Arguably the quintessential American food, burgers start with the basic meat and bun, then layer the flavors to suit every taste. Some like the classic offering, while others prefer to spice/jazz/mix it up. From foodie websites, word of mouth, and personal experience, here, are our favorites in the Columbia. Not a burger babe, but the family loves ‘em? Not a problem. Enjoy.
By Katherine Pettit
2108 State Street Bar & Grill
Unassuming, welcoming, and friendly, their best-selling burger is the 2108 Burger, served on a Kaiser roll, with bacon, bacon bleu pimiento cheese and pickled fried green tomatoes. Other options include a more old-fashioned “Grandpa,” the Five-alarm Fusion, and the SOB. Munchies: Critter fritters, collard eggrolls and that yummy Bacon Bleu Pimiento Cheese dip. Salads, wings, tacos and sandwiches.
Something else: Grilled Portobello Melt.
2108 State Street, Cayce
Burger Tavern 77
Near Five Points, this is a tavern that allows you to build your own burger from a formidable list of ingredients. Most prefer to rely on the experts, however, and among their variety of burgers is their best-selling Memphis, with smoky flavored bourbon BBQ sauce, aged cheddar cheese, crispy onion tangles & two strips of bacon, on your choice of white or wheat bun, or onion roll. [Urbanspoon] reviewers swear by the loaded BBQ chicken nachos, and give approval to their Long Beach, a vegetarian black bean burger with avocado, Balsamic and Alfalfa.
2631 Devine Street
Henry’s Restaurant and Bar
They had me at the Red Dragon cheese. OK, Henry’s made the cut in a recent [Southern Living] article, but we needed to know more. We checked out the foodie sites and found the scoop. All burgers are made with fresh eight-ounce Angus beef, fire grilled. The bread is a knot roll, and the toppings for their Signature burger include that delicious, mustardy Red Dragon, sautéed mushrooms and onions. Served with hand-cut Idaho russet French fries or sweet potato fries. Vegie lovers can order a mighty fine Portobello “burger” with smoked provolone. Sides and starters for all tastes.
111 Sparkleberry Crossing, Suite 1
2865 Devine Street
Rockaway Athletic Club
You’re going to have to look for this pub/grill unless you’re a local. The back is the front, and the signage is virtually nil, but persist and be rewarded. It’s definitely a hangout, with TVs etc., so order a beer and check out the pimento burger. This is not for the pristine – it’s gooey, finger-licking, and most cheesy. The lettuce, the beef, the bun – for some of a certain age, it’s been a comfort food staple for years. They’ve got lots of non-burger offerings, but in the pimento spirit, order the pimento fries as well.
2719 Rosewood Dr.
They’ve been an institution in Columbia since 1940, although George Rush didn’t adopt the Rush’s name until the 60s. They’ve taken the fast food concept, and added quality recipes and preparation. During college days, the chili cheeseburger is what got lots of students through exams. Nowadays, you can even order a pound of the chili to take home to adorn your own concoctions. It’s messy, but oh, so, delicious. The fried chicken and BBQ devotees will argue with us, but it’s the burger that stands tall.
Nine locations in Columbia. Find them here:
Near the state house, the Whig is an eclectic sort of a place, made all the more intriguing by being somewhat underground. Of late, folks have waxed eloquent about the pizza fries, Taco Tuesdays and chicken and waffles, but we’re sticking with the Whig Burger. It’s some-kind-of-good, adorned with smoked Gouda, bacon, beef gravy and sriracha aioli. Add Soul Sundays, or other special nights, and it is downtown Columbia at its funkiest.
1200 Main Street, Basement level
Now in two locations in Columbia, Smashburger is one chain with raving fans. Look on any foodie site and you’ll find folks who love the food, starting with the burgers, but invariably including the fries with a touch of garlic and rosemary. The Classic smash tm is a perennial favorite, and comes with American cheese, Smash sauce (a blend of mayonnaise, yellow mustard, pickled relish and lemon juice), Ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions on an egg bun – thus, the name. A bit surprisingly, vegetarians can find plenty to eat here, in a fast-casual restaurant that prides itself on that Angus beef. Do try the fries – yum!
4601 Devine Street
937 Lake MurrayBlvd., Irmo
Five Guys® Burgers and Fries
It’s a chain that manages to garner applause all over the U.S. with its juicy, flavorful beef. What’s more, with a choice of 15 free toppings, you can personalize to your heart’s desire (add grilled mushrooms, jalapenos, and A-1 Steak Sauce, for example). A good alternative is a cheese vegie sandwich, and their fries are universally loved. Note: peanuts on the table.
931 Senate Street, Suite C
5135 Sunset Blvd, Suite 1, Lexington
285 Columbiana Drive, Suite N
460 Town Center Place, Suite 2
4751 Forest Drive
Pawley’s Front Porch
From now and forevermore, this Five Points favorite will be referenced by its coverage in [Diners, Drive-ins and Dives], and Guy Fieri loved the food. It’s definitely known for its burgers, including the “Front Porch” hamburger, with eight ounces of beef ground in-house, plus cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, gruyere or blue); plus bacon (jalapeno or applewood smoked.) Big and messy. Sit outside if the weather’s good. And remember to order the sweet potato fries. They’re that good.
827 Harden Street
Ah, the Zesto double cheeseburger with chili added. Messy, char-grilled flavor, fabulous taste that melds together. This is old-fashioned goodness – no drive through, no fancy facelifts every couple of years. Look on the foodie review sites and you’ll more often hear about the fried chicken (compared to Grandma’s by many). But for our purposes, it’s the burger that takes center stage. Although we hear that, even though it’s not on the menu, a made-to-order peanut butter, banana and chocolate shake is close to Nirvana.
Rosewood Dairy Bar is another on our best burger list. They share recipes with Zesto and have their own long-lasting fan base. Tasty times for sure.
3239 Forest Drive
Rosewood Dairy Bar
3003 Rosewood Drive
1250 Chapin Road
Liberty Tap Room and Grill
Liberty on the Lake
In the Vista or on Lake Murray, the Liberty restaurants offer casual dining, specializing in all-American food made from the freshest ingredients. They are known for their Certified Angus Beef® burgers, including the BBQ Burger, with candied applewood bacon, bbq sauce, gouda cheese and onion straws, and a perennial favorite, the Cowboy Burger, with applewood smoked bacon, ham, onion straws, french fries, bbq sauce, ranch dressing, monterey jack, cheddar and swiss cheese. Lots of non-beef options, too.
828 Gervais St.
1602 Marina Road, Suite D, Irmo
A favorite restaurant for folks in the know, Tombo Grille pulls out all the stops when it comes to their house ground burger. How about these toppings? House made bacon, cheddar or gorgonzola, smoked tomato aioli, freshly grown farms bibb lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, bistro fries. Eclectic, Southern flair – all good.
4517 Forest Drive
Old Mill Brewery
This new addition to the Old Mill has folks raving. An instant fan favorite is theOld Mill Burger, with eight ounces of meat topped with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon and pepper gravy. Try a frosty brewsky and fries with that. Also consider their homemade desserts. Delish!
711 E. Main St, Lexington
The Backyard Café
The West Columbia eatery uses fresh ingredients and has a varied menu. Their Backyard Burger is a winner, with bacon, mushroom, grilled onions and melted cheddar cheese with secret special sauce. This is a friendly, welcoming place that is very family friendly.
940 Old Barnwell Road
Yesterday’s has been a Five Points fixture for almost 40 years, with loyal college students, now bringing grandchildren back to a favorite eatery, alongside an ever-changikng crop of new students. Their food is fresh, tasty and made from scratch. All of their burgers are good, but we’re highlighting the Holy-Molé, topped with Habanero Jack Cheese, fresh sliced habanero
peppers and fresh guac. This one is for brave heat-seekers only! (Too hot for your blood? No problem. They’ve got great vegie burgers, too.)
2030 Devine Street