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Students Experience 'Exit Ramps and Cheese Grits'

Monday, February 04, 2002

Wofford juniors Jeremy Bishop, Jeff Goree and Richard Webb rode I-26 and highways off the interstate in search of "hole in the wall" cuisine for Interim 2002. Their project culminated in the publication of a book, "Exit Ramps and Cheese Grits." Book signings are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. in the Olin Building lobby and Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m. at The Bookshelf in Tryon, N.C.

By Jen Gilstrap '03

SPARTANBURG, SC—Ever had a craving for pickled pig lips? What about an M&M sandwich (abbreviation for “’mater and mayonnaise”)? If so, Jeremy Bishop, Jeff Goree and Richard Webb, all Wofford juniors, can guide you to your favorite tasty treat.

These students experienced culture available to any Carolinian through their Interim project, “Exit Ramps and Cheese Grits: Hole in the Wall Adventures in the Carolinas.”

The students visited 28 restaurants during the “tasting” portion of their Interim and have published a restaurant guide that includes a picture, menu selection, brief history, and description of the ambiance of every eatery visited.

“It is an attempt to get people off I-26 and have a ‘hole in the wall’ adventure of their own,” Goree says. “To get off the highway is the best part of the road trip.”

All of the restaurants are located near I-26 between Columbia, S.C., and Asheville, N.C.

At each establishment, the students sampled the dish for which the restaurant is most known. The food selections ranged from grandma’s home-style cooking to the typical “greasy spoon,” and even included a few barbecue places. “We just pulled into the local gas station and asked where they ate,” Webb says. This ensured they would find the best local “hole in the wall.”

Where to find pickled pig lips, assuming you wanted to? Crossroads Grocery in Clinton, SC, serves this most famous and most interesting dish. The lips are presented complete with a razor, for trimming the hair left on the lips. Webb was the lucky taste-tester, not to mention barber, of this exclusive dish. “They were interesting,” he remarks.

Not only did the group encounter unique cuisine, but found unique personalities as well. At Crossroads Grocery, they walked in sporting their Wofford T-shirts. “It was like city boys coming into a country place,” Webb says. “Those ladies knew we weren’t from those parts. They were taking pictures of us.”

Another character was Joan, who instructed that it is pronounced “Joe-ann.” She works at Prince’s Grocery in Cross Keys, S.C., a country store whose advertisement outside reads, “Hotdogs and Live Bait.” The menu includes not only hot dogs, but bologna sandwiches as well. During hunting season, breakfast and lunch are served. Joan told the group she attends the area’s Tabernacle Methodist Church, the home church of Wofford College founder Benjamin Wofford and his family.

Another site full of history is Spartanburg’s Woodward’s, “one of the first African-American owned restaurants in the city,” Goree points out.

Southern history is still prevalent at Holme’s Hot Dogs in Spartanburg, too. “they still have stand-up tables introduced before racial desegregation,” Goree says.

Of course, each student found his own favorite dining establishment. Goree enjoyed the Calico Junction, the home of the M&M sandwich, in Woodruff, S.C. Bishop and Webb agreed on a Prosperity, S.C., restaurant called Perry’s Back Porch. “Their salad dressing is actually homemade.” Webb also liked the cobblers and red velvet cake.

The group completed the visiting part of the Interim by rising early and hitting as many restaurants as possible in one day. “We would arrive before the lunch rush to interview the owners because that way we could find out the establishment’s history,” Bishop says. “Our plan was to sample, but when we got in there and explained what we were doing, they really shoved the food at us. We ended up eating ourselves sick.”

The Interim project idea originally came to Webb at an orientation meeting during his freshman year. Goree became involved and the two were anxious to propose it, but, Webb says, “We weren’t sure it would work.”

Bishop later became involved and excited about the project. They found Professor John Lane and Dr. Lee Hagglund had been interested in the concept for quite some time. Hagglund became their sponsor and led the students in editing their guide. “Dr. Hagglund was really instrumental in making it work,” Webb says.

The guide, “Exit Ramps and Cheese Grits,” is hot off the presses. The first printing will be of 200 books, which will be sold at the Wofford College bookstore for $7.95 each; they also are available from the students.

Goree, Bishop and Webb have scheduled two book signings—Friday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. in the Olin Building Lobby, and Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m. at Goree’s mother’s bookstore, The Bookshelf, in Tryon, N.C.

Through unique foods, personalities and histories, Bishop, Goree and Web experienced the true “hole in the wall” Carolinian culture. For this type of dining establishments in the Spartanburg area, visit Woodward’s, Ike’s Korner Grille, Holmes’ Hot Dogs or Rachel’s Pauline Café. Refer to the experiences recorded in “Exit Ramps and Cheese Grits” as a complete guide to exclusive lunchtime tastes of the Carolinas.

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Jen Gilstrap ’03 (Pickens, SC) is majoring in business economics and English at Wofford College.