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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
Yelp: 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp with 125 reviews You can find a steak almost anywhere. The problem is, you can’t find a good steak just anywhere. So, when a cut of beef is up for order tonight, then you’re going to want to know where to go. And that’s the Blue Marlin. Half surf, half turf, this modestly classy restaurant serves up much more than the beef. The shrimp and grits are a favorite order, and keep your eyes out of the sesame-encrusted tuna or the salmon pontchartrain. You’ll also find fire-roasted chicken and pasta dishes here, ensuring you’ll be able to talk anyone into coming here, since there’s something for everyone.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
American Cuisine featuring locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, Oak Table serves lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Walk on in and have a seat in this restaurant make of recycled wood from a 19th century log cabin. Reserve a private room or have a seat in the open dining area with a view of the kitchen.
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.
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.