The story below is an excerpt from our May/June 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
The doorway to South Carolina’s Dark Corner is a spot where the mountains ‘just sort of pop up.’
Landing in Landrum, South Carolina, I hop into the Hare & Hound and catch a crispy flounder. It’s as mouthwatering as a mountain spring – and every bit as tasty as the scenery of some stone-faced peaks on the outskirts of town.
Settled as early as 1760, little Landrum took its name after the Rev. John Landrum gave land to establish a railroad depot in 1877. Today, this small city is part of Spartanburg County, sitting just below the North Carolina border – with a population of less than 2,500.
“It’s a really bustling, little town,” says 28-year-old Sarah McClure, the operator of Landrum’s Southside Smokehouse. “There are art things and music things happening now, and the library puts on all these events.”
Southside Smokehouse began as a venture by McClure’s parents. She started helping while in high school. Later, McClure went out of town and earned an art degree. Yet, all the while, she worked in restaurants.
Now, she’s back in Landrum and loving it. McClure also uses her artistic eye when designing pretty plates of smoked chicken, pulled pork and catfish tacos.
“That is one of my favorite parts: putting out real pretty-looking food,” she says.
McClure must naturally draw inspiration from the rolling landscape of Landrum and the nearby mountains. “We’re right below them, so we get a better view of our mountains,” McClure says. “The mountains just sort of pop up.”
So do horses.
“We have a plethora of horse activity,” says Stone Soup Restaurant owner Suzanne Strickland. “This area has a huge equestrian history, too, which is why I love this area so much.”
Strickland moved to Landrum in 1999 and opened Stone Soup Restaurant about a decade ago. Today, at 54, Strickland says, “It’s very important to live in an area that enlarges my soul and makes me feel good.”
Stone Soup serves such colorful cuisine as salads and locally-raised trout topped with toasted almonds and lemon brown butter.
About a mile away, the Hare & Hound offers pub fare – including fish and chips, sandwiches and steak. “Our menu is diverse for a reason,” says the owner, Patty Otto. “You can find something on our menu whether you’re a vegetarian or whether you’re a meat-eater.”
Otto’s century-old building has been the home of the Hare & Hound for 20 years. In a previous life, this was a general store in Landrum – and one known “for selling a lot of sugar,” Otto says with a smile. “The old mercantile supplied sugar for the moonshine makers.”
Landrum remains a doorway to the “Dark Corner” of South Carolina – a montage of mountains where moonshine-making links legends.
You’ll also find an array of antique stores in downtown Landrum plus “charming gift shops and little boutique-y stores,” says Mary Wolters, the operator of the Red Horse Inn, located near Landrum.
For a couple of nights, I stay at the East Room of the Red Horse Inn, slumbering on a king-size bed. Each morning, too, I awake to find my refrigerator re-stocked with juice and fruit for a do-it-yourself, eat-when-you-want breakfast.
Taking off, I spend an afternoon following S.C. 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway. Heading west of Landrum, this road takes me to state parks called Table Rock and Caesar’s Head. I pass waterfalls and hiking trails. And I discover that my love for this road is very much shared.
“It’s scenic, and it’s an easy drive,” Otto says. “And if you take the time to read a little history of the area that makes it more fun."