Saylors Crossroads is as rural as a place can be, surrounded by acres of agriculture and a far piece from any town. At this bucolic spot in the heart of South Carolina’s Piedmont stands a restaurant that is true to its country location but also is a beacon of sophisticated cooking.
How did such a paradox come to be? Owners Heidi and Joe Trull had a baby. At the time, they were successful restaurateurs in the Creole culinary polestar, New Orleans – he was Emeril Lagasse’s pastry chef at Nola, she ran the esteemed Elizabeth’s – but they wanted to raise their child in the Carolinas where they grew up. So they found an old country store and made it into Grits & Groceries.
Here you find local produce used to make traditional dishes, but with a twist, the twist frequently being a South Louisiana accent. Examples: pork steak with Creole gravy; shrimp po boy; praline-crusted bacon. Among other menu highlights are a juice-heavy pimento cheeseburger draped with bacon, okra fritters with corn relish (a Wednesday special), and an appetizer of crisp-fried spheres of country ham and pimento cheese rolled in corn flakes and presented on a puddle of sweet-hot pepper jelly. If I have a problem with this place, it’s that there are too many intriguing things on the menu to taste them all, even in multiple visits.
Dessert is as good as it gets. Banana pudding is loaded with cookies and topped with real whipped cream. Crisp-crusted fried apple pie is served warm, inducing ecstasy when sided by a scoop of house-made cinnamon ice cream. Chocolate Coca-Cola cake is moist and powerfully chocolaty. F.R.O.G. cobbler (fig, raspberry, orange, ginger) is a sweet-tart triumph. And there’s butter-yellow sweet corn ice cream, coconut bread pudding, chocolate coconut cheesecake, peanut butter crunch bread pudding, and whiskey egg nog ice cream.
At brunch, served Friday and Saturday from 9am to 2pm, Carolina shrimp gravy and grits is a morning-meal dazzler, as are braised pork shanks topped with peach-pepper barbecue sauce, known here as Hog Wings. Lunch is served Tuesday and Wednesday. Dinner is served Thursday nights only.