Folks around these parts tend to ask that question, and it pays to be specific. Greenville, South Carolina has all the right elements to turn it into another hip destination in the American southeast, in the mold of cities like Asheville, Savannah, and Charleston. The city has a laid-back, tolerant attitude towards most things, but when it comes to fare it’s pretty damn serious—a homegrown food scene punches above its weight class, soon to be joined by famed restaurant Husk, who'll add Greenville to their list of locations in the coming months.
Look for an exciting food scene and you'll typically find good coffee, fueling the chefs and helping to build community. Greenville native Will Shurtz is a rising star here, as the co-owner of Methodical Coffee and the original Vagabond Barista—turns out he couldn’t stay away after years troubadouring the world.
“The specialty coffee business in Greenville, South Carolina is so young,” Shurtz tells me. “There is so much room for growth and collaboration.” And he’s right: Greenville’s discerning coffee crowd is growing fast. “There is an incredibly large group of people here diving into all of coffee’s intricacies—I would say our most common drinks to serve are pour-overs, in fact,” says Shurtz behind a gee-whizz sincere smile. The shop boasts a certain aesthetic charm that begins with Shurtz, extending out through all facets of the cafe, from staff to design to their mid-century inspired Slayer espresso machine.
Shurtz once traveled the world with just a brown suitcase (a brew bar of sorts) and some serious coffee love to spread. But coffee is no passing fancy. “Coffee is all I have ever been involved with as a career and it was absolutely on purpose,” Shurtz says. “I finished high school on a laptop at a table in the coffee bar I was working at. I had to convince the principal that I needed to finish high school that day even though I was behind and should've restarted the whole semester. I wanted to move into the coffee industry and put 100% of my focus on that.”
Today, Methodical boasts a handsome cafe in downtown Greenville, along with their own roasting and cold-brew bottling facility. Shurtz and his partners, Marco Suarez and David Baker, are keenly focused on expanding cold brew as a major facet of their operations, the popularity of cold coffee beverages being a no-brainer in hot and humid South Carolina. “We want to focus on understanding every bit of the process of this part of the industry, treating it with respect, diving into the community, and putting out coffee and cold brew that will really contribute to putting the south on the map in the coffee world,” says Shurtz. And so the plans include a few more shops in the area and then, typical to the glint-eyed Shurtz, what he calls a few “experimental ideas that we feel would push the game a little,” which he of course believes is, in fact, “good for everyone.”
Back on the cafe side there's a curious wrinkle: even though Methodical is serving their own roasted coffee, they are committed to being a multi-roaster shop, featuring a regular rotation of favorites including Parlor Coffee, Onyx Coffee Lab, Steadfast Coffee, Ceremony Coffee Roasters, and Huckleberry Roasters. “And now we can add ourselves to that list! Dang that feels crazy,” Shurtz laughs. It's a growing trend, as more and more multi-roasters around the United States add a bit of their own roasted coffee to the daily menu. For the team at Methodical, learning about green coffee is a new challenge, and Shurtz cites access to quality green coffees from Olam Coffee, Cafe Imports, Ally Coffee, and The Collaborative Coffee Source as a major source of inspiration.
Future plans call for a broader focus on interacting with the burgeoning downtown Greenville scene. “Our coffee shop location is in the center of downtown Greenville, and it seems to have fallen in our lap,” says Shurtz. “We moved in, and in no time at all there were new parking garages, hotels, and foot traffic projects happening all around us.” And so Methodical is looking at the broader world too, including a new partnership with local beer and wine bar The Community Tap, focused on expanding Methodical's range of coffee beers and beverages. Greenville's a city on the grow, and Methodical, with its hybrid multi-roaster model and growing cold brew output, seems poised to play a prominent role in that next step.
“The South is just now starting to get momentum,” Will Shurtz tells me, with a bigger smile than usual.
Daniel Scheffler is a Sprudge staff writer at large. His work has appeared in T Magazine, Travel And Leisure, Monocle, Playboy, New York Magazine, The New York Times, and Butt. Read more Daniel Scheffler on Sprudge.