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Best of Columbia SC 2015

Posted On August 19, 2015

The People Have Spoken. You voted, we counted. Old favorites, surprises, newcomers. Food, drink, services, retail. Enjoy!

 Verve Best of Columbia SC 2015

Food & Beverage

Appetizers

Bonefish Grill

 Will anything ever topple the popularity of Bang Bang Shrimp? Don’t think so, although “Cold Snap” Fire and Ice Ceviche is a thoroughly satisfying back-up and the Ahi Tuni Sashimi makes a perfect bite to share. Of course you’ll need a refreshing cocktail to accompany your starters. They’ve got you covered with everything from classic martinis to a modern Mohito that would make Hemingway smile. Upscale seafood restaurant with two Columbia locations offers a savory starter menu with something for everyone. 407.1599/Bonefishgrill.com

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Authentic American

The Oak Table

 Location, location. Overlooking the state’s capital, this relative newcomer offers a rich dining experience for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. This is classic American cuisine with a nod to farm-to-table sourcing such as SC sea bass and fresh, house made charcuterie. For pure wow factor, the whole fried lobster is a real showstopper. 563.5066/theoaktablesc.com

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Authentic Caribbean

Taste of Jamaica

 The fried plantains are just so good. Located in Columbia’s international district on Beltline Boulevard, those in the Caribbean-know go there for oxtails, or perhaps curry goat. (Less adventurous souls can enjoy jerk chicken or even tofu.) Sandwiches and salads, plus home cooking. 256.9050

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Authentic Asian

Miyo’s

 This family dynasty has built its growing empire with fresh Asian cuisine and owner Michelle Wang’s incredible attention to detail. Best hot and sour soup ever! Great sushi, superb steamed pork dumplings, vegetarian dishes and more. Great assortment of wine, beer, cocktails. Multiple locations. 781.7788/miyos.com

 Another fan fav: M Vista

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Authentic Italian

Villa Tronco

 A Columbia institution since 1940, Villa Tronco remains a family business that still delights newcomers and those who have enjoyed the food for years. For added fun, make reservations for the nights some of the area’s best singers perform for the crowd. What could be better than a bit of music with your pasta? 256.7677/villatronco.com

More fan favs: Rosso Trattoria, Ristorante Divino

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Authentic Mexican

San Jose

 Let Happy Hour begin! Make mine a margarita, and for my spouse, a frosty Dos Equis, please. Don’t miss the fresh guacamole, or the sizzling fajitas. Generous portions of very tasty Mexican fare, plus Kid’s menu – all at very affordable prices. Six locations. Sanjosemex.com

 Another fan fav: Cantina 76

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Bar

Tin Roof

 Music to your ears, mouth and soul. The live music almost every night attracts young professionals as well as the rest of us. Big screen TV, late-night kitchen and some killer quesadillas make this a great destination. Flag this: chicken ‘n waffle nuggets – yum! 771.1558/tinroofbars.com

 Another fan fav: Art Bar

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Breakfast Spot

Café Strudel

 You’ve had a great night. Now, head for the Strudel’s famous “hangover hash browns” or a superb omelet. Brunch is a hands-down favorite, although with their beautiful patio, dinner with friends or family is a perfect possibility. You’ll love the eclectic décor and the amazing food – breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. (See page 74.) 794.6634/cafestrudel.com

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Burgers

Pawleys Front Porch

 Sure, it’s been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, but there much more to this Five Points spot than 15 minutes of fame. In addition to gourmet burgers of substantial proportions, the sweet potato fries and onion rings are stellar. We like the Caw Caw, but give an “A” to the Isle of Palms burger as well. Mobile eats, too. 771.8001/pawleysfrontporch.com

Another fan fav: Five Guys

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Candy/Chocolate

The Gourmet Shop

 Sweets aren’t the only items sold at this venerable Five Points institution, but they play a starring role. From Chocolove to Taza and beyond, including Neuhaus Belgian chocolates, you can find an abundance of tasty treats. Perfect gifts for those you love, especially when accompanied by good wine, and perhaps a bit of whimsy for the kitchen. 799.9463/thegourmetshop.net

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Chef

Kristian Niemi, Bourbon, Rosso, Bourbon

 His newest offering to Columbia is being very well received indeed. Bourbon specializes in its namesake, plus whiskey, craft cocktails and flavors of the Louisiana Bayou. Rosso Trattoria Italia, one of his earlier creations continues its popularity in the capital city as well. Columbia foodies flock to his cuisine, which is consistently spectacular. 787.3949/BoubonColumbia.com

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Cocktail Selection

Art Bar

 Folks from all persuasions are comfortable in this very eclectic atmosphere. On any given night, you might find accountants, belly dancers, artists and Baby Boomers. Some favor the standard drinks, while others prefer a Dirty Martini, or a Cosmopolitan, the libation revived by the ladies of “Sex in the City.” They’ll even concoct a custom cocktail and name it after you. No doubts you’ll be shaken and stirred. 929.0198/artbarsc.com

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Coffeehouse

Drip    

 With two locations in the middle of Five Points and downtown, Drip offers Columbia that perfect cup of Joe, as fancy or straight up as you please. Their food is just as delightful, served all day, until 9pm. At lunch try the veggie sandwich on French bread – followed by a shot of espresso, of course.   661.9545/799.0067/dripcolumbia.com

Another fan fav: Starbucks

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Crab Cakes

Hampton Street Vineyard

Ah, what crustacean bliss. Sauteéd Lump Crab Cakes with a mandarin brandy ginger glaze and seasonal vegetables over fettuccine. If you don’t have top quality crab, the rest doesn’t matter. When you do, the result is devine. (Local products when possible, classic techniques and an open mind toward far-flung cuisine. 252.0850/hamptonstreetvineyard.com

 Another fan fav: Blue Marlin

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Craft Brewer

River Rat Brewery

 It’s hard to beat Broad River Red Ale on a hot summer’s day. At River Rat Brewery, near Williams Brice Stadium, you can enjoy green space and the summer weather that kicks the pinot out the door for a brewsky. But don’t take our word for it. Go. Take a tour. Taste the Moncks Corner Abbey Ale. Heck, taste them all. Enjoy. (To feel a bit more virtuous, try Yoga on Sundays, then reward yourself.) 724.5712/riverratbrewery.com

 Another fan fav: Conquest Brewing Co.

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Desserts

Nonnah’s

 It’s all good, but after you try their Bananas Foster, or perhaps the Cherries Jubilee, you’ll be back again and again. All manner of good things can be found at this downtown eatery which attracts the theatre set as well as anyone in the know. They’ve got accolades galore and with good reason. Tying the knot? They do wedding cakes, too. 779.9599/Nonnahs.com

 Another fan fav: Cupcake

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Family Restaurant

Yesterday’s

 It’s been around for almost 40 years, delighting the Five Points crowd and their families. This American food is made from scratch – comfort to the max. The bathtub cowboy and flatiron building call you in, where the ambience relaxed. The tavern is a home away from home for many, and Five Points is busier than ever. For brunch, lunch, or dinner, the food is fresh and tasty – creative home cooking for the whole family. 799.0196/yesterdayssc.com

 Another fan fav: Flight Deck

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Fine Dining

Saluda’s Restaurant

 “Elegant but not Snooty” means a white tablecloth setting, Southern cuisine with a hint of France and Italy, 20-something wines by the glass and perfect attention to detail. Try lobster bisque if they’ve got it, and anything on special. Owner Steven Cook and his staff are dedicated to providing a dining experience unparalleled in Columbia with emphasis on outstanding food, extensive wine and cocktail selections, and elegant Southern service. 799.9500/saludas.com

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Happy Hour

Pearlz Oyster Bar

 Ah, that joyous time after work, but before dinner. The freedom to delight in the day’s triumphs and forget the challenges. You need the right environment, great snacks and superb libations. Being downtown is an added check. At Pearlz, you’ll enjoy oysters on the half shell, peel and eat shrimp, or perhaps their tasty trigger bites dipped in Cajun tartar sauce, paired with a frosty beverage and a few friends. The day is done; let the evening begin. 661.7741/pearlzoysterbar.com

 Another fan fav: Cantina 76

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Healthy Fare

Zoës Kitchen

 A relative newcomer to the Columbia area, Zoës has attracted a loyal fan base who appreciate their fresh approach to Mediterranean cuisine. Their marinated slaw, chicken salad and roasted red pepper hummus leave you happy and satisfied, but never weighed down. Remember their mantra: Simple. Tasty. Fresh.® Four locations in the Midlands. Zoeskitchen.com

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Late-Night Menu

Hunter-Gatherer Brewery

 You’ve been out on the town and want a bit of a late-night snack before heading home. Head for Hunter-Gatherer, where you’ll find in-house brewed beer (plus other drinks) and the perfect nosh, from pizza (try the Bruce), to a portobello gyro, or sausage balls with spicy mustard. They’ve been at this game for years, with Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence to prove it. 748.0540/huntergathererbrewery.com

 Another fan fav: Cook-out®

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Lunch Spot

DiPratos

 Get in line at this downtown favorite, and taste the pimento cheese on top of the deli case as you linger over the many to-go salads and entrees. The line moves quickly, and soon you’re ordering their triple decker corned beef Reuben, or perhaps the Sailor’s Sandwich, with knockwurst and salami. The food is really good here, and you can get in and dine well in under an hour. Sunday Brunch (see below) is another award-winning possibility, and you’ll want to take something from the deli home for easy supper. 779.0606/dipratos.com

 Another fan fav: Blue Marlin

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Outdoor Dining

Liberty Tap Room on the lake

 Located in Marina Bay, on Lake Murray, the views are unsurpassed as you sit on one of the decks or covered porches at Liberty on the Lake and watch the boats come and go. Great for families, date night, and meeting your BFFs for Sunday lunch, the views change as the sun retreats, and the air off the lake is refreshing. Known for their burgers as well as great seafood, their steaks earn raves as well. Everyone orders what they want, including a super pizza menu and 48 beers on tap! 667.9715/Libertytaproom.com

 Another fan fav: Pawley’s Front Porch

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 Pizza

Marco’s Pizza

 Currently in five locations in the Midlands, Marco’s has developed a strong following for the great pizzas, plus salads, subs and more. The chicken-based pizzas are creative and delicious, while the Deluxe Uno is everything you want in your pie. Online ordering makes delivery a breeze. Check out their money-saving hot deals as well as their school challenge to help with fund-raising for the kids. 255.0990/marcos.com

 Another fan fav: Za’s Brick oven Pizza

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Pub/Tavern

Flying Saucer

 Have you tried Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin? What about Holy City Pluff Mud Port? Get thee to the Flying Sauce and expand your brew horizons and one inviting atmosphere. Regulars join the UFO Club to keep track of their consumption, and on any given night, you’ll find a wide variety of folks chillin’ and enjoying a pint or so, often with live music. Check out their wearables and glasses as well. Nice stuff, good times. 256.2055/http://www.beerknurd.com/stores/Columbia

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Raw Bar

Pearlz Oyster Bar

 They’ve already won for their happy hour. But bi-valve aficionados also love them for their intriguing selection of raw oysters – fresh, briny and delicious. Yes, we’ve wondered about the brave soul who took that fist slurp of oyster, but we’re sure glad somebody was brave, because the taste is sublime. In the south, a bit of cocktail sauce is all that’s necessary to ensure the perfect protein bite. Also try the peel and eat shrimp (try chipotle-lime aioli), tuna tartar, and if you must, great-tasting thoroughly cooked options. A little live jazz only adds to the moment. 661.7741/pearlzoysterbar.com

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Romantic Atmosphere

The Melting Pot

 Sharing food is communal and very intimate, which is one attraction that helped make this chain of restaurants a romantic favorite in Columbia. The fondue-centric menu is cheesy and the dipping items varied – fix it your way, for sure. The meats are fresh with signature dipping sauces. And what could be better than fresh strawberries or cake dipped in chocolate fondue for dessert. Recently named #1 casual dining restaurant in the U.S. by Nation’s Restaurant News, it’s specialized dining that appeals to many. (Order roses for the table to start that special evening with a positive touch. 731.8500/meltingpot.com/columbia-sc

 More Fan Favs: Solstice Kitchen, Al’s Upstairs

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Salads

California Dreaming

 It’s the freshness of the greens and the creative combinations which make California Dreaming’s salads award-worthy. Ample portions help seal the deal for such crowd favorites as the salad named for the restaurant, with ham, turkey, egg, two cheeses, and almonds. The house dressing is honey mustard and quite tasty, although you can substitute blue cheese or ranch for a more savory approach. Housed in an old train station near USC camp, the surroundings add to the experience. Try salmon over salad for a nice change of pace. It’s all good. 254.6767/californiadreaming.co

 Another fan fav: Copper River Grill

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Seafood

Blue Marlin

 A blend of African, West Indian and Caribbean flavors (with a touch of Cajun and creole) make this Lowcountry cuisine aromatic and delectable. At this popular spot in the vista, the old Columbia train station has been transformed into a wonderful destination for pleasurable business lunches, as well as out-on-the-town nights with friends and family. She-crab soup (with sherry, please), firecracker shrimp, and pecan dusted calamari prepare the way for Firecracker Flounder, or perhaps their award-winning shrimp and grits. 799.3838/bluemarlincolumbia.com

 Another fan fav: Bonefish Grill

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Service

Mr. Friendly’s

 Sophisticated, yet casual, their new southern cuisine is enhanced by great service that assists without hovering, and explains menu items and specials with the knowledge of having actually tasted the food they describe. Reviews mention “great service” in multiple posts and indeed that’s part of their concept – Great Food, Great Service, Great Wine. Now, who could ask for more? Service. An essential component of a fabulous dining experience. They’ve got it. 254.7828/mrfriendlys.com

 Another fan fav: Speakeasy

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Specialty Drink  

Bourbon

 Find Bourbon on Main Street, near the Capitol. You’ll love the food, but today we’re talking about their drinks, which include more than 150 whiskeys (most are bourbon, rye or Tennessee whiskey). If you have a world-based palate, ask about their collection of whiskeys from Scotland, Ireland and Canada. Keep it simple, with a bit of ice, or ask for one of their contemporary recipes which turn a before dinner drink into a magical experience. You can also enjoy local beers on tap, and wines by the glass or bottle. 403.1404/bourboncolumbia.com

 Another fan fav: Motor Supply Co.

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Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 It all begins with the steak, which is the origin of Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s top-drawer reputation. They serve USDA prime steaks which practically melt in your mouth, served impeccably in a very hot plate. The restaurant, located in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in the Historic District, is a perfect destination of business lunches and romantic dinners. Notice the details. They strive for perfection in every details and do not disappoint! 212.6666/ruthschris.com

 Another fan fav: Longhorn Steakhouse

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Sushi

Inakaya

Don’t let the exterior fool you. Inside, you’ll find master sushi chefs who will steer you towards the really good stuff. The fish selection is large and the creative combinations complement the delicacies. If they have blue fin tuna, order it. And go ahead and indulge in a good saki while you are there. It’s even a super place for a business meeting or a romantic interlude. 731-2538

Another Fan Fav: Sakitumi

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Sunday Brunch

DiPrato’s

 It’s a double winner! Great during the week for a business lunch, DiPrato’s becomes a super Weekend Brunch, fine dining destination on Saturdays and Sundays. Their brunch is wonderful, from Eggs Charleston (substitute crab cakes for Canadian bacon and you’ll swear you’re in the Holy City) to Huevos Rancheros, with black bean cakes. Perhaps your sweet tooth wins out and you choose banana pecan pancakes with warm syrup. No matter what you choose, be sure to taste their homemade onion sausage or Applewood bacon. Watching your diet? No problem. Their healthy options taste equally delish. 779.0606/dipratos.com

 Another fan fav: Café Strudel

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Vegetarian/Vegan Options

Rosewood Market Deli

 It’s headed for new ownership, but we don’t expect the delicious food to change, especially with Chef Benoit still in the building. Their lunchtime offerings are diverse, and always deliver great food that makes you feel positively virtuous when you finish. If you can, try the Russian Vegetable Pie, or any of the tofu dishes (especially barbecue). And always, their salad dressings add the perfect touch to fresh from the earth greens. 765.1083/Rosewoodmarket.com

 Another fan fav: Good Life Café

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Waterview Dining

Liberty Tap Room on the lake

 It’s about as good as it gets at Marina Bay on Lake Murray. Sure you can eat indoors, but why would you, unless there’s a monsoon threatening? (We’d still hang out in the covered deck.) The winner of outdoor dining is also the winner of waterview dining and we know why. Sit outside with a frosty beverage and watch the boats come and go. Stay for sunset and a great meal. Or, arrive in your own boat for the water-to-waterview experience. What a way to end the day. 667.9715/Libertytaproom.com

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Wine List

Cellar on Greene

 It’s oh-so-nice to try before you buy, and at this popular five points wine shop/wine bar they want you to be happy. Usually, about 30 different wines are open for tasting during the day, just to make sure you’re buying what you want. At 5pm, the mood changes and it becomes a wine bar, with great food and, well, you know. Start with their house pickled vegies, or perhaps Nate’s charcuterie. Flatbreads and entrees are creative and diverse, to suit every palate. Consider the seared duck breast with Carolina peach chutney. Enjoy your wine and the friendly, knowledgable staff who makes this place work so well. 343.3303/cellarongreene.com

 Another fan fav: Gervais & Vine

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FOOD to GO

 Bakery

Tiffany’s

 Go take a look at the custom cake designs at this much-loved bakery. A Lilly Pullitzer cake for your BFF, or Angry Birds, Barbie, or Hello Kitty for the kids. Party themes for all occasions, beautifully displayed – this is icing on the cake, my friends, and the cakes are something to behold. (Cupcakes and petit fours can be decorated as well.) Go for breakfast or lunch and enjoy their savory creations, too. 736.2253/ http://www.tiffanysofcolumbia.com

 Another fan fav: Publix

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Caterer

Spotted Salamander Catering

 Every dish made from scratch. High quality ingredients. Inventive Southern Cuisine is the guiding force for these folks and their creativity shows. Think grilled shrimp skewers with blackberry bacon compote, or perhaps crab cake hushpuppies or hoppin’ john parfaits. Menus are custom designed for each occasion. You can also eat in, or take home a dish to heat and serve. We’re thinking tapas on the porch this weekend. 546.0249/spottedsalamandercatering.com

 Another fan fav: Dupre Catering

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Organic Food

Garner’s natural Life

 They’ve been a part of Columbia’s health-conscious landscape for 40 years and for good reason. Their natural products are top quality, and include natural food supplements, pet products, cosmetics, and healthy alternatives. The staff is friendly and professional and they are incredibly useful in helping their customers sort through the possibilities and discover new products. They also help you learn how to create some of your own healthy supplements. 454.7700/garnersnaturallife.com/

 Another fan fav: 14 Carrot Whole Foods

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Ice Cream  

Marble Slab Creamery

 There’s something about really having it your way and Marble Slab is a master at their craft. Now really, vanilla ice cream with M&M's®, HEATH® Toffee Bar & Nestle® Crunch – can you say decadent? Go ahead, fulfill your sweet tooth fantasies here. There’s always the gym, tomorrow. Waffle cone? We’ll have that, too. With five stores in the Columbia area, you’re never too far away for a sweet treat. Marbleslab.com

 Another fan fav: Cold Stone Creamery

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Seafood Market

Ole Timey Meat Market

 Long known for its top quality meats and poultry, folks have turned to Ole Timey for fresh salmon, scallops and shrimp as well as market specials. it’s a bit of a stretch, but their alligator sausage is really, really good. Of course, the chicken salad and pimiento cheese remains a crowd pleaser, too, so check it all out when you’re buying for your next Lowcountry Boil. Three locations in the Midlands. oletimeymeats.com

 Another fan fav: The Fresh Market

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Wine Store

Green’s Beverages

 With two locations in Columbia, Green’s offers great ways to mix up your wine consumption and save a bit on expenses, too. Of course you can find all your favorite adult libations here, and if you need help, their staff is smart and capable. Sign up for their newsletter and learn more about our favorite way to wind down on a Friday night. Drink responsibly, and remember who you are. 799.9499/greensbeverages.com

 Another fan fav: Total Wine and More

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Retail Service

 Appliance Store

Jeffers McGill

For several generations, Columbians have turned to this family-operated furniture and appliance store to meet most every need. Founded by Carrol E. "Mac" McGill in 1961, the store is owned and operated by brothers Mark, David and John McGill. Their goal: best service, most knowledge and best prices for their customers. From couches to tables to washing machines and other appliances, this store offers just about everything a homeowner needs. 776.4466/www.jeffersmcgill.com

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Art Gallery

701 Center for Contemporary Art

One of the state’s newest destinations for contemporary art, this creative space caters to both artists and art lovers. The visual art center focuses on promoting understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of contemporary art. Exhibitions in its 2,500 square foot gallery range from regional to national to international art. Its artist-in-residence program offers a 1,200-square-foot live/work unit for artists. Located in the former community center in Olympia, an historic mill villa, 701 CCA Plus offer educational program for adults and children including lectures, panel discussion, group tours and other experiences. 701cca.org/779-4571

Another fan fav: City Art

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Bridal Boutique

Jo-Lins Bridal

The bride-to-be and her family have turned to Jo-Lins for just about everything they needed for more than two decades. That dress so special you only wear it once – your wedding gown – can be found here along with a lovely veil and the perfect shoes. Attire for bridesmaids, mothers and flower girls is also available. This full-service boutique carefully selects its designers so that alterations and steaming for the wedding gown may be provided once the bride finds her dream dress. In the heart of Irmo, Jo-Lins repeatedly takes accolades from both wedding sites and brides. 781.9967/Jolins.com  

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Bridal Registry

Non(e)Such

Impeccable service that goes the extra mile along with lovely and unusual products are among the many reasons Columbia Living readers chose this as their favorite bridal registry. Here you’ll find all those little essentials and extras that a bride needs and a great selection of wedding gifts for that special friend or relative. The shop features assorted patterns from which brides may choose. 254.0773, nonesuchltd.com

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Car Dealership

Jim Hudson Automotive Group

Local people know this dealership with many enjoying a relationship dating to the ‘80s. What keeps people coming back are those many years of dependable vehicles, courteous service and professional assistance. Now located at a state-of-the-art dealership on Killian Road, customers have more vehicles than ever from which to choose when making a test drive. And Jim Hudson gives back to Columbia. It supports nonprofits including Harvest Hope, Oliver Gospel Mission, Autism awareness, Ray Tanner Foundation and many others. 783.0110jimhudson.com

Another fan fav: Dick Dyer

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Clothing, Kids

Little Lambs & Ivy

Placed in Columbia’s Shandon area, this especially unique children’s clothing shop proffers a wonderful selection for our little ones. They always grow up too fast, but you’ll have fun dressing with the clothing lines offered here. They are perfect for those oh-so-very-active pint-size people. 343.7070, mylittlelambs&ivy.com

Another fan fav: Once Upon a Child

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Clothing, Men

Granger Owings

Customers note their experience of people-focused service from this Main Street retailer is among the best they have ever received. With the store featuring everything from sports shirts to suits and dress shoes to casual togs, there is something to appeal to just about any contemporary man. Exclusive looks from Peter Miller are available. You’ll find something suitable for a prom, a wedding or any special occasion. 252.6714/Grangerowings.com

Another fan fav: Brittons

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Clothing, Women

Bohemian

Research meaning of the word behind the name and you’ll “bohemianism” is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle often in the company of like-minded people. This Five Points area store is just the shop for a woman with her own style identity who wants to stand out from the Southern crowd. Here you’ll find quality brands that are well known plus handmade pieces from local and U.S. designers that differentiates the store from other area boutiques. 256.0629/shop-bohemian.com 

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Consignment Clothing

Revente

You can find boutique and designer labels at resale prices at Revente. Looking for luxury in clothing, you’ll find it here with labels such as Chanel, Gucci, Kate Spade and Prada. Stock changes daily so you never know when you’ll come across that oh-so-perfect dress or longed-for pair of shoes. This shop opened in 1992 and quickly became one of Columbia’s top shopping destinations. 256.3076/Shoprevente.com

Another fan fav: Sid and Nancy

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Consignment Furniture

Roundabout Consignments

This quality consignment shop has been part of Columbia retailing since 2003. It offera a quick, convenient path to selling gently-used furniture, home décor and clothing in an atmosphere like that of a department store. Shoppers will find a huge selection at affordable prices. The store’s experience with Midlands area customers helps it know what to stock to meet local needs. More than 18,000 consignors bring items to this shop to sell meaning you’ll find thousands of new things weekly. 736.5446/Myroundabouts.com

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Day Spa

Urbana Nirvana

This Columbia salon and day spa offers a different kind of spa experience.

It’s more than an escape, more than a momentary indulgence. Saunter in and you’ll obtain a relaxing massage by licensed, trained professionals who know how to scout out those stress points and relieve them. Their facials are just as therapeutic. It caters equally to men and women. Go in, take advantage of their complete range of services – really restorative. 727.1010/Columbia/Urbannirvana.com

Another fan fav: Occo Skin Studio

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Dentist, Adult

Palmetto Smiles

At Palmetto Smiles, dentists and staff reach for their goal: “Healthy smiles for a lifetime.” This state-of-the-art dentistry service often caters to adults, something not known to everyone. This company offers full service restorative and cosmetic dentistry and specializes in patient care emphasizing the prevention of dental problems. 951.9100/Palmetto-smiles.com

Another fan fav: Vista Smiles

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Dermatology

The Dermatology Group

These professionals stress the best, modern quality dermatological care. They know that acne doesn’t have to be a rite of passage, that there are safe procedures for rejuvenating aging skin. Skin conscious health care consumers seek professionals of this ilk for best and most up-to-date care available. 254.3376/Dermgroupsc.com

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Exercise Facility

Gold's Gym

For 50 years now, this exercise and training facility has made its mark: setting goals, showing up, digging deep, doing the work, finishing strong, getting healthy and seeing results. All that grew from a single gym in Venice, Calif. Today Midlands resident can obtain the same high level, professional input they need to keep fit right in their own backyard. Gold’s has several locations in the Columbia area. 787-4950/ Goldsgym.com

Another fan fav: Planet Fitness

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Eye Care Vision Center

Columbia Eye Clinic

From laser surgery to basic eye examinations, you’ll find it at Columbia Eye Clinic. Highly trained and skilled eye health care providers can answer your questions and every eye care need. The company recently moved to an electronic medical records system, strengthening its services for patients at its several Midlands locations. 779.3070/Columbiaeyeclinic.com

 Another fan fav: Sansbury Eye Center

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Flooring Company

Redd Flooring & Design Center

You have a style, a way about you. So do your floors. You’ll find the trendy, the practical, the class here. Materials are diverse, including tile, hardwood, laminate, stone, carpet, a even combinations,  Redd Flooring & Design Center works well with customers for find just the right design for your lifestyle. The company has a reputation for trained staff and lots of choices, in addition to being budget-friendly and environmentally-conscious. 776.5933/Reddflooring.com

Another fan fav: Carpet One

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Florist

Rosewood Florist

Step inside Rosewood Florist and you enter a world of beauty – with a bit of whimsy thrown in for fun. They’ve been a fixture in the Rosewood area for years, and are known for their talented design staff and prompt service. Sensitive and joyful, they listen and respond – beautifully. Their dried arrangements are just as lovely as their fresh cut flowers, and their list of devoted customers continues to grow. 256.8351/rosewoodflorist.com

Another fan fav: The Blossom Shop

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Funeral Home

Dunbar Funeral Home

Its history dates back to 1864, making Dunbar a cornerstone in Columbia. This company has a reputation for quality, compassionate service at a time when only that sort of service will do. Founder J.M. Van Metre set those standards high in 1922 when he said: “Our inspiration…to do the right thing at the right time in the right way…” Now part of the Dignity Memorial network, Dunbar has three area locations: Devine Street, Dutch Fork and Northeast. 771.7990/Dunbarfunerals.com

Another fan fav: Thompson Funeral Home

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Furniture Store

Whit-Ash Furnishings

Four decades of service in the Vista distinguish this retailer. With home furnishings, lighting, art, rugs, gifts, jewelry and more, Whit-Ash has it all for the contemporary homeowner. Turn window-shopping into a shop-in –person art by walking around this fun store. Lean back into its overstuffed chairs and imagine having one in your own home. You can find classic or contemporary here, but you’ll see unique pieces not found elsewhere, it seems to go on forever and indeed, includes about one acre of showrooms. 779.5123/whit-ashfurnishings.com

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Garden Center

Wingard’s Nursery

From humble beginnings as a roadside azalea stand, Wingard’s has grown into an award-winning nursery that offers everything for the garden, from gorgeous plants to accessories, water features, gifts, workshops, and so many ways to give back to the community through charitable events. Superb professional help keeps you on track. Stroll through the grounds and you’ll feel refreshed and renewed. 359.9091/wingardsnursery.com

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Gift Store

Just the Thing

When you’re looking for the perfect gift, head to Just the Thing for something a little bit unique and a whole lotta pretty. They’ve got stylish fashions and all kinds of gifts in every price range. Personalized jewelry adds a lovely touch, and there’s truly something for everyone. Think candy store for women seeking pretties. 771.9969/shopjustthething.com

Another fan fav: Artizan, Hand-picked

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Home Accessories Store

Strobler Home Furnishings

We can do some damage here, because everywhere you look you find the perfect thing for your home. When you need a spruce up, new pillows, lighting, artwork, furnishings, tables, and objets d/art get the job done. With 15,000 square feet of space, super folks who’ll help you and a clearance center, you know you’ll leave with the good stuff. 790.6300/strobler.com

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Home Audio/Video

Upstairs Audio & Video

They’ve been around for a long time and with good reason. For more than 40 years, this brainchild of a former USC student has allowed consumers to audition products and talk with experts about custom installations and specifications. For those who want to see, touch and understand the real deal in the store before making a financial commitment, Upstairs Audio & Video has that hands-on atmosphere that appeals. 256.3277/upstairsaudio.com

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Home Cleaning Service

Molly Maid

May we let you in on a little secret? You’re too busy to get it all done. And yet, we all want a spotless home, plus time to be with those we love. Perhaps that’s why Molly Maid has been so highly recommended since 1979. Professional standards, training, guaranteed satisfaction, and most important, cleaning your home to your specifications. Free home estimates make it easy to check them out. 738.8878/mollymaid.com

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Home Security Provider

ADT

They built their topnotch reputation on security, but in today’s world, ADT offers current technology that includes wireless security, video surveillance, energy monitoring, keyless entry, medical alert and so much more. Security is a 24/7 business and these folks have you and yours covered. This is one complete package of services that provides safety and piece of mind. Priceless. 753.8141/homesecurity.adt.com

Another fan fav: Tripp’s Lock & Key

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Homebuilder

Vesta Builders

The art and science of constructed a home. This award-winning Lexington-based company has received rave reviews for their honesty, professional expertise, talent, willingness to liste, flexibility, and attention to detail. Tammy and Joe Jur have the credentials you want in your home builder. He is a Certified Master Builder (and there are more on staff). As a result of their experience and philosophy, their homes are top quality, built to exacting standards, on time, on budget. 957.8121/vestabuilders.com

More fan favs: Mungo and Essex Homes

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Hotel

Hilton Columbia Center

Check Trip Advisor and you’ll find rave reviews for this downtown, perfectly positioned accommodations gem. It’s close to all sorts of activities, and with Ruth’s Chris Steak House on site, fine dining is always an option. It’s a 4-Diamond, AAA property with an outdoors saltwater pool. At night, you’re in the heart of the Vista where the good times roll. 744.7800/hiltoncolumbia.com

Another fan fav: Embassy Suites

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Insurance Provider

Aaron Shealy, Allstate

You really are in good hands with this venerable insurance provider. Aaron Shealy has earned his reputation as a professional who cares about his clients, and with a broad range of services available, including home, life, auto, renter, business, motorcycle and more, you can be sure you’ll be comfortably covered. 699.9880/Allstate.com

Another fan fav: Larry Lucas, State Farm

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Interior Designer

Ford Boyd Bailey, Verve

Since 1992, interior designer Ford Boyd Bailey, and her company, Verve, has provided Columbians with elegant attractive designs for all types of living environments. With a background that includes a BFA in Interior Design, plus study at Sotheby’s and years of creative interior design, she is highly sought after for her skill, inspiration, taste, and ability to work with clients to enhance their living environments. Pick up a copy of her book, Trade Secrets, and get a glimpse of her own home. Available at bookstores and at Verve. 799.0045/verveinteriors.com

Another fan fav: Evon Kirkland, Westend

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Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Sylvan and Dubose

They’ve been in the Five Points area since 1922, and still a family-owned business that understands fine jewelry. Members of the American Gem Society, the store provides advice from caring jewelry professionals who continue to improve their skills in order to better serve your very special purchases. And did we mention the beautiful jewelry found there? 799.5417/sylvandubose.com

Another fan fav: Sylvan’s, Jewelry Warehouse

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Kitchen/Bath Remodeler

Remodeling Services Unlimited

We’ve all been through it. Remodeling brings clutter into your life. And yet, on the other side, you’ll have the kitchen of your dreams, or perhaps that master bath you deserve after all your hard work. Remodeling Services Unlimited understands the challenges, and ultimate joy that comes with having a new and improved room (or two) in your home. Another positive: They’re Certified Aging in Place Specialists, a Certified Green Professional, and an SC Master Builder. 765.9363/remodelingservicesunlimited.com

Another fan fav: Design & Remodeling Solutions

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Landscape Designer

Blue Moon Landscaping

One reviewer said it best: “Their work is always done on time, carefully, skillfully and with imagination.” Who could ask for more in a landscape company, especially one that has been an admired fixture in Columbia since 1987. Founder Trent Hutchinson provides high quality service including award-winning landscaping and lawn maintenance – plus everything from irrigation to landscape lighting.776.3838/bluemoonlandscaping.com

Another fan fav: Palmetto Pride Landscaping

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Lighting Store

The Lite House

Providing expert assistance and a huge variety of lighting since 1973, The Lite House remains favorite for everything from elegantly formal, to casually modern. Take a look at their staff favorites and you’ll see the perfect light for every room in (and out) of your home. Two locations. 798.5400/788.3213/thelitehouse.com

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Mortgage Company

Midland Mortgage

They’ve got the flexibility to meet a wide variety of needs, and the experience to know what needs to be done to get homeowners the mortgage best suited to them. Even better, their support staff is dependable and knowledgeable, responding quickly to your questions and the changing industry. 854.9484/midlandmortgagecorp.com

Another fan fav: Wells Fargo

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Pediatric Dentist

Friendly Dental of Columbia

Few things spike one’s anxiety like going to the dentist. This is especially true for young children. Kids want you to give it to them straight in terms they can understand, but they also hope you will leave out the scary stuff. The folks at Friendly Dental of Columbia (FDC) are experts at working with youngsters and making them comfortable. FDC offers a full range of services for all ages, from fillings and root canals to exams, cleanings, and even whitening. No surprises. 661.8412/friendlydentalcolumbia.com

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Pediatrician

Palmetto Pediatrics and Adolescent Clinic, PA

The growing years are tricky years. Got a newborn and are bewildered by breastfeeding? Contact Lactation Station any time of the day or night. Toddler? Check vaccinations. Middle-schooler with anxiety? Get the best advice and needed reassurance. Adolescent who feels too big to visit the pediatrician? Your teen will feel comfortable here. Staff includes an expert on special needs kids, including autism, and a licensed pediatric nurse on call 24/7. 779.4001/palmettopediatric.com

Another fan fav: Sandhills Pediatrics

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Pest Control

Home Pest Control

It’s been said that cockroaches are so hardy they will be the only species to survive the apocalypse. Perhaps so, but they won’t survive Home Pest Control. With over a half century of service, this locally owned business has been eradicating all manner of unwanted visitors, from roaches and fire ants to rodents and termites, even (gasp) bed bugs. Dependability, environmentally responsible practices, and affordable rates. Online price quotes available on their website. 794.7378/www.homepest.com

Another fan fav: Terminix

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Plastic Surgeon

Gregory Sexton, MD, Capital Plastic Surgery

There is nothing sexier than a confident woman, and Columbia is home to more sexy women than ever before. Many of them underwent a little nip and tuck, courtesy of Dr. Gregory Sexton of Capital Plastic Surgery, and their confidence soared. The bulk of Dr. Sexton’s practice these days consists of breast augmentations and tummy tucks (abdominoplasty), but patients also can receive a variety of facial enhancements and body contouring. Three-D imaging is available so you can preview likely results. Website has “before” and “after” photos. 252.6222, www.capitalplasticsurgery.com

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Pool Company

Griffin Pools & Spas

Columbia is known for being “famously hot,” and there’s no better way to cool off than a backyard pool. Griffin Pools & Spas offers both in-ground and above ground pools in a variety of shapes and styles. They also renovate aging pools. Saltwater pools are now more popular than chlorine pools and easier to maintain. Offering custom design and construction, low-maintenance energy-efficient equipment and automated pool cleaners. You’ll be playing Marco Polo in no time. 957.2121 in Lexington/griffinpoolsandspas.com

Another fan fav: Jack Oliver's Pool

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Real Estate Agency

Russell & Jeffcoat

Russell & Jeffcoat Real Estate ranked as the Midlands’ top company again in this – their 50th anniversary year, continuing its enduring legacy in spite of recently losing icon Bob Russell, who founded the company with Abb Jeffcoat in the mid-60s. Among the company’s hallmarks are: Retaining experienced, community-savvy associates. Its reach includes new homes communities, relocation services, open houses and other services, including rentals. Homebuyer education, offered through workshops and other information channels, have helped sustain the company’s stellar reputation for service. www.russellandjeffcoat.com/

Another fan fav: Coldwell Banker

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Salon for Women

Bombshell Beauty Studio

Bombshell Beauty Studio snips off the top of its category by consistently sparking a charge in their clients’ looks, whether the strategic plan is a touch-up or a full-blown make-over, and whether the plan applies to males or females. The transformative atmosphere at this Five Points studio is high energy, from the eclectic décor to the array of services and range of professional stylists that comprise the on-site team that delivers the individualized look. 779.1811/bombshellbeautystudios.com

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Salon/Barber for Men

Connell’s Barber Shop

Connell’s Barber Shop in Lexington clips the competition by keeping it old school – as it has for more than three decades. Their consistent service has earned them a loyal clientele, and they show appreciation by having the most chairs of any shop around, so they can get their customers in and out efficiently. They start ’em young, often administering first haircuts, and keep’ em happy, sometimes into a next generation. Their experienced barbers still have the know-how for specialty cuts such as pompadours and flat tops, and they are straight-razor skilled as well. Military and law enforcement personnel warrant discounts, and anybody who gets six cuts gets the seventh one free. 356.6060/ connellsbarbershop.com

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Schools

Ben Lippen

Ben Lippen School earned the superlative in this category by continuously building on its strengths: Communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, all administered through a Christian perspective on a verdant campus where global diversity is easily recognizable. Characterizing this learning community are respect, responsibility and integrity. Its boarding option had enhanced its offerings. 807-4000/benlippen.com

Another fan fav: Heathwood Hall

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Shoe Store

Gwen Rawls

Gwen Rawls steps ahead in the shoe category by bringing to Trenholm Plaza and her waiting clientele the latest styles and fine, supple leathers of Italy. For this shoe impresario, the magic began on a trip to Milan. For her wearers the cultural transformation begins when a foot slips into any style statement crafted into pumps, heels, sandals and mules conceptualized by fashion’s most sought-after shoe designers. 661-7607/gwenrawls.com

Another fan fav: Good for the Sole

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Sporting/Hunting/Fishing Store

Barron’s Outfitters

Barron’s has outfitted rooky outdoorsmen through their transitions into seasoned veteran outdoorsmen for a well over half a century. Voters representing multiple generations earned this mainstay outfitter its pinnacle in this category. In addition to rods, reels and a dizzying assortment of lures along with myriad must-haves for the outdoors, the Harden Street store also stocks calls and scents, as well as firearms. Advice, oftentimes the most important commodity, is free. 254.5537/barronsoutfitters.com

More fan favs: Half-Moon Outfitters, The Backpacker

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Surf Shop

Salty’s Board Shop

Salty’s Board Shop graduated, over its years in business, from being thought of primarily as a skateboard shop to now being noted as the go-to shop for many boards – for many sports: from surf to snow. Right there in Shandon you can also choose the proper gear and cool attire you’ll need for each sport whether you’re headed to the park, the beach or the mountains. 748.9946

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Swimwear

Salty’s Board Shop

Salty’s takes the top off this category with a selection of swimwear to match up with anywhere you plan to get wet. The desirable lines of swimwear Salty’s carries have been well-constructed of fabrics that stand up to demanding recreational activities and come in colors and styles that will make you stand out as you dive in. Many of the asked-for lines are USA-made, so that’s what Salty stocks. Check this swimwear out! 748.9946

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Veterinarian

Shandon-Wood Animal Clinic earned the superlative in this category for many reasons, all given by patients’ owners. But the most frequent comment has been: They are there for us. And that means seven days a week! Pets and their families appreciate access to this complete medical care whenever the need arises. Voters described this Millwood Avenue and Daly Street clinic as having the most caring, most compassionate vet team in town. 254.9257/shandonwood.serveronline.net

Another fan fav: Four Paws Animal Clinic

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Wedding Reception Venues

Millstone at Adam’s Pond

Millstone at Adam’s Pond is steeped in centuries of history and garlanded in natural beauty. No wonder brides and grooms want to begin their shared history and their most special day-of-days in such a place as this! The secluded setting promises exclusivity. The proprietors have earned a reputation for very personalized and sensitive service delivered with an acute attention to detail. And they are noted also for being flexible, knowing the dynamics of such a dramatic transition may alter – on the way to the altar. 783.5732/thesouthernway.com/venues

More fan favs: The River Road and Jasmine Houses and Garden

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