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.
Check out The Gourmet Shop for a traditional yet unique cafe style meal. You’ve got to try their famous chicken salad croissant and their big mug of cappuccino; in no particular order. Check out the one-of-a-kind retail shop on your way out. It’s like Cracker Barrel, only better!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
Private Dining & Parties At Ruth’s Chris Steak House, we make event planning easy for our customers. Find information on the variety of elegant private dining options at our Columbia restaurant here. Read
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.
Just like Saluda’s, Mr. Friendly’s is hidden away in Five Points, a historic area full of bars and galleries, known for its laid-back, hip vibe and popularity with the students at the nearby University of South Carolina. It was founded as a sandwich and cookie shop in the early 1980s, but since 1995, Mr. Friendly’s has operated as a café serving ‘new Southern cuisine’. Frommers even calls this award-winning eatery ‘one of the finest and most innovative restaurants in South Carolina’, with its gourmet versions of classic dishes. Try the pecan crab cakes, fried oysters, buttermilk fried chicken or the grilled filet mignon wrapped in bacon and pimento cheese. The café’s whitewashed brick walls, covered in art, serve as the backdrop for a chilled-out afternoon.
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 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.
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.
Yelp: 4 stars, 40 reviews The best pizza joint award is a highly-coveted but usually highly-controversial title. Although pizza is universally loved, the crust just ends up being one of those things that rarely works as one-size-fits all. But Dano’s comes pretty close, which is how they get the crown for best pizza in columbia
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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.
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.
High quality Food: the lobster and the filet were delicious and perfectly cooked and showed in the dishes. The waiters were kind and professional and so welcoming. Great atmosphere, ideal for a special occasion! – Barbara C. (Facebook)
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.
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.
Experimenting with new sauces, rubs, and toppings every day, Southern Belly BBQ is sure to hit the spot and leave you wanting to try more unique creations. Make a pit stop here on your way to Williams Brice Stadium for some Carolina football and pick up some yum for all! Be prepared for your tailgate to be the talk of the town!
We aren’t rude to you. Why be rude to us? Were trying to get you your food and drinks as fast as we can, and make sure they’re all made correctly. There is no reason to yell at us that we took more than ten seconds to make your coffee.
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.
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: 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.
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!
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.
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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.
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.
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, 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!
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.
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.
columbia sc restaurants
best restaurants in columbia sc
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.
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.
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.
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!