Paisano’s Italian Pizzeria and Restaurant

Last Friday night we were in the mood to try something new so I used Google map’s “nearby” feature to find restaurants close to us.

From this search we stumbled onto Paisano’s Italian Pizzeria and Restaurant, at the intersection of Rte 14 and Pelham Road in Greer. For all my adventurous eating, I am not a fan of “red sauce” Italian but this place had a full range of Italian items and a lot of Greek cuisine choices too. We began scanning the extensive menu and were in the car just as our mouths started to water and our bellies began rumbling.

Paisano’s is located in a strip mall. Mr. McB described the location as a culinary UN as there are Korean and Japanese groceries, a Thai restaurant, a BBQ joint, a deli, and this Italian-and-Greek establishment.

The restaurant itself will not win any design awards and the lighting is a little dim but it’s got a comfortable, family feel. While I appreciate good restaurant design and decor, it’s not a must for me. I have been in far too many fancy restaurants with substandard food. I go to art museums for my eyes and restaurants for my belly.

We were seated quickly and began another scan of the menu. I had already decided to go Greek and picked the moussaka. McB decided on the tortellini with chicken.

Both of our meals came with a salad. We both selected the house (Greek) dressing. It was quite good and tangy. The salads were fresh and while they weren’t huge, they were a good start for the meal.

M’s pasta came out on what can only be described as a platter. He had a mountain of tri-colored tortellini and grilled chicken. The dish was served with an alfredo sauce and garlic bread. He was a big fan of the pasta and sauce. He said the chicken was nothing special and actually took away from the enjoyment of the pasta. He couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong with the chicken but it just didn’t measure up to the pasta. He’ll definitely order the tortellini again but won’t ask for the chicken to be added in the future.

I was a little apprehensive about the moussaka. I love Greek food and this is one of those areas where my travels work against me. I have consumed some of the most delicious food of my life in Greece and am often disappointed by what passes as Greek food here in the US. One bite of this moussaka but a big smile on my face. The beef was perfectly seasoned. The eggplant was not mushy or bitter. This was a big hit. My meal came with a side of pita (freshly made) with yogurt dip and Greek potatoes. I enjoyed the pita but found the yogurt dip to be too thick and a bit bland. The Greek potatoes were a little too lemony for my taste. The sides made the meal a great bargain but with the salad it was just too much food for me to handle. This is especially true since we were guided by our hunger and made an ill-advised choice to order the cheese stick appetizer.  The cheese sticks were good and they came with a wonderful homemade marinara but they were just unnecessary given the size of our entrees.

We are both looking forward to a return trip to Paisano’s and are so glad to have this gem in our area. It’s not often that the ubiquitous Italian/Greek combo restaurant does justice to both cuisines.  The service is wonderful and the prices are very reasonable. I highly recommend stopping in the next time you’ve got a rumble in your belly and no particular place to go.

Grill Marks

During our last trip to downtown Greenville, Mr. McB and I had lunch at Grill Marks, 209 S. Main Street.

Since Grill Marks is part of the Larkin’s family, we went in with high expectations.

interior_gmWe were promptly greeted by the hostess and seated at one of the tall tables near the bar. The restaurant is smaller than I expected and the layout is a little disjointed. Things seemed cramped and this was  exacerbated by the fact that one of the sections was closing and everyone had to be seated in either the main dining area or the tall tables near the bar.

The decor was also confusing to me. This is a grill, albeit modern and upscale, and a large part of the beverage menu is focused on the milkshakes and floats, including the spiked versions of these classic treats. Yet there are empty wine crates displayed on a loft above the bar. There is also a big focus on wine in the decor at the bar. It wasn’t very cohesive.

milkshake_gmEnough about the decor and seating, let’s get to our meal. Mr. McB had the Madagascar vanilla version of the $5 shake. Five bucks is a bargain for the high quality milkshake you’ll get from Grill Marks. First, it is served the way it should be with patrons receiving the main portion in a frosted glass and the remainder in the metal mixing cup. Second, this shake is made with premium ingredients. It reminded me that vanilla is indeed a flavor and not just a synonym for “plain.” McB was very happy with his milkshake. I will definitely indulge in a shake of my own (salted caramel? chocolate chili bacon?) during our next visit.

We both decided to get a burger and split an order of “fat” fries.

The fries are nothing special. They were not piping hot or crispy. I believe the restaurant puts most of its effort into the truffle fries and the other options (skinny, fat, and sweet potato) are not given as much care. I would probably order a side salad instead of fries on my next visit.

gm_angelaburgerIn this picture you see my burger, the left coast, and our basket of fries. The menu says that burgers will be cooked to medium unless otherwise specified. I ordered the burger medium and found it to be quite undercooked. The center was bright pink, barely warm, and had a consistency of raw meat. I sent the burger back and was quickly greeted with a fresh replacement. This one might have been a bit closer to medium-well but that was just fine with me. The manager said that they would rather undercook than overcook the meat but he agreed that my original burger was not medium. Keep this in mind when deciding how your burger should be prepared. I really enjoyed my second burger. The cheddar, avocado, and bacon added a nice element to this juicy burger.

gm_cheeseburger2Mr. McB ordered his burger well-done and it was served that way. More importantly, it was juicy. It’s almost impossible to get a juicy, well-done burger; he was very satisfied. He was also happy with the brioche bun.

Other than the fries, we enjoyed our meal and would recommend Grill Marks to others.

Fresh to Order – Buckhead

Fresh to Order BuckheadIn our travels earlier this summer, we visited Fresh to Order in Buckhead, Georgia. The restaurant was recommended by a member of the valet staff at our hotel. I’m so glad we took the time to ask him for a recommendation.

Fresh to Order, or f2O, is a casual-dining atmosphere with fantastic meals made in about 10 minutes for roughly $10 per entree. The ingredients are chosen with care and the meals are very tasty.

When we walked in to f2O, the staff greeted us promptly and explained the concept. They were very eager to help with questions. Since everything was made fresh, they were happy to accommodate special requests with our order.

soup flightSince we both had light lunches, we were pretty hungry. We each started out with an appetizer. I chose the soup flight that features five different soups in sampler sizes. This is a great idea and I’m surprised that more restaurants don’t offer this.  My flight including tomato basil (Yumm and I don’t like tomato soup.), corn chowder (good but got a bit too sweet at the end), chicken and dumplings (good), chicken tortilla (very nice), and mushroom (my favorite!!).

Mr. McB had the ale laced chicken fingers. He said they were hot, juicy, and flavorful.

steak paniniFor our entrees, I had the bourbon filet steak panini. It was delicious beef with bleu cheese, caramelized onions, baby greens, and horseradish aioli. The flavors played well together. The sandwich was hot and the bread was deliciously crusty. The kettle chips were a nice side for the sandwich.

McB's meal from f2OMcB ordered the balsamic steak with baby greens and mac and cheese. The beef was tender and the balsamic Cabernet reduction added a fantastic flavor. He was happy with the mac-n-cheese as well.

We had a great experience at Fresh 2 Order. Our delicious food was prepared quickly and the whole meal was affordable. I’m sure we’ll make time to visit f20 on a future trip to Atlanta.

Mason Jar & Acme General Store

Mason Jar Greer SCLast Sunday, Mr. McB and I decided to head to downtown Greer for lunch. After looking at a few menus, we decided on The Mason Jar, 202 Trade Street.

The restaurant is located in an old store; we selected a table in what would have been a display window. There were a number of families eating at The Mason Jar. The restaurant features a number of special nights and performances including family night, live music, trivia nights, and karaoke. There’s really something that appeals to everybody.

I think that universal appeal also applies to the menu. While they wouldn’t be classified as “gourmet,” there is a great selection of tasty burgers, sandwiches, salads and entrees.

grilled cheeseMcB selected the grilled cheese with fries. This grilled cheese is made in a cast iron skillet and McB said that you could tell from the flavor and golden crispiness of the bread. He was very happy with his selection. He also raved about the fries. As you can see, they are fresh-cut and still have peel on the ends. This is not normally the kind of fry that he likes but he was won over because they were hot, crisp, and perfectly salted.

I selected the “bird dog” which is chopped up chicken planks served with cheese and honey mustard on hot dog buns. The chicken was crispy and perfectly seasoned. The texture of the chicken was a nice contrast with the soft hot dog bun. I had “half-and-half” and really enjoyed the beer battered onion rings. Yummy!

We really enjoyed our lunch at the atmosphere of The Mason Jar and will definitely return.

We concluded our trip with a visit to the Acme General Store. I was curious about what was in the store and after receiving a tip about their ice cream counter, we had to stop in.

The store has a bit of this-and-that. In addition to apparel, toys, soaps, lotions, toys, and outdoor gear, there is a small selection of food products including condiments, specialty beers, crackers, cookies, and nostalgia candies.

Acme’s second floor houses a climbing wall for kids and a nerf ball battle zone for all ages. There are several cannons set up were you can shoot balls at each other. It’s a lot of fun and it’s free. McB wasn’t in the mood to wear a helmet so we shot on the same side but on our next visit, I think we’ll square off.

The battle zone is probably the best thing at Acme but the ice cream counter isn’t far behind. There are a number of fun flavors to chose from. I had Knob Creek bourbon butter pecan and very pleased.

McB selected his standard vanilla shake and wasn’t disappointed by this thick, creamy concoction. Look! It’s the same straw you’d be given for bubble tea and he still wound up eating most of the shake with a spoon.

It was fun, relaxing afternoon in Greer and one that I’m sure we’ll repeat soon.

Papas & Beer

Last Saturday, Mr. McB and I hit Papas & Beer (317 Haywood Road, Greenville) for a late lunch. We have heard good things about Papas and their large menu meant we could both sate our cravings.

We arrived at the restaurant and were promptly seated.There was a crowd but the place was not packed. I assume there was an additional seating area since the noise level, which was high enough for McB to comment on, didn’t match the number of folks in our dining room.

Our server took our drink order and quickly returned with our chips, bean dip, and sodas. He then walked away before taking our order. His departure gave me time to consider the full menu so I didn’t mind.

McB and I continued to munch on our chips and take in the atmosphere for the next 20 minutes and still not a single server stopped by our table. I tried making eye contact. I tried pushing the menus to the extreme outer edge of the table but none of the servers even slowed down enough to notice us. We did get a quick notice as we left a few bucks on the table and walked out the door.

Normally, this kind of thing would make me mad but this time I just felt disappointed. I was hoping we’d find a delicious local Mexican restaurant. I’m sure we will find a great place one day but it won’t be Papas & Beer.

Wild Ace

Last Saturday I was craving wings in the worst way. McB wanted pizza or maybe boneless wings. Given the foul weather, we decided to skip a trip downtown Greenville and instead set our sights on downtown Greer and The Wild Ace (109 Trade Street, Greer) as our destination for wings and pizza.

We arrived at The Wild Ace just after 2:15 p.m. The place was fairly crowded but not overwhelmingly so as there were still a number of empty tables.

The hostess stopped by our table to get our drink orders. After a short wait, our waiter brought the drinks and said that he would return to take our order as he had food waiting to come out to another table. We were both ready to order when he walked away but I was under the impression that he would be right back so I chatted with my husband and waited.

It turned out that I WAITED AND WAITED. After delivering food to the table in question and taking orders from patrons who had just walked in, our waiter stopped to help another staffer bus a table. That table wasn’t needed immediately or during the next hour that we were in the restaurant. At this point I started to fume. We were left sitting for at least 10 minutes at this point. If the decision were mine, we would have paid for our sodas and hit the road. McB reminded me that we weren’t in a hurry. In a compromise, we agreed until 2:45 and then cash out if the waiter had not returned. He made a few other stops and finally came back with about five minutes to spare.

The waiter did apologize for our wait and took our order. At this time I ordered wings and McB got a caesar salad and a 14″ pizza for us to split. He said “for us to split” when placing the order. McB’s salad came out (the croutons were quite good but the dressing came on the side and was so thick that he had to dip his lettuce into it) but my wings didn’t appear. The wings finally came about 25 minutes later when the pizza arrived with a single plate for McB. I had to ask for another plate.

The wings were reasonably good. It was a hot sauce, and I like heat, but it was also had a little of the hot-to-be-hot flavor that I’m not as fond of. I had a slice of the pizza and thought it was also tasty thought not any better than Mythos. McB agreed that the pie was good but not worth the hassle. At one point he was torn about whether to hope for good or bad pizza since he knew that no matter the flavor, there was little chance we’d be back again.

I do have to say that while he failed us in many ways, our waiter did do a good job of refilling our drinks. There is something to be said for that.

I don’t think we’ll be going back to The Wild Ace Pizza & Pub. I don’t mind a relaxed atmosphere but it shouldn’t involve this kind of service.

Lil Rebel 290

I passed the Lil Rebel 290 last December as I was making my way down route 290 to catch up to 25 and then on to Tennessee. It’s a nice looking building from the outside and on the day I passed, the parking lot was pretty full. I love small, local restaurants and immediately made a note to Google it at some point.

McB and I first tried the Lil Rebel (2608 Locust Hill Rd, Taylors) the day after Christmas. On that visit we both ordered burgers and were quite impressed by the portion size, speed of service, and friendliness of the waitstaff.

Lil Rebel has a large menu with lots of choices but I’m not sure I’ll ever fully appreciate them all because I’ve fallen for their Calabash chicken dinner. It’s unlike me to order the same entree but during our last two visits, it’s been the Calabash chicken. The only change up has been whether I order all fries or a fry-onion ring split. Again, this is not like me but look at this plate.

Calabash chicken - little rebelThe succulent chicken breast planks are surrounded by a light breading that is perfectly seasoned to provide just the right kick for the palate. I used very little dipping sauce because frankly, it wasn’t needed. The fries are hot, fresh, and plentiful.

regular chicken fingersOn this particular visit, McB ordered the regular chicken fingers. He liked the fingers but was eying my Calabash. He loves the fries at the Lil Rebel. He likes very few fries so I’m glad that these can help fill the void left by our departure from a Raising Cane’s city. On this visit, McB also tried the house BBQ sauce. It is a slightly watery sauce made with Greek sauces. I found it to be curiously delicious. McB liked it but regretted not choosing the more traditional hickory sauce.

The portions are large and the prices are low. The quality of the food can’t be beat. It’s not a gourmet meal but it’s good homey cooking. There are healthy items on the menu; I’m just too stuck on the Calabash to get to any of those. I’ve also been unable to order one of their many dessert options. It’s not that I don’t want to but we generally leave stuffed to the gills with a doggy bag in hand.

The staff is so nice and friendly. They are always willing to make recommendations. I also like that you typically don’t have to ask for a “to-go” cup and our instead are asked whether you want one or not. I think local restauranteurs just have a better understanding of the role good service plays in customer loyalty. It definitely shows at the Lil Rebel.

Oh and for the parting shot, our “clean” plates from this visit. You can see the corner of the box housing our leftover chicken planks. It’s important to note that this meal occurred after 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday when I didn’t prepare breakfast. We were famished and STILL couldn’t finish all the food.

Lil Rebel 290 is a great little local gem. I can’t wait to take visitors there.