best places for lunch in | Columbia Richland South Carolina 29203

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.
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.
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!
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!

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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
I’m usually skeptical when I go out for Italian food in places south of NYC, but I was pleasantly surprised! We will add this spot to our list of restaurants when we come back to Columbia for next year’s Masters.
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.
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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.
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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.
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!
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.
Variety of meat was great; roasted to our desire (medium rare) flavorful and well seasoned. Nice salad bar, and good selection of accompaniments (savory mushrooms, onions, gravy) potatoes, rice, greens with the meat. Much more than we could eat! Have eaten at several other Brazilian-style restaurants in Chicago, Houston, Dallas & Las Vegas- while Cowboy was not quite up to their level in ambiance and service, it tasted good and was priced reasonably. We will return for another special occasion.
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.

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