South Carolina Gamecock fans were delighted to hear Sunday night their basketball team would be dancing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.
To add even more icing to what’s already a pretty sweet cake, the Gamecock’s first round game is just an hour and 39 minute drive north of campus. At 9:40 pm South Carolina will tip off in Greenville, right in Clemson’s backyard.
Ten or maybe even five years ago Greenville was probably just another place. As a matter of fact there are 30 different Greenville’s in the United States — you can actually find two each in West Virginia and New York.
However despite sounding like a small town where the “Welcome” sign is a wooden plank staked into the dirt road — which I’m sure some of the Greenville’s are like that — the largest of the Greenvilles can be found in Upstate South Carolina.
Over the past five years Greenville’s evolved from a modest-sized town into a fast growing tech hub that’s drawn a nice-sized millennial crowd. Graduates from Clemson, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Furman, Lander, Wofford and College of Charleston all seem to flock to the Upstate to get in on one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
Greenville has become a trendy pick for travel sites or business journals for their “best places to live” or “best places to visit” list. The downtown is small yet clean and makes for a comfy place to do a bar crawl or grab a bite to eat. Companies are moving in and expanding the populous to a point where the Anderson/Greenville/Spartanburg metro area has over one million combined people living there.
The “864” as I affectionately called it when I’d drive back home from hasn’t hosted the NCAA Tournament since 2002, and in 2002 Greenville wasn’t near the hub it is today. Which means for you Duke fans who were there back then will probably notice some changes around the landscape.
Well have no fear! For those returning to Greenville or visiting for the first time, let a guy who’s lived there for most of his adolescent life be the guide where to watch the game around town.
Since Bon Secours Arena is right downtown, a smart guess would be most of the Gamecock viewing public will be there too. Downtown Greenville is a quaint area that’s home to a lot of the local business and more importantly — the bars.
The streets are a fairly easy walk and parking — normally — isn’t pulling teeth. There are plenty of good bars and restaurants in downtown, but there are only a few that would be worth going to for a game watching experience. Here’re my suggestions:
Carolina Ale House
For those not from the Carolina’s, this is a spin off the “Miller’s Ale House” national chain. Yes, I know a chain is boring but if you’re looking for TV’s and a place to sit you can’t go wrong with CAH.
The food and beer is reasonably priced, although they stopped splitting shots so unless you’re willing to shill out a few extra dollars don’t buy your liquor there. My suggestion would be to get there early and head upstairs. Those are where the big TV’s are and the bar runs quicker.
Wild Wing Cafe
This is different than the national chain that has a whole bunch of cheesy sports bar aesthetics and can throw games into overtime by the click of a button. Wild Wing is a chain, though you’ll only find it in the south — and much like CAH it provides the best game watching experience you’ll find in downtown.
Very similarly, the food and beer is reasonably priced — especially the buckets if you’re into bottled beer. There isn’t much of a difference between the two and are only a block apart from one another — it pretty much boils down to whether or not you REALLY like wings.
Brazwell’s Premium Pub
For those wanting a little more local flair, Brazwell’s is a fairly new dive compared to the rest of downtown. While the it doesn’t offer the size of a CAH or a Wild Wings, it still offers the numerous TV’s, good food and drinks while also providing a nice view of Falls Park from the back windows.
Greenville natives know Sharkey’s all too well. Sharkey’s is a mainstay in downtown and has been for a number of years. The food is solid, the drinks are reasonable and there’s a cool outdoor sitting area with TV’s lining the walls. For a truly local experience, Sharkey’s might be the way to go.
For those of you degenerates would rather get hammered than remember the game, City Tavern has you covered. This bar is famous for it’s everclear slushies, and those puppies go down very quickly when you can’t taste the ethanol (yes, ethanol). The place has plenty of TV’s and an outdoor sitting area, not to mention one of my personal favorites.
As for some of the other bars that have the drinks you seek but may not have the optimal viewing experience, Connlley’s Pub, Pour Taproom and Nose Dive are all fine places to wet your whistle.
Feel free to explore downtown at your own ease during the day, but coming from a local — during game time try to keep it to the above places for your game watching lest you want to fight for space in a room with two TV’s.
Normally I would tell tourists to stay the hell away from Woodruff Road. It’s by far the busiest road in the entire city and can be a nightmare to navigate up and down. However, if it’s food and drink you seek and you don’t want to deal with the hustle and bustle of downtown — Woodruff is the second best place to go.
Exit 51A on I-85 North will take you to where you want to go. As far as where to go, there are plenty of restaurants and bars but only a few I’d recommend actually visiting. Here are some go’s and no-go’s on Woodruff Road.
- Twin Peaks: A Hooters knock-off. A bunch of scantily clad women will serve you super cold beer in over sized mugs, but the TV’s are wall-to-wall and the food is half-decent.
- Tin Lizzy’s Cantina: Tin Lizzy’s has everything you’d like at a game-watching restaurant: drinks, TV’s and plenty of seating area. The atmosphere is a little cheesy, but it doesn’t get in the way.
- Carolina Ale House: Yup, another one. Not as big as the one downtown, but gives you everything else you’re looking for.
- Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar: A smaller venue, this dive has the drinks, some really good food and enough TV’s to satisfy the basketball viewing public.
- Cheddar’s: Don’t get me wrong, this place had good food at a reasonable price. However the only TV’s you’ll find are at the bar, so unless you’re sitting there your viewing experience will be limited to your phone.
- Dave and Busters: I can’t stress this enough — stay away from D&B’s. The only TV’s are at the bar, everything is expensive and the selection of games is incredibly limited compared to the other D&B’s I’ve been to.
- Tucano’s Brazilian Grill: Fine food, although a little expensive for my tastes. The TV selection is very limited and the drinks are pricey as well. Great for date night, bad for game night.
- Buffalo Wild Wings: Right off the exit, if you’re really desperate to watch the game and don’t care about mediocre food and drinks — then take your chances with BWW. However I don’t think they’ll send the game into overtime without leaving a nice tip.
As for other bars on Woodruff, I’d also suggest Bar Louie, Friars Tavern and Yard House. Again, I highly recommend downtown. But if for whatever reason that’s not your scene, hit up Woodruff.
Other special dives:
As for other bars and places to watch in Greenville that are a little more off the grid, here are a couple of other bars I’d suggest hitting up.
- Local Cue: A unique spot that specializes in games like pool, cornhole and an assortment of board games. There are plenty of TV’s and the drinks are reasonably priced. Located off Exit 51C on Haywood Road opposite the mall.
- Tipsy Taco: For those of you with a Southwestern Flair, this bar and grill is located on Pelham Road which can be accessed directly from Exit 54 on 85 North. The place has great taco’s and a wall of TV’s to stare at whilst stuffing your face with them.
- Craft and Barrel: For those of you craft-beer loving nuts, C&B gives you an assortment of good local beers and good food with two big TV’s that can be seen from pretty much the entire bar. Located off Wade Hampton BLVD down from Bob Jones University.
If there are any Greenville natives willing to chip in to the conversation, leave your favorite spot to watch a game or grab a drink in the city. Happy watching!