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Thursday
Jun062019

Summa Joe's Pizza: Fresh, Local Pizza a Lunchtime Winner

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

The Lunch Box is a weekly feature of the Anderson Observer. The feature is not paid advertising, and the opinions and suggestions belong to the writer of each selection. 

One of the highlights of my life is finding a good place for a tasty lunch. Each week The Lunch Box will highlight a meal I have found to be a delicious and consistent go-to choice. This is not a restaurant review, it is more a “best of” what to eat for lunch in Anderson County. If you have suggestions for a great plate of food, email me at thelunchbox@andersonobserver.com 


Today's Lunch Box

As Anderson continues to grow, the lunch offerings downtown just get better and better. And one of the places you can find fresh, locally sourced food is Summa (pronounced like “summer”) Joe’s.

And while their menu (and specials chalkboard) features sandwiches, salads, soups, shrimp & grits, and even stir fry, the back page is devoted to this week’s Lunch Box pick, pizza.

Their list of specialty pizzas includes 24 choices, but I went with the Meat Lover, a combination of meatballs, pepperoni, salami, ham and bacon, topped with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.

A generous size for a personal pizza, this 10-inch pie is more than most lunch goers can handle in a single sitting. 

The crust is thin and has just the right crunch, something increasingly difficult to find in my experience. Too often pizzas seem to be rushed to the table, leaving the crust limp and the cheese barely melted.

Not at Summa Joe’s.  The cheese was plentiful and melted into a mixture that help everything in place just the way I like it. As the name indicates, the meat is stacked high in every bite.

The resulting flavor is spot on, salty and a little smoky, with crispy bacon countering the chewy pepperoni and hearty meatballs. 

The guests at my table chose other pizzas, and the consistency and toppings seemed to equal mine, right down to that great crust. 

There are no sides included with the pizza, but it matters little because few could finish the main dish in a sitting.

The iced tea, with my customary half sweet/half unsweet, was excellent and the service was friendly, attentive and fast.

The Meat Lover pizza is $11.99, and you will a likely be taking close to half of it home for supper. Add $2.89 for iced tea and your lunch will cost you under $15. 

Owners Joe and Summer Fredette (the name of the restaurant is a take on Summer), are to be commended for their commitment to finding supporting local farms for their meats, dairy and seasonal produce. Fresh is always better, and local is fresher and better yet.

Summa Joe’s is located at 127 North Main Street. For menu, hours and more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/SummaJoes/

Friday
May172019

Raines on Main: A Sandwich That Melts in Your Mouth

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

The Lunch Box is a weekly feature of the Anderson Observer. The feature is not paid advertising, and the opinions and suggestions belong to the writer of each selection. 

One of the highlights of my life is finding a good place for a tasty lunch. Each week The Lunch Box will highlight a meal I have found to be a delicious and consistent go-to choice. This is not a restaurant review, it is more a “best of” what to eat for lunch in Anderson County. If you have suggestions for a great plate of food, email me at thelunchbox@andersonobserver.com 

Today's Lunch Box

 

Opening The Lid

If you are looking for a great sandwich, it’s hard to beat a good patty melt. The tastier cousin to the cheeseburger, the patty melt features ground beef, melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions on toaster/grilled rye bread.

The origins of the sandwich can be traced to Los Angeles (or some would argue Brooklyn) in the 1950s, and it has been a favorite part of my menu for well over 50 years. 

But even though it’s essentially a fancy cheeseburger, finding a good one locally is not always easy. Fortunately Raines on Main downtown provides a patty melt you worth ordering again and again. 

It starts with fresh-ground prime chuck, a hallmark of Raines. Their hand-pattied burger finds an even better home on a patty melt. The onions are not overcooked and well served on the bed of melted cheese. The rye bread is toasted just right.

Raines’ patty melt is filling and full of flavor and it comes with two sides, but I also sampled a third.

Sides

The fries are crispy and a good match for this sandwich. The cole saw good, but maybe a little bland for my tastes (I ate every bite, though, so I obviously still enjoyed it). The fried okra was excellent and always a welcome side dish.

Iced tea is the only acceptable beverage with this kind of lunch, and Raines’ tea is good. Bonus points for having fresh lemon.

Service was also excellent, my tea glass did not go dry, and friendly. 

Closing the Lid

The patty melt is $7.99, which includes two side dishes, and tea (of if you have to have a soft drink) comes in at $2.29. So for just over $10 you get a great lunch that will hold you until a late supper of even breakfast the following morning.

Jeff Raines said when he founded the  restaurant he wanted to regularly give back to the community, and he has kept his word, offering various events and nights in which he donates a portion of receipts to local charities. This is something we can all applaud. There is also a big room on site for parties, and with Christmas less than 32 weeks away, you might want to book now.

Raines on Main Bar & Grill is at 312 South Main Street in downtown Anderson, just south of Bleckley Station. For hours and full menu, which includes steaks, salmon, huge chef salads (I saw it at my table, it’s big) and more, visit their Facebook page, or their website.

Sunday
May052019

The Lunch Box: Cam's Cafe Offers Grandma's Table to Everyone

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

The Lunch Box is a weekly feature of the Anderson Observer. The feature is not paid advertising, and the opinions and suggestions belong to the writer of each selection. 

One of the highlights of my life is finding a good place for a tasty lunch. Each week The Lunch Box will highlight a meal I have found to be a delicious and consistent go-to choice. This is not a restaurant review, it is more a “best of” what to eat for lunch in Anderson County. If you have suggestions for a great plate of food, email me at thelunchbox@andersonobserver.com 


Opening the Lid

“Dinner on the grounds” is a phrase that evokes fond memories among those of us of a certain generation. It meant that after church, tables piled with excellent food of every kind were going to be arranged on tables for a gigantic smorgasbord lunch that would satisfy even the heartiest appetite.

Insiders knew who brought the best fried chicken, the best potato salad and best desserts, and made a beeline for those offerings before filling in the rest of their paper plates.

Remember the tastiest fried chicken from your favorite dinner on the grounds, and you’ll have a good idea what you're in for with the fried chicken at Cam’s Cafe in Iva. And it’s not only the food, the atmosphere is about as hometown friendly as you’ll see anywhere. After entering, you grab a plate and fill it up just like at a church dinner on the grounds. It’s a meat-and-three and more.

Cam’s is a link to a vanishing past, where small town diners could go and enjoy a meal where everybody knows their name as well as those of their mother, brother, kids, grandkids, etc. The food is just a vehicle for visiting friends and neighbors, where people can meet face to face to talk about what’s going on in the community.

The bonus is, at Cam's they have the opportunity to enjoy such visiting time with a plate of top-drawer country cooking that would be hard to beat even if you worked hard on it at home. Which brings me back to the fried chicken. The chicken breasts at Cam’s are huge and juicy with just the right amount of fried-crust crunch that is the hallmark of great fried chicken. And they manage to do it without any hint of it being too greasy. All of the pieces of chicken were big and looked equally good, so I am certain if you’re a leg/thigh dark meat eater, you’ll be just as satisfied. 

The chicken is almost a meal in itself. 

Sides

Almost. You don’t want to miss the sides, which are many and homemade good, but I’m going to mention my regular go-to favorites at any meal where they are available: friend okra and macaroni and cheese. 

The macaroni and cheese is rich and hearty with the right mix of plenty of cheese and whatever Cam’s uses to set the macaroni noodles in the dish. If you order this great side with the chicken, make sure you come hungry or you likely will be unable to finish your meal.

The fried okra tasted exactly like the kind grandma made 50 years ago. Unless you are of a previous generation, which to me means you were born before 1940, frying okra at home is a real chore. It requires a pan dedicated to the process of frying the okra, which raises the bar when you are preparing multiple side dishes. The magic that allowed my mother and grandmothers to prepare meals for more than a dozen family members with everything, including great fried okra, landing hot and fresh on the table simultaneously remains a mystery.

That’s why when you find a great meat-and-three were everything is delicious, hot and ready on demand, you don’t forget it. Add Cam’s Cafe to your list of those spots.

Dessert

The peach cobbler is a choice you won’t regret. I am one of those who likes the crust on top as much as the fruit and Cam’s cobbler has plenty of both.

Thermos

It’s hard to visit a place like Cam’s and order anything other than full-on sweet iced tea, so I recommend choosing another way to cut sugar later in the day when you visit Cam’s. The tea is good and the service cracker jack (servers never let my glass get empty, which if more of a challenge that you might realize if you have never shared a meal with me.)

Closing the Lid

Monday through Friday, the buffet lunch is $8.67, which includes beverage. Cam’s also offers a Friday night catfish buffet for $10.55, a Saturday breakfast buffet for $7.34, and Sunday lunch buffet for $9.63. Please bring extra cash for a tip, though.

Bonus Information

I mentioned early that Cam’s Cafe is an important part of the Iva community, and their owners, Ray and Linda Graham, are well-known for their generosity. They not only give generously to community causes, they annually host a free Thanksgiving meal for those in the area with nowhere to spend the holiday. Can’t put a price on giving back, but you can support their business throughout the year to help them continue to be generous.

Cam's Cafe is located at 604 Front St in Iva. If you have any questions, give them a call at 864-348-2145.

Monday
Apr292019

The Lunch Box: DT Taco Brings New Flavors to Old Favorite

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

The Lunch Box is a weekly feature of the Anderson Observer. The feature is not paid advertising, and the opinions and suggestions belong to the writer of each selection. 

One of the highlights of my life is finding a good place for a tasty lunch. Each week The Lunch Box will highlight a meal I have found to be a delicious and consistent go-to choice. This is not a restaurant review, it is a “best of” what to eat for lunch in Anderson County. If you have suggestions for a great plate of food, email me at thelunchbox@andersonobserver.com 

Today's Lunch Box

 

Opening the Lid

When I was growing up in Anderson in the 1960s, there were no Mexican restaurants within easy driving distance (even after I-85 was completed). Today, a quick Google search finds more than 30 places which offer Mexican cuisine in every corner of the county. The newest, which opened not quite two weeks ago, is Downtown Taco (also know as DT Taco) in Anderson.

Located at 134 North Main, the restaurant has been completely upgrade and renovated since it last housed the Italian cafe which previously inhabited the space. The new floor plan offers more space, light and just generally has a better all around vibe. 

What distinguishes DT Taco from the other Mexican places in the area is it’s unusual spin on it’s namesake, the taco. Steak, Pork Belly, Bacon Cheeseburger, Buffalo Chicken and Shrimp tacos are among the offerings on the menu, but I was more intrigued by the Bird Dog Taco and the Gyro Taco.

The history of the bird dog sandwich is a little fuzzy, but in most spots it’s friend chicken, bacon, cheese topped with honey mustard on a hoagie roll or hot dog bun. DT Taco takes the same recipe, adds a little lettuce and put it in a soft taco shell.

The results are good.  The flavors work even better without the extra bread. I did have to ask for extra honey mustard, though. Not sure if it was an anomaly, but the other person at my table also had trouble finding any visible trace honey mustard on her bird dog as well. But the chicken was good, the bacon real and the honey mustard well made.

The Gyro Taco was even better, with the tradition gyro meat, lettuce, tomato and onion with a good tzatziki sauce added to the mix.  The meat was generous and full of flavor and I suspect this will be a favorite among those who like Gyros. Again, not nearly enough sauce was included with the taco, but the service was top-drawer and my server was happy to bring additional sauce for both tacos. 

It is always good to see a new spot which really focuses on good and friendly service, and DT nailed it on my visit. Such service  a good lunch great and a great lunch superior.  

Side Dishes

It’s listed as an appetizer and not a side, but the corn chips were fresh and crispy and the salsa fresh and flavorful, though a bit on the mild for my tastes. That said, it was excellent, and I will order it again. I wanted to taste them before taking a photo, and nearly finished the basket before remembering. (See results, right) DT Taco offers other sides such as Street Corn, Pintos and Cilantro Lime Rice, but I came for tacos on this lunch trip, so I can’t comment on these.

Thermos

The iced tea, this time I tried both the sweet and unsweet before settling for a mix of the two, is good and extra credit is always in order for those places which offer fresh lemon. I remain baffled by the few holdouts on this omission. They know who they are.

Closing the Lid

The Bird Dog Taco is $3.75 and the Gyro comes in at $3.50. Add chips and salsa for $3 and $2.50 for iced tea and you can have a big lunch as DT Taco for under $13, plus tip, which should be extra generous given the serve I received during lunch. To find out more visit their website or Facebook page.

Monday
Apr222019

The Lunch Box: Everyday is Thanksgiving at Steakhouse 41

 The Lunch Box is a weekly feature of the Anderson Observer. The feature is not paid advertising, and the opinions and suggestions belong to the writer of each selection.

One of the highlights of my life is finding a good place for a tasty lunch. Each week The Lunch Box will highlight a meal I have found to be a delicious and consistent go-to choice. This is not a restaurant review, it is a “best of” what to eat for lunch in Anderson County. If you have suggestions for a great plate of food, email me at thelunchbox@andersonobserver.com 

Today's Lunch Box

Opening the Lid

Main Course: Turkey and Dressing (Wednesday and Sunday) from Steakhouse 41 (formerly Carlee's)

If you are from the South, you should be pretty familiar with meat-and-three meals. If not, you really need to get out more.

A legacy of the huge farmhouse table spreads families gathered around after church on Sundays for generations - which always included more than “three” and often an additional meat as well - these meals are meant to fill you up and encourage fellowship 

Those who are new to the South only need to know the meat-and-three is a meal offered in restaurants that offers a rotating menu of meats and vegetables (often seasonal), which may/may not change daily.

This week’s lunch box is a premium example of one of my favorite meat-and-three meals in Anderson.

Let me attempt to get the confusion out of the way first. The restaurant serving this meal is in transition between the old name - "Carlee’s and Tony’s" (which recently left the old Western Sizzlin building on North Main) - to "Steakhouse 41," a shoutout to the first part of the address of the location and to the former name of the place, "4126," which did not serve Southern comfort food. The new location will serve fine-dining meals in the eventings, and meat-and-three lunches every day. It’s located in Oak Point, roughly across from the Quick Trip in front of the Shopping Center which houses Old Navy, Ross, Panera, etc., on Clemson Boulevard. The address for your GPS is 4126 Clemson Boulevard. Whew.

But don’t look for a new sign, it’s not there yet.

Meat-and-three lunch is served there seven days a week, and my go-to lunch box meal is the turkey and dressing, which actually counts dressing as one of your three choices of sides. No complaints here. No pressed turkey here, the meat is moist and has a lot of flavor, especially for turkey. The slices/pieces of real turkey are served over a heaping portion of fine dressing and covered in gravy.

Every day is Thanksgiving with this plate of food. The cornbread dressing is always just right, and the gravy has a real homemade flavor. And did I mention the portion is large? If not, the portion is large.

Add to that, before you even get your plate, they bring a basket full of biscuits and cornbread, both top notch, along with real butter to get you started. 

Side Dishes 

There is always a long roster of side dishes here, but field peas are my first choice. Eaten with the excellent cornbread, I am often tempted to get a bowl of these peas as my full meal. Most days I will two sides of field peas, but when it’s on the menu, I’ll forgo the second helping for a side of deviled eggs. 

Fried okra, mac-and-cheese, mashed potatoes, green beans, casseroles, desserts (peach cobbler is a favorite) are also among the many side choices for lunch. 

Thermos

The iced tea, my usual mix of unsweet and sweet, is consistently good, and servers do an excellent job on refills, key to any good lunch experience.

Closing the Lid

The cost of turkey and dressing and two other sides, or any combination of another meat (try the fried pork chop) and three sides is $10.50, M-Sat, and $13 on Sunday. The price includes iced tea. Right now trying to find information about the restaurant is not easy. Their online presence is a mess, but I attribute that to the transition going on. To find out more, call them at 864-226-3820.