We all have favorite dishes at national franchise restaurants. We frequent those places with family and friends both for the variety and for the consistent predictability. There is something for everyone and that one thing you always order whether you are in Seattle, Denver, or Charlotte. Here, however, are a few local choices when you need to break the chain.*
If you must have great seafood without either flying to Maine or driving to Charleston, The Fish Market at Baxter Village is an outstanding, comfortable (not casual) but upscale seafood restaurant. Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Saturday, with brunch on Sundays from 10:30am until 2:00pm. Read the reviews! The owners sincerely and passionately want you to love the food and enjoy the experience. Children are accommodated, but I would feel uncomfortable bringing small kids here. It’s grownup food in a grownup restaurant.
The Peach Stand Café is in the iconic and beloved Springs Farm Peach Stand at the intersection of Highways 160 and 21. It’s not really a restaurant, but more of an experience. The café, like the store, prides itself for locally grown produce, meats, and baked goods. The menu is understandably limited, but the prices are astonishingly affordable ($4.99 – $9.99) for the quality. Eat there for breakfast or lunch and enjoy walking around the store. You will find many reasons to return.
Dining at Local Dish at 217 Main Street in Fort Mill is worth fighting for a parking spot. It’s small, quaint, reasonably priced, and very cool. This restaurant could be in NoDa (North Davidson) or Asheville without feeling the least bit self-conscious. Where else do you know that you can chase pork belly corn dog appetizers with chicken and waffles? For the less adventurous, there are also normal words on the menu like turkey and meatloaf. But they have me at shrimp & grits. And because it’s so cool, this is a great place to bring your Millennial generation grandkids. You get to enjoy great food while your grandkids are in awe that you know about this place.
The Six Pence Pub in the Baxter Town Center, although not a chain, is the third restaurant/pub of three. The family-owned business originated in Savannah more than 40 years ago and expanded to Blowing Rock in 2001 and then to Fort Mill in 2006. The history of the original concept in Savannah is best told in their own words: “In Savannah, ‘Wally’s Sixpence’ was the place to meet and greet friends new and old, and just keep up with each other’s lives. Wally and Doris, being from London knew how to make our British expatriates, and locals feel right at home. Wally was long on conversation, and Doris would prepare lunch for the pub at home (at the time there was no kitchen in the Pub) to serve patrons until either it was gone, or when Wally and Doris just wanted to go home for the day.” The owners are determined to preserve the casual neighborhood feeling of the original pub in Savannah. Being located in the Baxter Town Center should make that easy.
Having opened in 2016, The Pump House is the new kid on the block. Located on the south bank of the Catawba River on the Hwy 21 bypass, it’s technically not in Fort Mill, but we’ll chalk that up to horseshoes and hand grenades, as in close enough. While they do have words on the menu like biscuits and gravy, they also have wagyu, chard, and charcuterie, so you can expect to be paying a little more. And although you can’t eat ambience, looking out over the river from either the main restaurant or the rooftop bar adds to the experience. If you are coming at The Pump House from the north on 21, you will drive by it on your left as you cross the river. Turn left on Dunkins Ferry Road and then wend your way back to the river. Many folks have told me that if you are coming at it for the first time from the south on Hwy 21, you will pass it on your right just before you cross the river. Make a safe U-turn at the next intersection and then follow the directions as if you are coming from the north. This is one of those places that we 55 and better people won’t even consider going near on local prom nights because it will be jammed with high school kids ordering heaping gobs of charcuterie. But we’ll gladly take the other nights. The main dining room opens at 11:00am every morning.
*Non-chain restaurants can be like favorite fishing holes; you don’t talk about them because you don’t want other people to crowd up the place. However, if you have a favorite restaurant that we have not mentioned, and you want to share it, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, we are grateful for the economy of scale that keeps prices down at the chains, but we also believe that supporting local family businesses, like non-chain restaurants, is crucial to the quality of life in every great community.
by Bob Poliquin, Managing Editor