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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
The food is always good. A little variety on the vegetables that come with entrees would help. Seems a lot of the menu items all come with the same vegetabes. If you don’t like brussel sprouts, that limits your choices. I’m sure you can probably substitute. The pizza is great.
Other highlights: Go to Tallula’s for the brussel sprouts with tahini, and get a bone marrow chocolate pop for dessert. (Chocolate ice cream is bodied with bone marrow, and served in a push pop at lunch. At dinner, things get a little more fancy, and it’s served in the actual bone.) The charcuterie board at The Oak Table is probably the best in town; when not at the restaurant, chef Todd Woods has been known to drive venison that he’s shot and butchered himself to the James Beard House in New York, where he puts on dinner.
I hear a lot of people talking smack about cinnamon raisin bagels, and I do not like it one bit. Cinnamon raisin, in my opinion, is by far the best kind of bagel, and the people who hate on them are simply too unsophisticated to comprehend the exquisite flavor that is found in each bite. If you are one of these cinnamon raisin haters, I hope that the following reasons will inspire you to add a little pizazz to your morning meal.
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.
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.
The staff treated us so warmly the moment we walked in, the food was exceptional and was delivered quickly. Will most DEFINITELY be visiting again when I’m in the area. Very quaint and festive spot! Loved it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.