Wade’s Restaurant in Spartanburg is a James Beard America’s Classics Award winner

Serving meat-and-threes for 77 years, this Upstate institution was recognized for its “timeless appeal.”

A black-and-white photo of a building with "Wade's Restaurant" across the side and an old-fashioned car parked in front.

Wade’s through the years. | Photo via Wade’s Restaurant

Wade’s Restaurant, which first opened in 1947, is one of just six restaurants named a 2024 James Beard America’s Classics Winner.

The Spartanburg institution joins restaurants from New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Philadelphia on the prestigious list.

“When you think of a James Beard award, you think of restaurants that are really high-profile,” owner Wade “Hamp” Lindsey Jr. says. “There’s nothing really fancy about us. I guess you just don’t expect it’s going to happen to a small hometown restaurant. I just always pictured it as being someone else other than us.”

Why Wade’s won

To win this prestigious food award, restaurants must be 10+ years old and “locally and independently owned” with “timeless appeal” + must be “beloved in its region for food that reflects the character and cultural traditions of its community.”

Wade’s checks all those boxes. Open for 77 years, this family-run meat-and-three restaurant uses family recipes, and according to The Beard Foundation 2,500 guests visit daily and eat:

  • 3,500 scratch-made yeast rolls
  • 750 turkey plates
  • 1,500+ orders of mac and cheese

An institution

Founded by Wade and Betty Lindsey on March 6, 1947, the business started as a market with a small lunch counter serving hot dogs, sandwiches, and soup to the workers from Draper Corporation and Duke Power. The restaurant evolved with the times, and in the 1950s, Wade’s was a drive-in and had “curb hops.” However, the food served today is the same Southern home cooking as 77 years ago.

“I think what makes us so timeless is timeless food,” Hamp explained. “We don’t chase a trend. We just do the same thing over and over and it’s consistent. I tell our staff ‘excellence is so easy it’s hard,’ and consistency doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of training.”

When Betty Lindsey died in 1970, Wade Sr. was ready to retire. In 1977, Hamp took over from “Pop,” and now he’s passing the business on to his children — his son Wade III and his daughter Anna.

While it is a small family business, the Lindsey family knows this wouldn’t be possible without their staff, which is currently 130 strong.

“Everybody that has ever worked for us is a part of this,” he expressed. “They’re the ones that make a difference. They’re the ones making it happen. We’re thankful for everyone who has been a part of the success through the years.”

Congratulations to an Upstate institution on this high culinary honor. We’ll be celebrating with turkey, dressing, and sweet potato souffle. Oh, and of course pecan pie, too.

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