Summa Joe's on UrbanspoonSimply put, this is the best restaurant in Anderson, South Carolina.

Now, at the risk of being negative toward my hometown market, I realize that this may not be any more complimentary than calling someone the “most humanitarian serial killer” or an “environmentalist whaler”.  However, Summa Joe’s stands on its own as a top-notch restaurant regardless of the market they find themselves in. With a commitment to their tagline of “Simple. Local. Fresh.”, Summa Joe’s presents quality recipes with as many ingredients as possible coming from local producers. 

Joe and Summer Fredette opened their restaurant on Main St. in Downtown Anderson in 2009 as a tapas style restaurant. Now, to be perfectly honest about our surroundings, Anderson, SC is a “meat and three” kind of town. Therefore, too much of the dining public failed to appreciate Joe’s delicacies such as the Horseradish Beef Crustinis or Coastal Shrimp Cakes as conventional entrees.  Joe and his wife quickly discovered that there is more to a successful restaurant than just outstanding quality and service.

Summa Joe’s expanded their menu to include sandwiches, pizza, and a selection of pasta dishes that rivals any Italian restaurant in the Upstate and now you will be hard-pressed to find a table available on any given Friday or Saturday night. Their revised menu maintains the quality of food that has existed since Day One but that is not all Summa Joe’s has going for it.  Friendly service, live music, and great dinner and drink specials make Summa Joe’s perfect for anything from lunch to date night to dinner with the family. 

My wife and I started to going to Summa Joe’s when they opened. Back then, things were slow enough to walk in and sit at the counter separating the restaurant and the kitchen. I think we ordered six different dishes while we talked to Joe about his restaurant and came back two nights later to order six more. That is when we realized that Summa Joe’s is not just about great food, but great people as well.  We became not just fans of the restaurant but friends with the owners and waitstaff as well.

With the diversity of the menu, we can actually eat at Summa Joe’s two to three times a week (and at times, more than that) and not have our meals get repetitive. Sometimes we just do a “snack night” that revolves around Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Roasted Lamb Lollipops, and Beef Carpaccio appetizers; There is no overlap the next night when we split a Beatle’s White pizza or soup and sandwich combo (the Chicken Cordon Bleu sub might actually be the best sandwich I have ever eaten that was not purchased in New York City).  For the kids, the chicken fingers are on a level that the average 6-year-old cannot even begin to appreciate, but my son actually goes for the “grill cheese on fancy bread” which is his understanding of a croissant.

If you like great food, try eating at Summa Joe’s. If you like great, friendly service, try it a little later in the evening when it might slow down enough to hang out and drink a beer with Joe. Also, check out live music on Thursday or Friday nights. It is usually something laid back and acoustic, and the setting is the perfect venue for anything “folky”. The true gem of the week, though, is the occasional Tuesday night’s Beer Bingo with Jay Hastings.

Jay is an ex-standup comic/college student/Summa Joe’s waiter/host of Beer Bingo. There are really not any fancy rules to Beer Bingo – just plan on playing bingo, but instead of a whole bunch of old ladies with blotters, there is a great selection of quality microbrews and imported beers, combined with a whole lot of self-deprecating humor from Mr. Hastings. 

My wife and I have been telling anybody that will listen about Summa Joe’s since they opened, as I am sure any past patron of the restaurant must be likely to do. The restaurant’s success has come at a cost to us, though – we no longer get to sit at the counter since they need that space as a serving area now. Also, there are nights when we have go grab a drink down the street while we wait for a table to become available. The difference between Summa Joe’s and the other restaurants in town serving at maximum capacity, however, is that Joe’s truly deserves it.