Edible Dives: Dave’s of Berea
A Greenville newcomer finds a piece of home inside this local diner.
It’s my fourth day in Greenville and I’m downtown at rush hour, the winter sun setting to my right. I’m trying to familiarize myself with my new city: looking for the fastest way to get to my new job, the closest gas stations and coffee shops, the diners and dives that make up its soul. But as I drive, I’m overwhelmed by the buildings and lights and people. I’m lost, and a twinge of loneliness in my stomach lets me know I’m out of place.
I start looking for something different, something that feels a little more like home.
My search brings me to the aggressive dullness of the suburbs. Strip malls and abandoned storefronts are the only breaks in the pavement. I see a sign for Dave’s of Berea, and an inflatable Santa Claus stands at the door beckoning me inside. It is a funny reminder of the Santa Claus my parents put in our yard when I was a child, and I feel a little ache of nostalgia.
Inside Dave’s, the smell of fried chicken warms and settles me. I grab a tray and look for a menu, then realize I don’t need one; I already know the choices. A meat, fried chicken or pork chops, and three sides. I get what I always get, the same thing I’ve eaten every Christmas evening at my Grandmother’s in Six Mile, South Carolina for as long as I can remember: macaroni, green beans, and banana pudding.
“Tea?” the server asks me. If there are other choices, I’m not interested. My plate is full, and for less than seven dollars I know I’m about to have a meal that will take me back to Christmas nights at my Maw Maw’s surrounded by the people I love.
And it works. The fried chicken is juicy, the white meat thick with flavor. The macaroni is perfectly crisped. The green beans are tender, and I eat them three and four at a time. Banana pudding is the perfect finish to a salty meal.
The atmosphere is exactly what I need. The decor is old and plentiful, with clocks and bistro signs hanging from the walls. Everyone who checks out knows to pay with cash, and conversations in line pour over to the tables around me. Elderly couples eat next to families with young children, and a group of men play cards at a table near the door. I finish my pudding and soak in the hum of conversation. I get back in line for another cup of pudding and, when I tell the server it’s for my wife, she lets me take it for free.
I stand outside next to Santa Claus, and though I cannot see the city, I feel its spectre looming in front of me, its growth, and my contribution to it, an ever-expanding threat to local diners like Dave’s.
I look back through the window and the server waves a friendly goodbye. And for now, the loneliness has subsided. I’m ready to head back into the city.
701 Sulphur Springs Road