After an excellent lunch at Bucky’s, I headed to downtown Greenville. The city has received much publicity lately, and I wanted to see what had prompted all the fuss.
I was impressed. Greenville is a small city, with only 67,000 residents and a bit over a half million in the county, and the downtown is small, but lovely. Trees line and shade the principal street, with shrubbery bordering the sidewalks. A river marks one end of downtown, and there the city replaced 32 acres of textile mill property with a lovely park. The central feature of the park is a 125-foot waterfall just below the main street. The city next tore down a six-lane highway and replaced it with a 345-foot-long pedestrian suspension bridge with the two towers and the cable on the side away from the falls so that nothing blocks your view of the falls from the bridge. They must do it with mirrors.
The tree-lined main street has lots of restaurants and shops, as well as a number of side streets that have been closed to traffic. There is abundant outdoor cafe seating, and other places where a visitor could, just hypothetically now, saunter and enjoy a butter pecan ice cream cone . I spent a pleasant couple of hours strolling around downtown before driving to my hotel and getting settled.
My next stop was for more barbecue, and the choice among the self-limited options
(places on both the Campaign for Real Barbecue wood-only list and the South Carolina Barbecue Association’s 100 Mile list) was Henry’s.
Henry’s has three locations in Greenville, and I chose the original one on Wade Hampton. At least I felt very confident that it was the original based on the exterior of each location: the other two are much newer and have a disturbing niceness about them. The Wade Hampton location is much more attractive in terms of the barbecue aesthetic. So it was off to Wade Avenue for barbecue. You can compare for yourself by looking at the pictures on their website.
It looked promising. Outside there was a good deal of uncovered seating, with a bare five four-tops inside. It’s a warm, cozy place.
I went in and ordered a pork trifecta: a pork plate with two pork-based sides, Brunswick Stew and South Carolina hash and rice. Let’s take a minute to explain South Carolina hash, since it may be new to you. Barbecue places only use part of the pig. Some places use only the shoulders or butts, and even the “whole hog” places don’t use the head or the offal. Traditionally, hash was made with leftovers, the head and liver and lights (lungs).
Don’t be alarmed. The dish has evolved considerably. You can’t use the lights because that would mean it would be legal to sell haggis in the US, and no one wants that; and they’re bad for you. The ratio of meat to liver has increased to the point that in some places, there is no liver at all. The meat that is used, whatever it may be, is chopped very fine and blended thoroughly with fat or butter, salt and pepper, onions, and maybe some vinegar and a potato or two. The melange is then cooked for 12 hours or more and served as a very thick stew, usually over rice.
I am on a campaign to explore South Carolina hash, and also Brunswick stew. Thus my order, not that I wasn’t sorely tempted by the twin allures of another sweet potato casserole and some more green beans. Although the place was very busy at 5:00, it was mostly carryout business, and I lucked into an indoor (air conditioned) table. A very nice waitress presently brought me my tray.
As you can see, they gave me a whole lot of pork. As you also can see, the pork was pulled rather than chopped. The meat was smoky, tender, and unsauced. The strands of meat on the top of the pile was a touch dry, but the rest was as moist as you could want. Henry’s serves very good pork. The meat is cooked in pits over hickory, as pork should be cooked. It would be more convenient to eat gracefully if it were chopped, but it was delicious.
Henry’s has two sauces, a mild, sweet, tomato based sauce, and a spicy mustard based sauce. I preferred the spicy, but ate most of the meat without sauce.
The Brunswick stew was thick with meat and vegetables, and was very nicely seasoned. It had a good flavor and texture. You should order some.
The hash — that’s it with the fork — was extraordinarily thick to the point that it was approaching a paste rather than a stew. There was some onion and bits of liver as distinct elements in addition to undergirding the overall flavor of the hash, much as in a pâté de campagne. It was flavorful and pleasant, especially after I added a dash or two of pepper. I liked it, but with that thick consistency, I really think it might have been a filling for a sandwich.
It was a very good if somewhat unbalanced meal. The tariff was $8.95 for the plate, plus $1.75 for tea, plus a tip. That’s a bargain. You definitely should eat at Henry’s if you’re in Greenville, and do try the hash.
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