Today’s Hidden Gems travel guide to Greenville, N.C. comes from Erika Gibson!
Having lived and worked in my hometown of Greenville, N.C., for nearly two-and-a-half decades before we bought a house in a teeny town about 20 miles away, I’ve gotten to see restaurants and shops come and go. Since I’ve been here so gosh-darn long, I have a lot of favorite places to share in this Greenville travel guide!
Greenville, North Carolina (not South Carolina!) is sometimes expected to be a sad little redneck farming town in Sweet Tea Central, USA. People anticipate dilapidated barns and abandoned plantations, but Greenville is a growing and flourishing city. The America’s Promise Alliance recently named Greenville one of the nation’s 100 Best Communities for Young People and Forbes Magazine also ranked it among the top 30 of the nation’s Best Small Places for Business and Careers.
Greenville was originally founded in 1771 as ‘Martinsborough’ after the Royal Governor Josiah Martin. In 1773 the town was moved 3 miles west of its original site. In 1786 the name was changed to ‘Greenesville,’ in honor of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, before eventually being shortened to Greenville. The town was largely supported by cotton and tobacco farms in the 19th century, until East Carolina University (then East Carolina Teacher’s Training College) was established in 1907. Above all, Greenville residents bleed purple and gold — football games are not to be trifled with — and we like our barbecue with vinegar (and all of the hog except the squeal), thankyouverymuch.
Click below to see the hidden gems in this Greenville travel guide!
EAT + DRINK
- One of my favorite places is The Scullery Coffee House & Creamery. Between their fantastic meals, delicious coffee and handmade ice cream, it’ll be hard to pick your favorite. I highly recommend the smoked salmon bagel or the egg-in-a-grilled-cheese. (Pro-tip from a local: If you’re like me and think bleu cheese is devil food, make sure to ask if what you’re ordering has it included anywhere — these guys love their icky bleu cheese!)
- At aTavola! Market Cafe, a diverse menu with fresh ingredients makes for a great lunch or dinner.
- Tipsy Teapot opens early and closes late so you always have a place to stop for coffee or tea. Tipsy has recently added a breakfast menu (served all day) and a full bar.
- A small cinderblock building near the medical district, B’s Barbecue is the place to be for lunch. The only catch? They close when they run out each day. Get there early to get your spot in line!
- With your food prepared right before your eyes by some of the most personable and entertaining chefs on the east coast, Sappari Japanese Steak House is the perfect choice for a special dinner.
- Sup Dogs has the competition beat for hot dogs and burgers thanks to their secret Sup Dogs Sauce.
- Fitzgerald’s is one of the newest additions to Uptown Greenville — an American tavern with an Irish twist.
- One of the standards for lunch breaks where I work is Cinnamon Indian Cuisine (formerly known as Dale’s). It offers a great lunch buffet at a reasonable price.
- Starlight Cafe & Farm supports local farmers and marketplaces with constantly rotating specials in their upscale restaurant in the heart of uptown Greenville.
- Winslow’s Wine & Beer Market offers a tapline of more than 40 American craft beers and micro-brews, more than 20 wines by the glass and the area’s largest selection of fine bourbons and whiskeys.
- The First Friday ArtWalk is hosted, as it sounds, on the first Friday of each month. Between new exhibitions, deals at local restaurants and the Jolly Trolley making it easy to get wherever you’re going, there’s no reason to skip this fantastic event.
- The Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge is a non-profit arts organization that has a constantly rotating gallery and an ever-changing calendar of classes and events.
- Is it the Friday before a home football game? If so, check out Freeboot Friday at Five Points Plaza for music, grub and fun. (If you hear someone yell “Purple!,” you better be ready to yell “Gold!” right back.)
- River Park North is a nature park offering camping, hiking, fishing and more.
- Wellington B. Gray Gallery, located inside ECU’s Jenkins Fine Arts Center, has oft-changing exhibitions throughout the school year.
- Is it a Wednesday afternoon in the summer? Then Five Points will have all the greatest local food and crafts at the Umbrella Market.
- The Greenville Museum of Art works to provide and promote the visual arts through their collection, rotating exhibitions, workshops and classes.
- Every year PirateFest draws an estimated 30,000 people to celebrate eastern NC’s pirate history with two days of live music, original art, unique food and, of course, pirates. Arrrrgh!
- ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance is offers concerts, plays, musicals and other performance arts throughout the year. Those with children should especially check out Family Fare.
- Sunday in the Park is a free outdoor concert series held on Sunday evenings in the summer and into early fall at the Town Commons.
- Art Avenue Contemporary Art Center is a gallery, retail shop and studio space with lots of great art and gifts for sale.
- If you need some pirate apparel, University Book Exchange is the place to go.
- In the heart of the up and coming Antiquing District is Dapper Dan’s, a fantastic shop with lots of antique furniture and second-hand clothing.
- Uptown Art Supply & Gallery has discounted, quality supplies for the professional and student artist, as well as apparel and accessories for those that like to admire art from afar.
- The Hobby Horse is the studio of local sculptor Jonathan Bowling. He uses repurposed steel to construct huge sculptures that lend themselves well to public spaces.
- Coastal Fog is a shop and boutique with home and interior wares as well as handmade jewelry, artwork and furniture.
- East Coast Music and Video is Greenville’s only independently-owned video and record store with a huge selection of new and used CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray and Vinyl.
- Artisan’s Decorative Accessories and Fine Gifts is a multi-vendor retail store offering over 75 exclusive independently owned shoppes in one 12,000-square foot space.
- 20 minutes: Ayden, N.C. — Take the quick drive out to Simply Natural Creamery to get ice cream made from cows so close you can take a tour of the farm!
- 30 minutes: Grifton, N.C. — Head out early Saturday morning to catch your spot in line for brunch at Yoder’s Dutch Pantry. Order the french toast that’s made with freshly baked bread and their unique syrup, and get ready for that food coma that’s headed your way.
- 40 minutes: Kinston, N.C. — If you’re looking for a fantastic night out, Chef and the Farmer is the place to go. The star of PBS documentary series A Chef’s Life, chef Vivian Howard brings a dining experience like no other to downtown Kinston. With a constantly changing menu of entirely local food served in a renovated 100-year-old mule barn, Chef and the Farmer is sure to be worth the travel.
- 1 hour, 20 minutes: Raleigh, N.C. — If you head west, you can visit the beautiful North Carolina Museum of Art or take your kids to Marbles Kids Museum — not to mention the local breweries and fantastic cafes in the state capitol.
- 1 hr, 30 minutes: Outer Banks, N.C. — If you head east, the gorgeous beaches await you. Grab some chowder at Channel Marker Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, enjoy traditional southern cuisine at Floyd’s 1921 Restaurant and Catering in Morehead City, or stop for tapas at Aqua Restaurant in Beaufort. The North Carolina Aquariums await you at Pine Knoll Shores, while the Civil War fort and historic landmark Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach is always worth a visit.
- 2 hr, 45 minutes: Winston-Salem, N.C. — Pick up a coffee at Krankies Downtown or Krankies Airstream, then head out to Sawtooth School for Visual Art to check out the galleries, shops and classes. If you prefer your skin with a little ink on it, stop in to BookMistress, a bookstore that specializes in the art and history of tattooing. BookMistress is part of The Tattoo Archive, a tattoo museum and studio.
Erika Gibson //
Erika is an artist + maker from eastern North Carolina. She writes for crafty and creative makers who want to bring original beauty to their home.