If you know where Rock Hill, SC is, chances are certain things come to mind when you think about the city. You might think about their quickly declining mall, Winthrop University and the Come-See-Me Festival, among other things. What you probably wouldn’t think of is fine dining. However, there is a relatively new restaurant called Pump House that’ll likely change that thought process.
According to their official Facebook page, Pump House is a “brand new affordable upscale restaurant on the Catawba River between Rock Hill and Fort Mill, South Carolina.” They’re open for Lunch, Dinner, Drinks, and Sunday Brunch serving up Southern-Inspired American cuisine.
The location is quite beautiful, nestled on the bank of the Catawba River in a converted pump house (hence the name). They feature a covered, outdoor seating area which, on a more temperate day, would be quite lovely. Those kinds of days may be few and far between with the high humidity and hot summers in the South, but, as Autumn hits, sitting outside listening to the soothing flow of the river and looking at the colorful leaves that adorn the thick groves of trees on the other side of the bank would make for a fantastic backdrop for a tasty, romantic dinner.
The inside decor is nice as well. It’s casual enough that you never feel under-dressed, but more upscale than a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant. The most unique aspect of their decor is the displays of artsy artifacts from South Carolina’s rich history. And the wood and earth tones give a homey, soothing vibe.
Where Pump House really shines in creating an inviting atmosphere, though, is their service. We were greeted by smiling hostesses who immediately found our reservation and happily took us to our table, making sure it was an acceptable location. It had been raining off and on that day but they still offered to seat us outside in case we wanted to brave the weather. We chose to sit inside and our server promptly arrived to take our drink orders. What proceeded was one of the better dining experiences I’ve had in a while – especially in the upstate of South Carolina.
Corn Bread Muffins (with peach butter): Most every restaurant has their version of dinner bread, and this particular dish is a great southern twist on the classic idea of cornbread and butter. The muffins held together a little better than classic cornbread which made it easier to eat and the peach-infused butter had just the right amount of sweetness. It paired deliciously with the warm, moist muffins and made you really question whether you should keep eating or save room for your entree.
Waygu Beef Sliders (with spiced aioli, Carolina slaw and smoked gouda on brioche buns): These decadent sandwiches may be small, but they’re packed with flavor. The beef is great quality (it’s waygu, after all) and the spiced aioli had just the right amount of heat so as not to alienate those that don’t like spicy foods. The spice it does have though is cooled off by the sweetness and bite of the vinegar based slaw. Mix in the creaminess of the smoked gouda and you have a multi-layered flavor profile that makes you wish there were more than three on the platter.
Pan Seared Filet Mignon (with creamy red potatoes, hericot verts, grape tomatoes, and blackened butter): You can’t go wrong with melt-in-your-mouth filet and mashed reds. The hericot verts weren’t bad but also weren’t anything to write home about. The blackened butter sauce, though, was to die for. You could put that sauce on just about anything and it would elevate it to new culinary heights.
Hickory Nut Gap Pork Chop (with anson mills grits, swiss chard, peaches and bourbon pork jus): This bone-in pork chop was big, seared hard on the outside and perfectly juicy on the inside. It sat atop the grits which had the swiss chard and peaches mixed into them. That is a pairing I would never think of myself, but it was honestly amazing. Topping off this high end take on a southern pork chop was half a grilled peach. The perfect, smoky, sweet finish for this dish.
If you can’t already tell, Pump House delivers a winning combination of nice-casual atmosphere, stellar service, and great food prepared by talented local chefs. If you find yourself in the Rock Hill or Fort Mill area and think there aren’t any nice restaurants, think again. Head to Pump House and you won’t be disappointed.