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.
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.
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.
“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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both locals and visitors alike love Columbia for its friendly, small-town feel in a big city. And if there’s one thing that unites the city, it’s a passion for great food. That’s where Ruth’s Chris comes in. We are proud to be one to top restaurants in Columbia, especially one of the top steakhouses. We provide our customers with the classic American steakhouse experience in a sophisticated setting. At our Columbia restaurant, no request is too great or too small – we strive to make our guests feel comfortable and to serve them a meal exactly to their liking.
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!
(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.
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If you don’t see something on the list that strikes your fancy, just let your bartender know what you’re in the mood for. They may ask you a couple questions to narrow it down, but they’ll most likely be able to craft a cocktail to your liking without any problem.
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)
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It’s not just watermelons that have heirloom ancestors; there are also grits, peanuts, squash and a pantry of everyday ingredients that past generations knew as radically different items. And we can’t begin to understand what true Southern food is—its antebellum identity—without cooking with these very same ingredients, and that’s what chefs are doing in Columbia. “Lots of varieties have been lost and we can’t get them back,” says Todd Woods, executive chef at The Oak Table in Columbia. The seeds are gone forever: no one saved them. But Dr. David Shields is helping to prevent this from further occurring. He’s a professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and he’s garnered attention for working with Sean Brock and other chefs to connect them to this heirloom produce.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Just like pineapple on pizza or chicken and waffles, contrasting and unconventional food combinations often provide some of the greatest food experiences. Cinnamon and raisins may not sound like the best flavors to make a bagel out of, but the end product is a sweet, yet grainy combination that makes my mouth happy.
Yelp: 4.5 stars, 64 reviews Head to the heart of Five Points where you’ll find Saluda’s, an elegant dining experience that consistently aims to provide unparalleled food and service. You’ll find an 1800s mahogany bar and a 1915 grand piano to perfectly accompany the crisp lines and white table cloths. Arguably the best shrimp and grits in town, and hands down the best sweet tea pork chops you’ll ever bite into anywhere, Saluda’s menu will have you on the edge of your seat as you venture through one delectable course after another. And definitely don’t miss out on the swankiest Sunday brunch in town.
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.
Whether you’re looking for tried and true Southern comfort food or fresh and contemporary dining, we do it well in Columbia. And you really can’t beat our affordable prices, hometown pride, and good old-fashioned kindness.
We love food! We especially love the incredible flavors that come out of the Cajun and Creole traditions of Louisiana and Mississippi. From the rustic, hearty dishes of Acadian descent, to the refined Creole recipes that find their roots in classic French cooking, and everything in between, we attempt to bring that spirit to every dish we create.