The college town of Columbia is full of character, historical buildings, wide avenues and museums. Its culinary tradition is built on local BBQ, burger joints and comforting Southern cuisine, served up in innovative ways and unique settings. Get stuck in to some great food at these top South Carolina restaurants.
Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Columbia dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don’t have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Columbia Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can’t miss.
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Great ambience, our family has visited flaming grill on many occasions since moving to SC. Flaming grill had great word of mouth reviews from many of the guys on base. But let me say again “had”! Our past two visits were crap, the service sucked and the staff took FOREVER stocking the hot bar, we absolutely love the fried blue crab however the pan stayed EMPTY. we intentionally overstayed our visit just to see how the staff handled the situation especially since my husband mentioned the DRY pans more than once… OK so once it was replenished it was enough for like 5 customers SAD!!!!!! Come on Flaming grill step up your service! Why should PAYING customers have to struggle and beg for GOOD Service!!! KEEP THE FOOD STOCKED!
Yelp: 4.5 stars, 16 reviews When you’re in the mood for some creative and delicious comfort food, but really don’t feel like making the commute downtown, head to Forest Acres where you’ll find the Tombo Grille, the premium restaurant in the area. Start off with the fried Brussel sprouts. Trust me. Regardless of how you feel about the vegetable, I promise you won’t leave one behind. Then move onto any one of the varieties of intricate pizzas with a bottle of wine to wash it all down or a high gravity beer. And leave some room for the dessert menu, because chance are no matter how full you are here, you will keep eating.
(803) 788-6966Yelp: 4 stars, 41 reviews The Solstice Kitchen is the kind of place you’re looking to impress because from the décor to the menu, it works like a charm every time. The food is creative and modern with strong Southern influences, and never crosses the line into feeling too uptight. Your best bets are the spinach-walnut ravioli, the petit filet mignon (with fried green tomatoes, of course) the lobster risotto, or the goat cheese and bacon-tomato confit. You’ll also find an extensive wine menu, which helped them earn the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Regardless of what you order, it will always exceed expectations.
Our bar opens daily, M-F at 4PM and 11AM on Saturday and Sunday. Our kitchen is open until Midnight Tuesday through Saturday and until 10PM on Sunday and Monday. We offer Saturday and Sunday Brunch from 11AM til 3PM.
Yelp: 4.5 stars, 17 reviews There isn’t an appetizer to be found at Henry’s that isn’t good. From the spinach dip to the hush puppies, you’ll think you died and went to bar food heaven. But considering that Henry’s sells tapas plates, it would be more notable to mention the things on the menu which aren’t good. So far, that list is zero lines long. But definitely don’t leave without ordering one of the burgers, as they’re among the best in town. Try to order something new every once in a while, though, because once you start eating here, the burgers are going to be a hard habit to break. And ordering a bacon double-cheeseburger for breakfast just doesn’t seem logical – even by my standards.
Upscale and stylish, with exposed brick and a warm color palette, Terra has developed a following among local foodies who appreciate the cooking and the setting. Chef Mike Davis takes a seasonal approach to New Southern cooking, creating notable… Read More
Russo’s New York Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant. Based in Houston, we’re led by Chef Anthony Russo, a seasoned Italian chef whose family recipes comprise the foundation of each of the menus. We serve authentic New York Pizza and fresh homemade pasta. We are passionate about bringing delicious food to communities across the world, Chef Anthony’s motto is, “if it’s not fresh, don’t serve it.” We have an impressive gluten-free menu including great gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes. We’re active in our local communities and we support gluten-free and healthy causes. Come eat at our table!
Despite recently celebrating its 20th birthday, Blue Cactus Café isn’t that well known. In fact, it’s quite hard to find or stumble upon, being tucked away on the edge of Five Points without a sign outside. But those in the know keep returning for its unique, and affordable Korean Tex Mex-style home cooking, and cherish it for its quirks. The café describes itself as ‘arrogantly slow’, and even takes pride in its ‘intentionally curt’ service. The mish-mash decoration is also nothing to write home about. But all this is part of its charm, and the food, cooked and served by Julie, Mary and Lloyd, is certainly worth the wait. Expect generously portioned Korean staples such as spicy bibimbap and bulgogi, served alongside regional comfort food.
Don’t you hate dragging yourself out of bed to start the day only to find that there are none of your preferred bagels left? Well, since there are so many cinnamon raisin bagels haters out there, they are always going to be available for you to eat and enjoy. So hop on the bandwagon and never have a disappointing breakfast ordering experience again!
Check out The Gourmet Shop for a traditional yet unique cafe style meal. You’ve got to try their famous chicken salad croissant and their big mug of cappuccino; in no particular order. Check out the one-of-a-kind retail shop on your way out. It’s like Cracker Barrel, only better!
Take a stroll down the cobble stone streets in the Vista and make sure you stop at this restaurant, which happens to be ranked one of the best seafood restaurants in SC! Grab lunch or dinner at Blue Martin to experience a blend of African, West Indian, and Caribbean flavors. You have to get the Shrimp & Grits!
Blue Marlin is the first ocean-to-plate sustainable restaurant in Columbia, and is a must-try for seafood lovers. Situated in a former train station in the heart of the Vista, Blue Marlin takes its historical roots seriously; its cooking is inspired by the flavours of Cajun, Creole and Low Country cuisine, which in turn has influences from the African, West Indian and Caribbean traditions brought over by the slaves who worked on the plantations. These include their award-winning signature dish, Blue Marlin shrimp and grits, served with Andouille sausage and gravy. Other highlights include oyster and shrimp skillet Bienville, and salmon Pontchartrain, served with blackened shrimp, scallops, mornay sauce and grits cakes. This is the true flavour of the South.
According to Livestrong.com, these bagels provide carbohydrates and fiber to give you energy and aid in digestion, selenium, and iron that support our immune system and other vital functions, and B-complex vitamins that keep our skin looking fresh and clean.
Yelp: 4 stars, 129 reviews Beer lovers could make the Flying Saucer their own little micro-community and probably never need to leave its comforts ever again. This super-friendly, come-as-you-are gastropub puts a modern twist on standard bar fare. Try the nachos tapas to see for yourself just how big of a punch a smaller portion can make here. The European influences here won’t go unnoticed. From the food to the décor, it’s the main theme here at Flying Saucer. Brats, goat cheeses, soft pretzels, and loaded frites are just some of the options you’ll be anxious to dive into, along with a smorgasbord of imported beers.
High quality Food: the lobster and the filet were delicious and perfectly cooked and showed in the dishes. The waiters were kind and professional and so welcoming. Great atmosphere, ideal for a special occasion! – Barbara C. (Facebook)
Private Dining & Parties At Ruth’s Chris Steak House, we make event planning easy for our customers. Find information on the variety of elegant private dining options at our Columbia restaurant here. Read
Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar is ideal for a business dinner or a date – when you want to impress, this is a fantastic choice. The menu has a little something for everyone, with starters, small plates, and full-size main courses. Standouts… Read More
Southern cooking has a few trademark dishes, and Mr. Friendly’s, under the same ownership as Solstice and Gervais & Vine, excels with a more upscale, occasionally innovative version of the classics. Crab cakes are pecan-crusted and served… Read More
Yelp: 4.5 stars, 125 reviews Come to RealMexico when you’re in the mood for authentic Meixcan cuisine. In other words, there’s no Tex-Mex or California-Mex to be found here, which provides a good break to all the hybrids out there. When you sit down at RealMexico, you’ll immediately be greeted with fresh chips and salsa and your experience only goes up from there. Slow-cooked meats stuffed into what will become tacos, tamales, burritos, and enchiladas, with five different sauces to choose from along with a variety of cheese is what you’ll find on the menu here. One bite into your meal and you’ll definitely be able to taste the difference in authenticity. You’ll also get to choose from an array of flavored margaritas or a few different artisan tequilas, to make your meal fit the true experience.
YP – The Real Yellow PagesSM – helps you find the right local businesses to meet your specific needs. Search results are sorted by a combination of factors to give you a set of choices in response to your search criteria. These factors are similar to those you might use to determine which business to select from a local Yellow Pages directory, including proximity to where you are searching, expertise in the specific services or products you need, and comprehensive business information to help evaluate a business’s suitability for you. “Preferred” listings, or those with featured website buttons, indicate YP advertisers who directly provide information about their businesses to help consumers make more informed buying decisions. YP advertisers receive higher placement in the default ordering of search results and may appear in sponsored listings on the top, side, or bottom of the search results page.
I’ve been to this location several times and have always enjoyed myself. The staff is very knowledgeable and always makes great suggestions for dinner. My most recent server paired fantastic wines with our dinner. He was very attentive and funny. – Lisa S. (Yelp)
Time counts at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. Since our humble beginnings back in 1978, we’ve continued to refine our brewhouse experience to make BJ’s a place where you can make the most of any meal. We want BJ’s to be a place where the moment you leave is the moment you plan on coming back. We pride ourselves in our craft and attention to detail. Our guests come here for our award-winning handcrafted beer. They come here for the Southern California twist we’ve put on the Chicago-style deep dish pizza. And they come here for our Pizookies®, our world-renowned dessert. But above all we know people come here to make their good times better. So in many ways we haven’t just crafted a brand, but a mindset. And our guests are the reason for this. And it’s because of them we’re continually striving to make sure every moment they choose to spend with us counts. Welcome to BJ’s, a restaurant with a Brewhouse soul.
Housed in a carefully renovated historic VFW officers club, augmented with an 1800s mahogany bar and a gorgeous 1915 Schomacker grand piano, Saluda’s is elegant and sophisticated. The chefs focus on Southern and Continental dishes, frequently tweaking favorites for a more modern presentation. Try oysters Rockefeller bruschetta, fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction, seared scallops with tomato-saffron sauce and white truffle risotto, or blackened chicken with SC peach and honey marmalade. Perfect for a swanky Sunday brunch, too.
“>Columbia, which isn’t really that hard to do since when it comes to students, pizza might as well be the holy grail. Although it’s not exactly thin crust, it’s as close to a NY-style crust you’ll find in Columbia, nice and crisp, with just the perfect amount of sauce to cheese ratio on top. Dano’s delivers, too, for those nights when pajamas and Netflix sounds more appealing than dressing up and dining out. Feature Image Source: Motor Supply Facebook What’s your go-to for grub in Columbia? Tell us in the comments below!
The quirky and characterful Motor Supply Company Bistro is the epitome of Columbia’s slow food, farm-to-table movement. Since 1989, when it opened in a renovated 1800s engine supply building, Motor Supply Co. has been at the heart of the historic Congaree Vista scene. It serves the most innovative and eclectic food using the freshest of ingredients and, in keeping with this spirit, the menu changes twice a day. Expect delicious creations such as molasses-brined pork porterhouse over Creole creamed corn, topped with local peach jam, and spicy marinated white shrimp in coconut and red curry clam broth, with kimchi.
Upscale and stylish, with exposed brick and a warm color palette, Terra has developed a following among local foodies who appreciate the cooking and the setting. Chef Mike Davis takes a seasonal approach to New Southern cooking, creating notable dishes such as roasted South Carolina quail stuffed with apple and foie gras, crawfish orecchiette, shrimp remoulade, seared scallops with succotash, BBQ lamb-stuffed mac and cheese gratin, plus a handful of gorgeous and unusual little wood-fired pizzas. Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
The signature Ruth’s Chris sizzle is in full evidence at this respected chain’s Columbia outpost. Notable for prime steaks, upscale decor, elegant but relaxed ambience, first-rate service, and an impressive wine list, the restaurant is ideal for… Read More
Fresh, local, and diverse. Here, the menu changes daily based off of what is fresh and seasonal. Offering a blend of contemporary American, French, Italian, and Asian cuisine, this is one place you’ll want to grab lunch or dinner ASAP.
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
For some of the freshest seafood and best atmosphere around, try Pearlz Oyster Bar. This rustic restaurant serves up a mix of shellfish and local seafood, and is part of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative. The raw bar offers a range of oyster varieties, including Low country and Gulf oysters, while the rest of the menu consists of all manner of seafood concoctions, including tuna tartar, steamed mussels and oyster sliders. Pearlz is also famed for its signature oyster shooters; Pearlz Black Pepper Vodka, oysters and cocktail sauce. It also has its own line of award-winning draft beers, the TBonz Homegrown Ales, which are the perfect accompaniment to the spicy peel-and-eat shrimp. There’s also a jazz and blues music lounge upstairs, perfect for post-dinner drinks.
Yelp: 4.5 stars, 39 reviews If you’ve searched through the deepest, darkest corner of Columbia in pursuit of the perfect sushi place and have still come up empty-handed, that’s only because you somehow skipped Inakaya Watanabe. Classy without being too upscale, Inakaya’s offers the perfect experience for some sushi, sashimi, maki, specialty rolls, bowls of noodles, or just some authentic Japanese cuisine. With the highest quality fish and an extensive menu with a variety of delicious options alongside a menu of hand-selected wines and specialty beers, Inakaya’s is the place you will continue to visit again and again whenever a fresh, Asian meal is calling your name.
The reason this is number one is that I typically end up having to ask “Do you want cream and sugar in that?” and usually the response is something rude and stuck up back like I am supposed to be a mind reader. This irritates me as there is no reason to be rude. Either tell me everything you want in your coffee OR DO NOT BE RUDE. Okay? Thanks.
Motor Supply was the first restaurant to open in the revamped Vista district – a couple of decades in the business has only strengthened its reputation as a great place for a casually upscale meal. Menus change twice daily but usually include a grilled steak or two plus dishes such as house-brined pork chops, Dijon-fried eggplant over spinach and artichoke hearts, steamed mussels, and sautéed shrimp with ham and grits. Their wine list has garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and their Sunday brunch is among the best in town.
Pawley’s made an appearance on “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!” This burger joint features specials each week. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to eat from their food truck, which was voted Best Food Truck in Columbia in 2014! Come as you are, pull a seat up next to the bar, and devour!
Saluda’s, a mainstay of Columbia’s restaurant scene, can be found in the renovated VFW Officers’ Club. The perfect spot for relaxed fine dining with a southern twist, the restaurant’s interior setting is open and elegant, with a gorgeous 1880s mahogany bar reclaimed from the Blakely Hotel in Philadelphia. Using the freshest ingredients from local South Carolina farmers and fishermen, Chef Blake Fairies uses cutting-edge techniques to put a Southern stamp on classic French and Italian cuisine. His creations include the ever-popular sweet tea pork chops, and shrimp and grits topped with Korean spices and fried green tomatoes. If possible, get a table on the balcony for a romantic meal on a summer’s evening.
From the family behind Garibaldi’s, another favorite of the Columbia dining scene, Cola’s is a culinary destination for the true foodie. Located in a restored 1930s RC Cola bottling plant, with exposed brick walls and huge windows straight out of an Edward Hooper painting, Cola’s has plenty of character. The two garage doors even open up to views of the antebellum Statehouse. The restaurant’s name refers to building’s old function, as well as the city’s endearing nickname for itself. Cola’s serves imaginative American cuisine with an Asian influence, with a focus on fresh and locally grown ingredients. Try the pulled pork BBQ egg rolls, almond crusted tilapia, and the crispy flounder, a dish originally made famous by Cola’s sister restaurants at Dining Group South.
American Cuisine featuring locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, Oak Table serves lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Walk on in and have a seat in this restaurant make of recycled wood from a 19th century log cabin. Reserve a private room or have a seat in the open dining area with a view of the kitchen.