Around Greenville: Culturally Authentic Restaurants

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Chef cooking authentic cuisine

Greenville’s universities and industries have drawn people from every corner of the world. The result is a community of increasing diversity, and with that diversity comes a brilliant tapestry of global flavors. Greenville is home to many unique restaurants (as you may know from reading our Around Greenville series), but for this installment of the BJUtoday tour of local eateries, we’re focusing on restaurants recommended by BJU’s modern language faculty for their cultural authenticity.

Chinese: The Orient and Yellow Ginger

The Orient

Chinese language faculty member Dr. Ying Leach recommends The Orient for authentic Chinese cuisine. The Orient strives to recreate both the flavors of Chinese dining and the traditional social environment of eating a Chinese meal. Owner Cheng Hai Yap has structured The Orient’s menu to best reflect Chinese fine dining, including Cantonese and Malaysian dishes. The restaurant environment is designed to accommodate a variety of dining party sizes, with long tables among the more intimate tables for two. Their menu also assumes some guests may want to try several different flavors, with some items designed for small plates and sharing with your dining companions.

In an interview with the Greenville News, Yap cites Greenville’s growing population of students from China as inspiration for making The Orient create an authentic Chinese dining experience.

The Orient is on Main Street in downtown Greenville, adding to the multicultural tapestry of Main Street dining. It is open from 11 a.m.–12 a.m. Monday to Thursday, from 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Friday to Saturday, and from 12 p.m.–12 a.m. on Sunday.

Yellow Ginger Asian Kitchen


Leach also recommends Yellow Ginger Asian Kitchen as another Greenville restaurant that correctly creates the flavors of Southeast Asia. Chef Alex Wong built Yellow Ginger to serve dishes that originated in “the regions of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and more, bringing it all to one exceptional menu” according to the restaurant website. Yellow Ginger’s menu items include pepper icons indicating each dish’s level of spiciness (there are 5 levels!).

BJU’s student newspaper The Collegian reviewed the restaurant and mentioned that two guest favorites from the menu are “the Pad Thai and the Mee Goreng, a steamy assortment of stir-fried lo mein noodles, tofu, bean sprouts, green onion and a fried egg.”

Yellow Ginger is closed Mondays and Tuesdays but is open from 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 4:30–9 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 4–9 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 12–3 p.m. and 4–9 p.m. on Sundays.

French: Passerelle Bistro


Dr. Jeremy Patterson, French language faculty and chair of the Division of World Languages and Cultures, vouches for the authenticity of the French cuisine at Passerelle Bistro. Passerelle Bistro brings the delicate flavors of French cuisine to a Southern American kitchen while staying true to the culinary traditions of both. Owners and chefs Jenifer and Michael Minelli are passionate about creating delicious meals and a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere for their restaurant guests.

Passerelle used to be part of Greenville’s Table 301 restaurant group before Michael bought the bistro after working there for several years as an employee. In an interview with the Upstate Business Journal, the Minellis said that they have transformed Passerelle into “the kind of old-school family eatery that Minelli always hoped his first restaurant would be.”

Passerelle’s lunch hours are 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Monday–Friday; dinner hours are 5–8 p.m. Sunday–Thursday and 5–9 p.m. Friday–Saturday; and brunch hours are 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

German: Schwaben House


German language faculty Brenda Hansen recommends Schwaben House. Schwaben House prides itself on serving Greenville authentic German meals that transcend the stereotypes surrounding German food. Named after the Swabia region in the south of Germany, this restaurant features dishes from this area, both traditional and modern.

German food has a reputation for being heavy, carb- and meat-centric, but owner Annette Heilmann-Ferro has created a menu that shows the wide variety of flavors and possibilities of German food. Chef Robert Haertel is originally from the city of Brandenburg in Germany and brings years of professional kitchen experience to Schwaben House’s authentic cuisine. Many of their dishes feature Spätzle, a German egg noodle, and expertly prepared pork loin.

Schwaben House is open for dinner from 5–9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Japanese: Menkoi Noodle House

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Patterson, who grew up in Japan, also recommends the Menkoi Noodle House for authentic Japanese food. Menkoi Noodle House is one of several culinary ventures owned and operated by Kazuhiro Sato, a chef adept in the flavors and cooking techniques from multiple countries but with a deep love of the food from his homeland. Sato built Menkoi Noodle House as a place where guests could experience the variety of flavors available in Japan’s favorite comfort food: noodles and meat in broth.

The word “Menkoi” combines the Japanese words for “noodle” and “love,” and the restaurant lives up to its name by serving three varieties of authentic Japanese noodles: ramen, udon and soba. College students everywhere are familiar with store-bought ramen, prized for its cheapness and caloric value, but Sato wants his guests to taste the real deal. Choose from one of their pre-built bowls or build your own, selecting the broth, meat and noodle options yourself.

Menkoi is open every day from 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and from 5–9:30 p.m.

Mexican: Samantha’s Restaurant and La Esperanza Taco Truck

Samantha’s Restaurant

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Dr. Miriam Patterson of the Spanish language faculty recommends Samantha’s Restaurant and the La Esperanza taco truck. Samantha’s serves authentic Mexican fast food, specializing in tacos and tortas (sandwiches). Steering away from the usual offerings from Americanized Tex-Mex restaurants in Greenville, this eatery focuses on providing an authentic experience with its authentic menu. Enjoy a wide variety of tortas, tacos, quesadillas, chilaquiles (fried corn chips cooked in salsa and covered in cheese) and imported Mexican sodas like Jarritos.

Samantha’s is open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

La Esperanza Taco Truck

BJUtoday has already done a write-up on taco stands and restaurants around town that offer creative menus and delicious flavors. But the Pattersons assure us that if it’s authentic flavors you’re after, try La Esperanza taco truck parked at Supermercado y Panadería (supermarket and bakery) La Esperanza on N. Pleasantburg Drive behind BJU. The taco truck is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Catch up on the rest of our Around Greenville series to see more of what our city and the area around it has to offer.