Around the beginning of every year, Marie and I take a day trip to the Palmetto State. This was our fourth year doing this, and we decided to stick around the I-85 corridor this time around, and enjoy some good eating before and after a visit to Greenville’s Children’s Museum of the Upstate, about which a little more on Friday.
After picking up milkshakes from a Cook Out in Anderson, we arrived at our first stop, Spartanburg’s 53 year-old Sugar -n- Spice Drive-In, about 12:30. We first noticed this local landmark when we drove through two years before. On that occasion, we’d stopped at The Beacon, Spartanburg’s best-known drive-in, and then we drove past this restaurant on our way to the town of Buffalo. Well, here’s the scoop: The Beacon is all about the hype. The experience is wild and very fun, but the food is only pretty good at best. Sugar -n- Spice is a little quieter, but they’ve got a secret weapon that the Beacon cannot match: they serve the best roast beef sandwich you’ll find anywhere. It is amazing.
Like The Beacon, most of their sandwiches are offered “a-plenty,” which means buried in fries and onion rings, far more than it’s sensible for one person to try and eat. We ordered one roast beef a-plenty, and one additional sandwich, plus a hot dog for the toddler. Oh, the sandwich is just remarkable. You know how, every once in a blue moon, you’ll read somebody claiming that in the 1960s and 1970s, Arby’s served really good food? I wonder whether the roast beef sandwiches then tasted like this. The marinade brings so much flavor to the very high-quality meat. This is absolutely worth a stop.
Curb service at Sugar -n- Spice ended in the 1980s, a time that was very tough for the region and for this restaurant. As in-your-car dining went out of favor, they made the expensive decision to instead expand the interior and become a regular family-style restaurant. Previously, there had only been a dozen seats inside, and now there’s room for maybe sixty people. They crossed their fingers and made the big investment and it worked. Emphasizing nostalgia and encouraging everybody who’s ever loved the place to make this part of their Saturday outings paid off with big crowds. There were three large groups when we were there, and lots of old friends greeting each other as part of their regular Saturday lunch routine.
They left up the old canopy even after they ended curb service. It is, at present, very badly in need of a new paint job but I think it’s still completely beautiful. I did not notice when we first drove past, nor in any pictures that I had seen previously (Roadside Architecture, of course, has been by with her camera) that the canopy is not technically what I’d call curved. Rather, it’s wavy, undulating, like some giant has grabbed one end of it and given it an almighty shake.
Part of me wants to come by on a Sunday, when they are closed, so I can get some better shots of that canopy without cars in the way, but then I wouldn’t be able to have another roast beef sandwich. We’ve often been seen going pretty far out of the way just to document a building or a sign, but this sandwich is too darn good to miss. Still, I hope we are in the area at a convenient time again soon. I find that canopied drive-ins are very challenging to shoot, but I love making the effort.
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