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.
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 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.
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 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.
In most cases, heirloom produce—which relies on farmers saving the seeds of the best plants that year—is still largely a small-scale operation in which farmers hand-deliver vegetables to restaurants. As a result, these ingredients inform only a small part of even the most conscientious menus, but they’re an undeniable victory for Midlands cuisine, both its heritage and its future. And it’s hard to go to Columbia without hearing about it.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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.
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”.
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!
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!
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
He’s also worked with several chefs in Columbia, where he lives, to do the same. At The Oak Table, Woods crafts watermelon molasses, which Brock has also been known to feature on his menus. It’s just a bunch of watermelon flesh boiled down, no sugar or water added. Intoxicatingly, it smells like tomato and tastes almost florally sweet. There’s usually just enough for a precious drizzle over chicken liver mousse or head cheese.
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.
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(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.
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.
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)
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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.
The term “Southern food” can be problematic because it glosses over the nuances of local food cultures in favor of general tropes. That said, there are expectations of cuisine and aesthetics in Columbia, and Spotted Salamander Cafe delivers on them in the most true-to-itself way. The space is housed in two adjoining white bungalows on a tree-lined street in the Historic Robert Mills District. Sipping a sweet tea and noshing on cornbread-crumbled deviled eggs on a sunlit patio is the kind of experience you probably daydreamed of when planning your trip. And you can do it here. This is more than just lazy fantasy, however: chef owner Jessica Shillato’s Sriracha fried chicken sandwiches with cucumber-laden slaw are what dreams are made of. There are flaky biscuits too, pecked with air pockets and moist with butter; they’re served with bacon jam. For dessert, there might be “church lady cakes” with lemon cream frosting, inspired by vintage church cookbooks. The menu is short and sweet, and changes daily.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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: 4.5 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 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.
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!
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.
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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.