine sauce.
Sophia’s also has a stacked roster of desserts, including the house favorite Tiramisu, featuring Italian cookies soaked in coffee layered with marscapone cream, and the Bomboline, which are Italian donuts filled with a chocolate-hazelnut cream.
It’s all in the name at The SamMitch Shop. Opened by brothers Sam and Ryan Whitaker, The SamMitch Shop, of course, focuses on sandwiches from its downtown spot on Wall Street, directly across West Broad Street from Spartanburg City Hall.
The restaurant specializes in hot and cold sandwiches, perfect for lunchtime. The Samuel, with ham, salami, pepperoni and a creamy dill sauce, and The Mitch, a veggie sandwich with roasted red peppers, mushrooms, arugula, Swiss and provolone cheeses, have both become popular cold options.
Hot sandwiches include their take on an Italian, The Mario, with pepperoni, ham, salami and a balsamic glaze, and their grilled cheese, The Zach, with Swiss, provolone, cheddar and mozzarella on grilled sourdough.
We’ve written about the unique take on barbecue Initial Q brings to Spartanburg, and you can find that here.
But, suffice to say, Initial Q takes traditional barbecue and amps it a notch closer to fine dining. Along with fan favorites like pulled pork, chopped chicken, brisket and sausage, Initial Q has a tofu option for vegetarians along with less-seen barbecue faire like rabbit and duck confit. Side dishes are kicked up a notch at Initial Q, too, with pepper-jack cheese grits, mac and cheese, honey coleslaw, crispy Brussels sprouts and more on the menu.
If you’re hungry now (and that’s perfectly understandable) check out some of these new spots on the scene in Downtown Spartanburg, and click here for a full list of downtown’s restaurants.