Greenville’s Culinary Melting Pot
February 5, 2021
Greenville is home to a wide variety of international restaurants, giving one access to an assortment of societies and ethnicities through meals and allowing unreachable, cross-regional flavors to be experienced locally. This enables one to enrich himself with diverse cuisine, expanding his palate in exposing him to global cultures through intimate taste.
Beginning with an unanimously appreciated venue located near our school, the Pita House, with its crispy falafels and creamy hummus, and mellow stuffed squash counterbalanced with vibrant grape leaves, consistently satisfies me with their powerful flavors. My favorite menu item comes as a side on their falafel and hummus platter, which is the tomato-cucumber blend drenched in yoghurt dressing, which nicely accents their freshly soft pita bread. Their hummus always features a few marinated carrots within, which are always a zesty surprise when I am shoveling the mashed chickpea spread onto my pita bread. While I could praise the Pita House unendingly, I must note that they have been out of the beloved stuffed squash for several months, though this is probably due to the squash being out of season or limited supply with the pandemic. I have been unable to bring myself to order the grape leaves without the complimenting and counterbalancing squash, as such would leave my palate in a state of confusion and longing.
Moving on, as a vegetarian, India Palace presents a large spectrum of authentic Indian dishes that are vegan, though they still have plenty of dishes that include meat. Their tadka daal is so warm and spiced, and I find myself ordering it quite frequently in the winter months. Their chana masala is unique and tangy, providing a distinct gustatory experience and truly engaging my senses in the meal. My father likes to order vindaloo, which he eats through sweat, tears, and a runny nose due to its sheer heat and power, noting that it is worth the loss of fluids. Not trying to be harsh, but when I tried to be experimental and try a different Indian restaurant over winter break, I was extremely disappointed by their lack of flavor and undesirable ingredients in comparison to India Palace, with my Aloo Mutter tasting of ketchup, my basmati rice a dish soap. India Palace really puts those frozen tiki masalas to shame with its heavy use of spices and its bold, strong tastes. Their basmati rice is floral and fragrant, being scented with seeds and cilantro essence, making it one of the few rices that I would eat plain.
A few years ago, I went to Asia Pacific with my Chinese class, where we sampled traditional Chinese dishes and specialties. As a frequent oriental cuisine connoisseur, Chen Laoshi navigated the menu for us, ordering the most iconic dishes. While I only partook in the tofu, everything was presented nicely and smelled delicious. I did scrape some meat off of certain dishes because the food seemed quite tempting, and found that the sauces used were savory and hot, being the good kind of salty. The restaurant is connected to a market selling authentic Asian goods and grocery items, which I enjoyed loitering around whilst waiting for my parents to pick me up. In comparison to other Asian restaurants, which often leave my mouth feeling dry and parched, Asia Pacific did not make me feel dehydrated after my meal.
Thai Basil serves authentic thai food paired with a soothing ambiance that mimics their smooth curry. Thai Basil’s creamy green curry with tofu and brown rice gives off a warm and vibrant flavor, and their dishes are consistently delicious, with their tofu being perfectly roasted, having a crunchy edge but fleshy center, its tough exterior and soft interior making it the perfect meatless option. The rice is fluffy and soft, making it the ideal base for any curry or sauce, balancing out the strong flavors and providing a calm pairing that is simple but not bland. However, this restaurant is only open at nighttime, leaving my lunchtime yearnings for Thai flavors unsatiated.
Greenville’s international restaurant scene presents a diverse culinary community, though it is important to enjoy these cuisines while they are available to ensure that they can remain open – even in times of a pandemic – through consistent support. A few years ago, a quaint French restaurant, Le Grande Bakery, closed due to lack of business and promotion. I used to go there almost weekly with my family, ordering their macaroons, tomato-basil sandwiches, cheese breads, and éclairs. Each menu item was unique and distinctly French, with the flavors of this restaurant being unreplicable, making its closing feel like a true loss. I hope that spreading appreciation for these restaurants will help them stay open and will protect our city’s global cuisine, preserving our access to cross-regional tastes.