2006: da Vinci's Restaurant, 215 Highland, Williamstown, WV (near Parkersburg) Ph.: 304-375-3633 A real find! This authentic Italian dining is available a few miles off I-77. Prices are very reasonable. On occasion, a soloist may serenade you at your table. Based upon two times dining there Service 7.5/10 Food 8.5/10
Travinia Italian Kitchen, 101 Sparkleberry Crossing Rd., Columbia, SC (803-419-9313). While I do not usually recommend chain restaurants, this one is an exception. Besides, it is a small chain, currently five restaurants in the South Carolina and Georgia area. This restaurant was my BIGGEST dining discovery on the trip. From service, to food, to overall decor, it had it all. The manager, with whom I later spoke, runs a tight ship doing everything within his power to make the dining experience a pleasurable one. If you have a chance to have Mary as your server expect 10/10 in that area. From the shrimp bisque in tomato creme base to the macadamia encrusted grouper to the risotto ranked very high in the 8.5-9/ 10 ratings. The crème brulee is to die for at 10/10. Price: Moderate (These comments are based upon one dining experience. However, I will definitely visit again when in the area.) We revisited the restaurant in 2007 and continue to highly recommend it.
Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg, SC, are worth the short trip off I-26 even though the signage is sparse. What a visual and aromatic treat! To visit my web pages to see pictures of these magnificent gardens and other pictures on the way to Hilton Head, click here. Price: FREE.
2007: Another discovery took my dining breath away. Due to "no room" at the inns, we ended up traveling further than expected and ended up staying in the small North Carolina community of Mt. Airy (former home of Andy Griffith and the community which Mayberry of TV fame was modeled after). Based upon AAA and hotel recommendations, we headed to the Thailand Cafe located at 647 W. Independence Blvd. (Ph. 336-786-8480). As one diner at the table said, "This is the best oriental food I have ever tasted." In fact, on my return to the Carolinas I will definitely make the six mile trek off of I-77 to enjoy dining there again. Magnificent! The young manager, Mr. Sisoukrath, will do everything possible to make your dining experience in this family run restaurant a wonderful one. (By the way, the Hampton Inn in Mt. Airy is the "best" of that chain that I have stayed in. I talk from experience as I have overnighted in dozens of Hamptons throughout the country.)
2008: The Thailand Cafe continues to receive my recommendation. A new discovery this year is Fatz Cafe, 3575 St. Matthews Rd. (Hwy. 601 at I-26-Exit 145A) Orangeburg, South Carolina (803-534-8000). We decided to stop for lunch before visiting a favorite, Edisto Memorial Gardens, (Many of the pictures above were taken there.) located in Orangeburg. Using the recommendation from AAA book, we decided to dine at Fatz. We didn't know what to expect. But, the parking lot was full at 1 PM, a good sign. The menu offered a wide variety of food options. We were immediately impressed by the welcome and the service. Then the food began to arrive. The signature rolls were deliciousa sweet, fried treat served with sweet butter. The shrimp and chicken along with fries were seasoned perfectly. Um!! Another signature item, the peach cobbler, fixed in the most decadent way, did us in. I almost had to be carried out, I was so full. In speaking with the enthusiastic manager, Heath Neal, I discovered that Fatz is a small southeastern chain and remains privately owned. (Readers know that I seldom recommend franchised restaurants, but this is an enjoyable exception.) By the way, if you are looking for heart-healthy options, they are also on the menu.