If you are just visiting our amazing city, we welcome you to dine with us at Ruth’s Chris Steak House for a taste of what Columbia is all about—art, culture, business, friendly people, and most importantly, great food.
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: 4.5 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
I love this place. It has been some years since I have been here, as I have lived out of the area for the last 10 years, but it is still as delightful as always. Excellent food, excellent wine and excellent service. Always a pleasure.
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
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.
What started as a farmers’ market tent has now grown into a brick-and-mortar location in a relatively short amount of time, a leap made possible both by Indah’s loyal fan base as well as Columbia’s fertile food scene. Get the Thai coffee, which is a barely aerated nitro brew; it’s thickened with an aromatic sweetened condensed coconut milk that’s made by reducing coconut milk by half and adding a touch of sugar. The resulting dairy-free concoction is also spiked with cinnamon, and isn’t too sweet or too strong. It’s simply, perfectly refreshing. If you’re feeling peckish, head over to Drip Coffee in Five Points for a housemade biscuit sandwich.
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.
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.
Again, not mind readers. When I ask “hot or iced?” people aren’t usually rude or angry towards this cause hot and iced coffee both taste different. I prefer iced, while some may prefer hot. We want to make your coffee right, we do actually care that our customers are satisfied with their coffees.
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.
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.
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.
I hear a lot of people talking smack about cinnamon raisin bagels, and I do not like it one bit. Cinnamon raisin, in my opinion, is by far the best kind of bagel, and the people who hate on them are simply too unsophisticated to comprehend the exquisite flavor that is found in each bite. If you are one of these cinnamon raisin haters, I hope that the following reasons will inspire you to add a little pizazz to your morning meal.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
I know that bagels aren’t the healthiest choice of breakfast in the world, but I can sleep happy knowing that my cinnamon raisin bagels actually contain some nutritional value and can be enjoyed along with a balanced and healthy diet.
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, 40 reviews The best pizza joint award is a highly-coveted but usually highly-controversial title. Although pizza is universally loved, the crust just ends up being one of those things that rarely works as one-size-fits all. But Dano’s comes pretty close, which is how they get the crown for best pizza in columbia
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Food & Wine may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice. © 2018 Time Inc. Affluent Media Group. All rights reserved.
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.
We had a great time. My adult niece with her two girls, my great nieces, came as a surprise for them to see a princess. They could have not been more blown away when Snow White walked up to the table. She was so attentive and so interested in them. She answered all their questions. We enjoyed the food and when the chocolate fondue dessert came, the girls were in heaven. I am so glad we found out about this event and that we could come.
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: 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.
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.
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)
Barbecue is a central part of South Carolina life, and one of the best places to try it out is Little Pigs Barbecue. Serving a huge range of barbecue, ribs, brisket, pork chops, chicken wings and many more home-cooked dishes, using three different styles of barbecue marinade, the food is consistently tasty, with that unmistakable hickory smoked flavour. No wonder it is regularly cited as the best barbecue in Columbia, with a handful of awards to its name.
We know the term “craft” gets tossed around a lot, but to us it denotes the use of the highest quality ingredients, the care to make it perfectly, and the hospitality to serve it properly. We traveled all over the US to sample cocktails at some of the top bars in the country and came back with a deep appreciation for the “craft of the cocktail” and those who practice it at their establishments, from tiny dive bars to opulent places with unlimited budgets. The common themes from the best were always the same…well-balanced, thoughtful cocktails served in a timely manner and with a heightened level of care and hospitality. We could care less about ten ingredient drinks with house-made tinctures if we couldn’t get it in a timely manner or without an attitude.
“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!
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.
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.
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.
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!