Columbia’s restaurant scene has much to offer in the way of fresh air dining options and locals are taking advantage as temperatures drop and COVID-19 cases spike. Read on to discover our roundup of some local spots offering great food, drink, and outdoor seating.
By Katie Gantt
2901 Divine St., Columbia
Cantina76 is a lively, independently owned restaurant and bar that specializes in Mexican-inspired cuisine and hand-crafted margaritas. Full of fresh, unique ingredients and South Carolina produce, the menu at Cantina76 includes a large assortment of imaginative tacos, as well as enchiladas, nachos, salads, quesadillas, chimichangas, soups and sides. Sauces, dressings, and salsas are made in-house daily! The sizable, covered patio makes Cantina76 one of the most popular places for outdoor dining in Columbia. There is even an outdoor fireplace – perfect for the cooler months. Check their website for weekly specials and happy hour prices.
2406 Devine St, Columbia
Il Giorgione offers, arguably, the most authentic Italian dining experience in the capital city. Owner, George (Giorgione) Kessler’s passion for all things Italian began as a young boy growing up in the home of his Italian grandparents in New Jersey. He went on to study Italian language, history, literature, and film during his time as a student at the University of South Carolina and spent a summer abroad in Urbino, Italy. Since that time, he has traveled extensively through the different regions of Italy and has learned that each culture is unique from the people and culture to the amazing food and wine. He brings that expertise to Columbia through Il Giorgione, which our food writer Anne Wolf Postic described as feeling like a “favorite Italian neighborhood bistro.” This vibe is accentuated by their gorgeous brick-lined patio coupled with strings of twinkling lights strung overhead.
Legacy Caribbean Bar & Grill
215 Oneil Ct., Columbia
Legacy Caribbean Bar & Grill has all the components for a great night out! Their 10,000 sq ft location is host to an ample, covered, outdoor dining space. Indoors, guests will find an impressive 10 ft bar where expertly trained bartenders can make any cocktail that’s requested of them. There are four new pool tables, a Juke Box, and many fun events, like Monday night karaoke, Friday nights with DJ B Lord, and Reggae night every Saturday. The menu offers authentic Caribbean favorites and standard American fare too, for the less adventurous. Island inspired dishes include the beef pattie, jerk chicken, coco burger (served on a warm Caribbean coco bread), brown stew fish, and oxtails. Curry chicken, rice and peas, and plantains help round out a diverse menu bursting with flavor.
Market on Main
1320 Main St. #150, Columbia
With a unique concept and a prime location on the corner of Main and Lady, it’s no wonder Market on Main has rapidly become one of the most talked about restaurants and bars downtown. The dynamic patio area will remain in its starring role. The patio area’s large stage is mainly purposed for live music but has other creative uses, including occasional yoga instruction. The big screen TV runs major sporting events, and the beer garden is host to cornhole games and beer pong tournaments. Market on Main offers separate lunch, dinner, and brunch menus (brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday only). Brunch is a big hit. Owner, Josh, describes brunch as a “fun, party vibe” complete with crowd favorite mimosa kits. The brunch menu offers steak and eggs, huevos rancheros, a smoked salmon board, and plenty more.
The Gourmet Shop
724 Saluda Ave, Columbia
The Gourmet Shop
A Five Points staple since 1979, The Gourmet Shop is a locally famous purveyor of fine cheese, wine, cookware, glassware, kitchen supplies, coffee, chocolates, caviar, and more! They serve brunch and lunch seven days a week in their café and outdoor seating fills up fast. Guests love the sidewalk seating and red and white checkered tablecloths. The experience is reminiscent of the sidewalk cafes that line the streets of Paris. Choose from house made salads and sandwiches, like their “Famous Chicken Salad,” roasted shrimp salad, a variety of pasta salads, pimiento cheese, and more. Their paninis are grilled to order. Wraps, cheese plates, charcuterie boards, and more round out the menu.
1649 Main St., Columbia
Hendrix is an industrial-style haunt with a rooftop bar specializing in creative small plates and hearty main courses. Reservations are for the dining room only; rooftop seating is first come, first served, and be warned – it fills up fast. For full-service dining, plan to utilize a table in the dining room. The rooftop serves a daily selection of small plates only until 9 p.m. Small plate menu items such as beef tartare, baked mussels, Shimeji mushroom toast, and the summer panzanella salad are crowd favorites. Main dishes include a grass-fed NY strip, Carolina Heritage Farms Pork Chop, and roasted root vegetables.
Liberty Tap Room on the Lake
1602 Marina Rd., Irmo
Located just 30 minutes from downtown Columbia on the sunny shores of Lake Murray, Liberty Tap Room is an upscale casual dining restaurant serving traditional American cuisine with a twist in a fun, modern atmosphere. Enjoy the elevated outdoor seating for killer views of the lake! There are 48 beers on tap which includes their own line of microbrews. Liberty Tap Room specializes in all-America food made from the freshest ingredients, like their burgers, steaks, and fresh baked pizzas.
Hampton Street Vineyard
1207 Hampton St., Columbia
Hampton Street Vineyard is a local gem that makes the perfect atmosphere for an intimate gathering. The restaurant has an appealing fine dining menu as well as an award-winning wine list so you can pair your wine to any dish on the menu. The restaurant has been a staple on the Columbia restaurant scene since 1995 and came under new ownership in 2020. Their sidewalk seating area is beautiful and like many of the others on our list – it fills up fast. The outdoor tables are surrounded by beautiful greenery and flowers and offer a view of the attractive restaurant exterior.
407 N Lake Dr., Lexington
Sapori means tastes and the word is closely connected to the Italian expression “da assaporare,” which translated means to savor a dish, or a moment, or to experience something special. That’s what Sapori in Lexington is all about – the special experience, savoring good fresh food, enjoying company, being in a beautiful space, and getting lost in the moment. The Italian food combined with restaurant’s stunning interior make for a charming evening, but the outdoor dining section (which is also available to rent for special occasion) takes the experience to next level. Tents with chandeliers and firepits dot the restaurant’s immaculately landscaped grounds.
Café Strudel (locations in Lexington and West Columbia)
Owners Trip and Marila Turbyfill opened Café Strudel in 1997 in a small, 600 sq ft space with about ten tables. In 2012, they purchased and extensively renovated their current West Columbia location. With the move, they gained an extra 1,400 sq ft of space including a private dining room and covered patio – each of which can be rented for private functions. Their newer, Lexington location also offers ample covered patio space and an indoor-outdoor bar. Both locations offer the savory flavors guests keep coming back for. The “Famous Hangover Hashbrowns” are just that – legendary! With onions, banana peppers, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and 2 eggs your way, the dish received a nod in Southern Living Magazine circa 2006.
Jakes of Columbia
2112 Devine St., Columbia
Jakes is considered by many to be the most dog friendly restaurant in Columbia. While they’re always pet-friendly, they’re extra pet-friendly during Yappy Hour. Yappy Hour is every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. and dogs can run freely on the back deck with access to water stations and tasty treats. The welcoming back deck is complimented by a green space and makes the perfect place to sip on one of the 30 plus craft beer options they offer. They do ask that guests get “Yappy Certified,” in an effort to protect guests and their dogs. To get certified, guests register their dog via email and receive a pup Yappy Hour bandana and Jake’s collar tag.
Pawley’s Front Porch
827 Harden St. #1001, Columbia
“Famous Burgers, Cold Beer, Good Times.” That’s the slogan at Pawley’s Front Porch, where outdoor dining is implied in the name. The spacious, sheltered porch is a great place to enjoy one of Pawley’s aforementioned famous burgers. Consider taking their “Low Country Challenge.” Should you accept the challenge, you will have thirty minutes to clean your plate. That plate will be filled with a special, huge burger: three 8 oz patties topped with pimento cheese, jalapeno pimento cheese, Applewood bacon, jalapeno bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion with your choice of side. University of South Carolina get 20% off their meal when they show their Carolina Alumni card.
Publico Kitchen and Tap
2013 Greene St., Columbia
Whether you’re looking for craft beers, patio dining, or Lat-Asian inspired cuisine, you’ll find it here. From tasty tacos to savory salads and so much more, Publico has it all. Check out one of the 54 different local and craft beers on tap while relaxing on their huge deck. You can even dine in an igloo here! Make sure to reserve your igloo in advance via an online registration form.
751 Saluda Ave, Columbia
Saluda’s is a star on the local restaurant scene and their outdoor dining options play a key role in that reputation. The fine-dining restaurant’s upstairs patio seating offers excellent views of Five Points and the Five Points fountain. Their menu is build around mixing locally grown seasonal products with luxurious ingredients from around the world. The main dining room and patio are open for reservations.