The Cazbah on UrbanspoonThe Cazbah was downtown Greenville before it was downtown Greenville.

When The Cazbah opened there was no baseball field. There was no Liberty Bridge. There was no West End. Most of what brings people to downtown Greenville today was not a figment of even the most optimistic imagination… except for Audrey Stenger’s.

Audrey opened up her tapas restaurant The Cazbah off Main Street on McBee Avenue when there was nothing else around but the bus station where the “residentially challenged” populace hung out. Ten-plus-years-ago, Greenville was only starting to become an attraction (and by attraction, I mean that a few brave entrepreneurs were pulling out all the stops to it a place people would want to come and enjoy an evening different from a visit to some national chain restaurant on Haywood Road). 

Today downtown Greenville is the place to be, whether you want to go out on a date on Friday night or spend a Sunday afternoon out with the family. Twenty years ago, it was the place to go if you needed crack or a hooker on a Wednesday afternoon... or so I am told.  The Cazbah opened up at a pivotal point in the reformation of downtown Greenville.

Truth be told, none of that matters.

Even if Audrey opened up The Cazbah yesterday, it would still be one of the best restaurants downtown Greenville has to offer.  It would still feature a great atmosphere.  It would still boast a wine list that nobody in town can compare to. It would still be owned by a woman who puts enough love and personality into her business to make anything less than total success an impossible outcome. The Cazbah would be a great restaurant at any address. 

First and foremost, the reason we go out to eat is for the quality of the food. Try a Lobster Cigar and that matter is settled once and for all. I have never eaten anything that combines such crunchy, cheesy, seafoody goodness that will guarantee you wake up the next morning wanting just one or twelve more <note: I realize “seafoody” is not a word, but I feel that it should be when followed by “goodness” and talking about lobster cigars>. Since The Cazbah is a tapas style restaurant, you will readily accept the fact that there are only two lobster cigars per order since three, five, or nine more plates  of greatness are on their way. They may be a dish as simple as “The Duck”, as appropriately titled as “The Holy S*#t Short Ribs,” or as health conscious as the “Hip Hop House Salad”. 

As the menu names suggest, there is as much personality in the atmosphere as the food deserves. Original artwork, many of which are portraits lacking dress codes, decorate the walls. The menu titles can be suggestive to say the least. The closeness of the seating encourages you to enjoy the company of your companion(s). This is not the restaurant cliché version of “romantic” dining… The Cazbah gives you sensuality and a promise that it will be the foundation for a night you will remember.

Simply put, The Cazbah is not a restaurant, it is an experience. It is a cornerstone of downtown Greenville that features phenomenal food in a seductive atmosphere that assures your visit will be a memorable one. I can name a few other places in the area that might feature one, or even two, of these characteristics but The Cazbah has the market cornered on all of them.

As I mentioned, The Cazbah would be a great restaurant no matter where it was located.  The Cazbah invites you to test this theory out for yourself.  Audrey recently opened a second location in Greer.  For those that might live a little further north, you now have the option to dine on some of the best food in the Upstate on a rooftop in a quaint, historic downtown setting. 

Better yet – after you fall in love with The Cazbah, you can take things a step further.  The Cazbah catered our wedding and it was the best investment we have ever made. Our wedding featured a beautiful bride, a groom in the coolest suit ever, and a backdrop of two of the South Carolina’s tallest mountain peaks.  However, people kept telling me one thing: “The food is amazing!” 

Despite the theft of some of our attention on our wedding day, all we could do was agree. The Cazbah rocks no matter where you are.