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.
This is more for Dunkin’. Because hash browns, in reality, take the longest for us to get ready. So please when ordering don’t ask for them at the window, please order at the speaker. We don’t mind cooking them last minute but its inconvenient for you and our time.
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.
Yelp: 5 stars, 8 reviews Mobile bratwursts. It’s like a million people’s dreams all got simultaneously answered in one big swoop of the food truck. The main cook is a German-trained master-chef. The Brats are cooked to a perfect pop, and the sides are cooked using only local foods. If what they want to make is something that they can’t find in that particular region someday, then they decide on making something new instead of settling for sub-par ingredients. Check their Facebook account frequently to keep a running tab on where they are so that you never have to miss them when they’re nearby.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The heart of Columbia is no exception. On one end of Main Street, you’ll enjoy picturesque views of the South Carolina State House and modern, southern cuisine at the sleek Oak Table. Lula Drake, a cozy yet vibrant, old-world wine parlour bookends the other side of downtown. Nestled in between, you’ll find coffee shops, bakeries, a vegan café, fast-casual eateries, and a family-friendly Mexican restaurant. Snag an outdoor table year-round and enjoy our lively, tree-lined downtown.
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.
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.
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!
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: 4.5 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.
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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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.