Bringing together some of the best chefs and restaurant fare, York County has to offer dishes like a knife and fork with Visit York County’s tourist fees. Plus, it just tastes good.
“We’ve created the perfect curated dining experience,” said Billy Dunlap, Visit York County President and CEO.
On Wednesday morning, the Dunlap team unveiled the first signature dishes of the YoCo Taste Trail. The 15 starter, main course and dessert proposals come from restaurants across the county. Participants can download or return to the Visit York County app, check in at restaurants along the trail with snaps of signature dishes, and enjoy meals.
If you try at least 12 of the 15 dishes, you earn YoCo Taste Bud status and a t-shirt.
Amy Fortes, co-owner and head of Reverse coffee and Flipside Restaurant, is a former State Ambassador Chef. His braised beef ribs made the runway.
“This is a great opportunity for us, not only for visibility, but also for repeat customers of people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to serve in our establishments,” Fortes said.
The trail also helps busy chefs with social media and marketing which are essential to what they do but can be sidelined with so many orders to fill.
“It’s such an important part of our industry right now,” Fortes said.
Gene Courtney at Courtney’s BBQ makes the list with its rack of ribs. Courtney’s attracts many customers from Charlotte, Spartanburg, Gastonia, North Carolina, and is well known in the communities of Clover and Lake Wylie.
“It made us feel good,” Courtney said after learning he did the track. “I said, are you sure about that? No, but it makes us happy. We have a very good clientele and we appreciate them.
Courtney holds the buffet line on Sundays, telling customers that if they weren’t there, he wouldn’t be either. For restaurants on the YoCo trail, exposure means more diners from more places.
“If you just moved to Fort Mill, you don’t know where half of those places are,” Dunlap said. “You certainly don’t know where the Sharon Grill is, but god damn if you’ve ever eaten there, the food is great.”
Tour York County from approximately 30 nominated dishes and choose restaurants from all parts of the county.
The YoCo Taste Trail 2020 dishes are:
▪ Burgers and Barley: Brinner Burger
▪ Courtney’s BBQ: plate of ribs
▪ Fish Market Bar & Grill: Chilean sea bass
▪ Flipside restaurant: braised beef ribs
▪ Hoof and Barrel: Chop Pork “O”
▪ Brewing Legal Remedy: Southern Poutine
▪ Lily’s Bistro: filet mignon with sea scallops and lobster tail
▪ Napa in Kingsley: Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs
▪ Papa Doc’s Shore Club: Smack Down Shrimp
▪ Sharon Grill: Fried Catfish Platter
▪ Sonny’s BBQ: Banana Pudding
▪ The lucky duck: fried chicken sandwich
▪ The Shore Club: Lobster Nachos
▪ The Pump House: Shrimp and Anson Mill Grits
▪ Z Bakery and Cafe: French Toast Stuffed with Strawberry Croissants
For Dunlap, the taste trail is playful but also strategic. He and his staff make a living selling York County to tourists. This job means attractions, hotels, venues and certainly restaurants.
“When you visit a destination, do you always want to know where is the best place to eat?” said Dunlap. “Where’s the best burger? Where’s the best steak? Where’s the best dessert?”
The beauty of the trail, he said, is that it’s not just for guests.
“We also want to introduce these dishes to the people of York County,” Dunlap said. “So it’s as much about York County residents as it is people visiting here.”
Andy Clark understands the balance between bargains and hometown flavor when it comes to the restaurant scene. Clark is zone president at US Foods, major sponsor of YoCo Taste Trail and host of Chefs and Dishes Wednesday from its Fort Mill distribution site.
“He’s our ally,” Clark said. “Here, we are greedy. We are passionate about food and are delighted to have a room full of passionate foodies here to share the experience.
The Fort Mill site is a regional hub, similar to the Charlotte airport for flights. US Foods ships 150 tractor-trailers and half a million cases of food a week, serving many restaurants in York County and several beyond. A York County taste trail, however, is special for Clark.
“York County is our home,” he said. “It’s our backyard. Our employees live here. Their kids go to school here. And they eat here, and they love to dine out.
As a regional site, US Foods attracts visitors from across the country. Like other big businesses in the region that might do the same, there’s an upside to having a strong food scene, Clark said.
“Once upon a time, there were a lot of limited options if we had to take people to dinner at the local market,” he said. “But man, we’re lucky now because we have so many great choices, such a diverse culinary landscape.”
YoCo Taste Trail comes less than two years after Visit York County and local brewers launched the YoCo Brew Trail. It’s the drink version of what the taste journey is for food. Thousands of people registered to complete the beer trail, which won a major tourist award for a new event.
“It became a big problem overnight,” Dunlap said.
Like the Brew Trail, Dunlap expects more interest in Year Two for the Taste Trail as restaurants and attendees become familiar with the concept. Dunlap thinks there could be twice as many nominations for signature dishes for the 2021 course.
“I have a feeling the taste trail will be the same,” he said, “that once we launch this and people see the marketing behind it and the exposure that ‘it will get, that the restaurants that did not participate this year, they will want to participate next year.
This story was originally published January 8, 2020 3:23 p.m.