The only thing better than the locals in Columbia, South Carolina is the local food. Ranging in cuisines from all over the world, the capital city is sure to provide you with a dining experience that will not disappoint. You will leave with a satisfying fullness in your belly and your heart! Check out a few of the best restaurants that you must try in Columbia, South Carolina!
Just like Saluda’s, Mr. Friendly’s is hidden away in Five Points, a historic area full of bars and galleries, known for its laid-back, hip vibe and popularity with the students at the nearby University of South Carolina. It was founded as a sandwich and cookie shop in the early 1980s, but since 1995, Mr. Friendly’s has operated as a café serving ‘new Southern cuisine’. Frommers even calls this award-winning eatery ‘one of the finest and most innovative restaurants in South Carolina’, with its gourmet versions of classic dishes. Try the pecan crab cakes, fried oysters, buttermilk fried chicken or the grilled filet mignon wrapped in bacon and pimento cheese. The café’s whitewashed brick walls, covered in art, serve as the backdrop for a chilled-out afternoon.
While the city has always had great access to these small scale farmers and milling companies, it has been challenged by a lack of culinary talent. Charleston, on the other hand, was home to Johnson and Wales University for over twenty years, and this provided restaurants with a competitive pool of cooking school grads who (for better or worse) were able to work in kitchens for rock-bottom rates. “This definitely helped set it up as a culinary destination,” says Wes Fulmer, executive chef at Columbia’s Motor Supply Co. Bistro. As Charleston is getting more expensive, however, there’s a trickle of talent and food connoisseurs spilling over to Columbia, which is helping to bolster its food scene and a growing constellation of standout spots.
He’s also worked with several chefs in Columbia, where he lives, to do the same. At The Oak Table, Woods crafts watermelon molasses, which Brock has also been known to feature on his menus. It’s just a bunch of watermelon flesh boiled down, no sugar or water added. Intoxicatingly, it smells like tomato and tastes almost florally sweet. There’s usually just enough for a precious drizzle over chicken liver mousse or head cheese.
Do you really want to be basic and get the same bacon, egg, and cheese on a plain or sesame bagel that everyone else gets? Cinnamon raisin bagels offer a chance for you to be unique and to maybe experiment with some new breakfast combinations that will spice up your morning and give you something to talk about with all your friends!
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
Experimenting with new sauces, rubs, and toppings every day, Southern Belly BBQ is sure to hit the spot and leave you wanting to try more unique creations. Make a pit stop here on your way to Williams Brice Stadium for some Carolina football and pick up some yum for all! Be prepared for your tailgate to be the talk of the town!
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.
On the corner of Main and Gervais Street, The Oak Table offers an dining experience with stunning views of the capitol building. An oak theme runs throughout the restaurant, which is sleek and contemporary in style. The seasonal menu is short, but makes up for it with innovation and a mixture of influences; dishes include sea scallop crudo, perfectly cooked Angus beef hangar steak, served with Japanese sweet potato puree and sauce Bordelaise, and braised rabbit ravioli. The whole deep-fried lobster, served with fine herb pommes puree and lemon beurre blanc, is also a popular mainstay. This is modern American cuisine at its best.
At first, there is little that feels South Carolinian about this bar: an Iberico ham leg behind the counter waiting to be shaved for appetizers, which complement the heavily international wine list. It’s mostly biodynamic and organic and carefully curated; a particular stand-out is the small but intentional collection of Eastern European orange wines. Still, there are Southern touches, the most striking of which is a photo of Lula Drake, the 19th-century dame for whom this bar was named. The wood paneling is cozy, and there’s a sort of antique-inspired feel to the place. It’s the perfect place to duck into on a fall day and nibble on slivers of Iberico ham, its musty funk the perfect complement to a Brut Chenin Blanc.
On Woods’s menu there are also heirloom red corn grits from Congaree Milling Company, located in Columbia: they’re sweeter and heartier than what you might think grits should be, and more toothsome. There’s Carolina Gold Rice, of course, a fluffy, slightly nutty rice that was a staple in centuries past; it’s now being made accessible by Anson Mills milling company.
We aren’t rude to you. Why be rude to us? Were trying to get you your food and drinks as fast as we can, and make sure they’re all made correctly. There is no reason to yell at us that we took more than ten seconds to make your coffee.
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!
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!
“All RAW all the TIME!” – Good Life Cafe. All menu items consist of unprocessed plant foods that have not been heated over 115 degrees. “Executive chef, Sharon Wright, has been preparing natural, wholesome, nutritious and delicious meals, juices and smoothies for 24 years!” -Good Life Cafe. Yummy and nutritious? You had better hurry!
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.
The staff treated us so warmly the moment we walked in, the food was exceptional and was delivered quickly. Will most DEFINITELY be visiting again when I’m in the area. Very quaint and festive spot! Loved it.
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)
Located in one of the oldest buildings on Main Street, just a few steps away from the Capitol Building, Bourbon is a whiskey bar and Cajun-Creole restaurant from veteran chef/restaurateur, Kristian Niemi. Housed in the historic Brennen Building (1870), Bourbon captures the warm, rustic feel of an upscale saloon from the turn of the century with exposed plaster walls, reclaimed wood, glass chandeliers and custom wallpaper. High back booths give patrons privacy, while the communal tables encourage sharing and making new friends. The lighted bar highlights their craft cocktails and huge whiskey list, which is focused on American whiskies, bourbons and ryes. Beers and sodas on tap are exclusively local, as well as most of the ingredients in the kitchen, which focuses on Cajun-Creole cuisine with a South Carolina sensibility. Chef Frank Bradley (formerly of Magnolia’s and the Iberian Pig) and his staff stay true to the classic dishes, while adding their own creativity to the ingredients associated with “Cajun-Creole”.
So, our cocktails are simple, yet elegant. We put a great deal of care into their ingredients, whether its the choice of spirits, the squeezing of juices, the recipes for our mixers or the ice that goes in the glass. Every step is given a lot of thought and care. You see…we LOVE a good cocktail. So, we go out of our way to make sure our cocktails are good. However, we also LOVE our whiskey, so most of the time, you’ll see us with a couple ounces of it, with a bit of ice or water…but mostly not.
Bourbon is a whiskey bar and Cajun-Creole restaurant located just steps from the South Carolina State Capitol building at 1214 Main Street in the historic Brennen Building (1869). We specialize in bourbon, whiskey, craft cocktails and the flavors of the Louisiana Bayou. We currently have the largest whiskey list in SC, with everything from Angels Envy to Van Winkle, as well as Irish, Scotch, and Japanese Whiskies!
Pawleys Front Porch is a South Carolina institution, with a branch in Mount Pleasant and one on Harden Street in Columbia. This burger joint is consistently nominated for local awards for its innovative burgers. Chef Kyle Taylor conjures up some unique combos that are bursting with flavour, such as the Isle of Palms burger, with homemade pimento cheese and jalapeno bacon, and Fripp Island burger, southern salsa, boursin cheese and fried green tomato. Keep an eye out for their award-winning food truck, which parks up at the Soda City Market every Saturday.
Yelp: 4 stars, 45 reviews At the corner of Main and Gervais in downtown Columbia sits The Oak Table, a modern American restaurant that specializes in amazing food with a side of true Southern hospitality and service. The food here is cooked using only regionally-sourced ingredients, fueling a seasonally-strong menu made up of American classics. You’ll find everything from different cuts of steak to seafood, but nothing here ever feels the same as any place else. The venue is quaint and has some killer views of the Capitol, so either get here early or make reservations so you can score one of the best tables in the house.
Yelp: 4 stars, 140 reviews One of the first restaurants to help revamp the Vista district, Motor Supply has been building a great reputation and has become part of the backbone of this neighborhood since they opened their doors in 1989. The menu includes a great mix of American, French, Italian, and Asian cuisine and changes almost daily, so you know they’re not kidding when they say they’re fresh. You’ll usually be able to find a great grilled steak or house-brined pork chops, neither of which you should miss out on. The cocktails are the real highlight here, though, which is saying something. They were recently voted as having the best cocktails in town, which is instantly believable once you watch mixologist Josh do his job.
Everything about the meal was amazing, our server, Shayla. even brought us a sauce that didn’t come with our spring rolls that paired amazingly. The steak was great and the pork chop was delicious! Thank you for a great night out Shayla!
In most cases, heirloom produce—which relies on farmers saving the seeds of the best plants that year—is still largely a small-scale operation in which farmers hand-deliver vegetables to restaurants. As a result, these ingredients inform only a small part of even the most conscientious menus, but they’re an undeniable victory for Midlands cuisine, both its heritage and its future. And it’s hard to go to Columbia without hearing about it.
Yelp: 5 stars, 8 reviews Mobile bratwursts. It’s like a million people’s dreams all got simultaneously answered in one big swoop of the food truck. The main cook is a German-trained master-chef. The Brats are cooked to a perfect pop, and the sides are cooked using only local foods. If what they want to make is something that they can’t find in that particular region someday, then they decide on making something new instead of settling for sub-par ingredients. Check their Facebook account frequently to keep a running tab on where they are so that you never have to miss them when they’re nearby.
Yelp: 5 stars, 25 reviews Most people would agree that it’s pretty hard to mess up ice cream. Even the worst stuff still tastes like two scoops of childhood. Sweet Cream Co. is two scoops of heaven drizzled with unicorn sprinkles. They make handcrafted sorbets, small batch ice cream, and organic frozen custards right on-site, mixing traditional and modernly creative flavors together, offering a little something for everyone to enjoy. You can also get a scoop put between two homemade cookies for one of the most decadent sweet sandwiches you’ll ever try.
Valet parking is available to guests on a first come, first served basis. Be sure to let the valet know you are dining with us when you arrive to ensure you receive the reduced Ruth’s Chris parking rate.
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!
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.
To speak of the dining scene in Columbia, South Carolina without touching on antebellum produce or the agricultural history of the South would be deeply unfair to the city. When speaking of Southern foodways in the context of South Carolina, Charleston has received a bulk of the attention. It’s there that Sean Brock has garnered critical attention and a James Beard Award for his work at Husk. He’s not just cooking excellent Southern food with world-class technique, but he’s doing it with heirloom produce that was around since before the Civil War—which has all but disappeared. The Bradford watermelon, for example, was integral to the landscape of the antebellum South; grocery store commercial analogs are mere Platonic shadows of its flavor and size. The Bradford’s thin rind makes it prime for pickling, and it often stars in charcuterie boards. Its flesh is almost candy sweet.
A number of distinct food districts are scattered throughout the region. In Five Points, order a delicious three-course meal (for less than it takes to fill up your tank, mind you) at Cellar on Greene, or stop in for lunch at The Gourmet Shop. Order up their famous chicken salad with a glass of sweet tea. The Vista is a standout option with dozens of bars and restaurants across several blocks, from Motor Supply to Cola’s Restaurant. Lexington County also has a wide selection of delicious options. Venture just across the Gervais Street Bridge to try the acclaimed Terra in West Columbia or get dinner with a view at Liberty on the Lake in Irmo. All that said, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for gems tucked away in unexpected places, like Inayaka, an authentic Japanese restaurant and sushi bar located in a strip mall in northeast Columbia.
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.
Yelp: 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp with 125 reviews You can find a steak almost anywhere. The problem is, you can’t find a good steak just anywhere. So, when a cut of beef is up for order tonight, then you’re going to want to know where to go. And that’s the Blue Marlin. Half surf, half turf, this modestly classy restaurant serves up much more than the beef. The shrimp and grits are a favorite order, and keep your eyes out of the sesame-encrusted tuna or the salmon pontchartrain. You’ll also find fire-roasted chicken and pasta dishes here, ensuring you’ll be able to talk anyone into coming here, since there’s something for everyone.
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.
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This is more for Dunkin’. Because hash browns, in reality, take the longest for us to get ready. So please when ordering don’t ask for them at the window, please order at the speaker. We don’t mind cooking them last minute but its inconvenient for you and our time.
Providing the perfect balance between comfort food and a nutritious meal, Di Prato’s is one of the most delicious lunch/brunch spots in Columbia! Although they’ll feed you plenty, you’ll be wanting more! Take some pimento cheese to-go!
Our bar focuses on whiskey…bourbon in particular…and craft cocktails. We currently present over 350 bourbons, ryes and various American whiskeys, a couple dozen Scotch, Irish and other whiskeys, as well as a dozen absinthe bottles. Our craft cocktail list contains around twenty cocktails, mostly classic, along with a few of our own creations.
Yelp: 4 stars, 71 reviews What happens when a Tex-Mex lover marries a Korean foodie? The Blue Cactus Café, that’s what. This Tex-Mex/Korean barbecue fusion restaurant is a unique gem in Columbia’s trendy Five Points district. Spawning such creations as kimchi burritos and red bean ice cream, Blue Cactus has been offering something different, delicious, and always fun to locals since the mid-90s. The kimchi is always fresh and extra spicy, the bi bam bap is authentic, and the spicy pork is something you simply have to experience. Don’t come if you’re in a rush, though. Everything here is made to order and extra care goes into making each dish just right.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House is proud to call Columbia, the beautiful capitol city of South Carolina, home. Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Columbia is located in the heart of the city near the historic University of South Carolina, and one block from the South Carolina State House. The energetic and friendly personality of the city provides the perfect backdrop to the upscale American steak house dining experience at Ruth’s Chris.