Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Columbia dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don’t have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Columbia Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can’t miss.
Upscale and stylish, with exposed brick and a warm color palette, Terra has developed a following among local foodies who appreciate the cooking and the setting. Chef Mike Davis takes a seasonal approach to New Southern cooking, creating notable dishes such as roasted South Carolina quail stuffed with apple and foie gras, crawfish orecchiette, shrimp remoulade, seared scallops with succotash, BBQ lamb-stuffed mac and cheese gratin, plus a handful of gorgeous and unusual little wood-fired pizzas. Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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, 101 reviews No matter what time of day it is, when you’ve got a hankering for breakfast, Café Strudel has become the place to go. Loaded with onions, peppers, cheese and two eggs, their Hangover Hashbrowns have become famous around town, especially with the college crew, as being the ultimate hangover remedy and, yes, you can order them all day. So, the late-risers never have to worry about catching the worm. The banana fosters French toast isn’t known for curing hangovers, but it’s one of the other most delicious things on the menu. You’ll also find yourself a stellar coffee bar and much lighter options like a delicious smoked salmon bagel. If you come for lunch or dinner and are looking for something other than breakfast, order up the fish and chips or the Portobello mushroom with Havarti.
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.
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.
Motor Supply was the first restaurant to open in the revamped Vista district – a couple of decades in the business has only strengthened its reputation as a great place for a casually upscale meal. Menus change twice daily but usually include… Read More
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.
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!
Our bar currently boasts over 350 whiskeys, most of which are bourbon, rye or Tennessee whisky. We also have a growing collection of whiskeys from other countries like Scotland, Ireland, Japan and Canada.
Housed in a carefully renovated historic VFW officers club, augmented with an 1800s mahogany bar and a gorgeous 1915 Schomacker grand piano, Saluda’s is elegant and sophisticated. The chefs focus on Southern and Continental dishes, frequently… Read More
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!
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: 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.
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.
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 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.
Southern cooking has a few trademark dishes, and Mr. Friendly’s, under the same ownership as Solstice and Gervais & Vine, excels with a more upscale, occasionally innovative version of the classics. Crab cakes are pecan-crusted and served with fried dill pickles and sherry-cayenne mayo, a grilled filet mignon is wrapped in bacon and topped with pimiento cheese, and blackened chicken comes with either tasso ham sauce or Creole andouille sauce. Waits attest to the popularity of the place, but never fear – a microbrew or glass of wine from the award-winning list will help pass the time.
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
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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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Gervais & Vine is a trendy spot offering dozens of by-the-glass wines, a broad array of beers, and a fine selection of single malts and other liquors. Satiate hunger with a few of the 30 or so hot and cold tapas, such as seared scallops, petite filet mignon with feta and balsamic reduction, grilled sausage, Spanish asparagus, bruschetta, spiced almonds, marinated manchego, olives, or smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and capers. Or try a stone-baked gourmet pizza instead.
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.
Motor Supply was the first restaurant to open in the revamped Vista district – a couple of decades in the business has only strengthened its reputation as a great place for a casually upscale meal. Menus change twice daily but usually include a grilled steak or two plus dishes such as house-brined pork chops, Dijon-fried eggplant over spinach and artichoke hearts, steamed mussels, and sautéed shrimp with ham and grits. Their wine list has garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and their Sunday brunch is among the best 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.