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!
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.
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.
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.
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: 4.5 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
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
(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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Before settling down in Columbia, Wes Fulmer cooked behind the stoves of Michelin-starred Maison Christian Étienne in Avignon, France. In his impressively small kitchen at Motor Supply, coppa and pork legs hang for curing below a shelf of a dozen artisanal vinegars; kimchi ferments nearby. The daily rotating dinner menu might feature plates of yellowfin tuna, seared and placed onto a bed of crispy endive, glistening with smoked olive oil and mayo-like tonnato. It’s the perfect balance between tart, salt and sweet. Many of Fulmer’s creations have a Thai-inspired twang of acid and herb, although you can also order redfish and butter beans heirloom grits that were milled in town—and you won’t regret it. You would also be remiss to skip the cocktails; Josh Streetman’s bar program is worth the visit alone. His smoked drinks are spectacular, and his Jalisco Sour, which is a whiskey sour riff that smells like bacon, is savory in the best way possible—the smoke doesn’t translate into an overpowering flavor profile.
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.
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)