Sometimes it’s hard to find anything on a menu you really want to eat. Other times, like at Flipside Cafe, the plethora of intriguing dishes is downright frustrating. This is a restaurant that demands multiple visits; and by the time you’ve tried everything good on the menu, the menu changes to the next season and there’s a whole new roster of temptations.
As a person interested in iconic regional eats, I had to try the Buffalo, New York, specialty sandwich, beef on weck. (Yes, there is a Buffalonian in the kitchen.) It’s a good one, piled high on a roll crusted with caraway (kummelweck) seeds. The beef is sliced thin, velvet soft and flavorful, although I wish it were rarer; and the au jus could be less salty.
But this is South Carolina, so what about shrimp & grits (my nomination for Official State Dish)? They’re sultry and seductive, with powerful smoky punch delivered by andouille sausage, charred peppers, and smoked tomatoes. Shrimp boil is a similar local passion, but with potatoes instead of grits. Other distinctly regional items include white cheddar pimento cheese (served with warm pretzels), a BLT made with fried green tomatoes, and crab-stuffed Carolina trout. Morning menus feature buttermilk biscuits & gravy, grits laced with pimento cheese and bacon jam, and fried chicken & waffles.
Many of Flipside’s most intriguing dishes are less about the South and more about classic comfort food: buttermilk blueberry pancakes at breakfast, a succulent bacon-wrapped slab of meat loaf accompanied by creme fraiche mashed potatoes, 12-hour braised beef short rib, a stately wedge salad of impeccably crisp iceberg lettuce, smoked bacon, blue cheese, et al.
All this artfully prepared fare is presented in informal, town-cafe surroundings (bare tables, cushionless chairs) by a staff who seem actually to enjoy making customers happy. It’s a fun experience in every way (except maybe for the setting in a drab shopping center); and I am eager to return and try all the things I didn’t eat last time.
Note: Flipside Restaurant, with a similar menu but a more upscale dining experience (with tablecloths), is located at 129 Caldwell St. in Rock Hill. (803-324-3547)