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Best of Columbia SC 2022 - Dining

Posted On July 2, 2022

Appetizers

Bistro on the Boulevard 

bistroontheblvd.com

Try the truffle fingerling potatoes in this casual setting with fine-dining quality ingredients.  You have options here, so be sure to check out the nightly offerings. Seafood, beef and more! Happy hour drink specials get the party going and be sure to check on “Off Menu” wines.  Sit inside on the covered patio, or at the bar.  For special gatherings, a semi-private dining room is an option.

Authentic American

Tombo Grille

tombogrille.com

Their menu changes to highlight the flavor of the seasons, and South Carolina-grown ingredients are always front and center.  If you see their BBQ brisket eggrolls on the menu, enjoy.  There’s something about the brisket with pimento cheese and collard greens.  Around since 2002, this local favorite serves creative comfort food with excellent wine, beer and desserts.  Their eclectic menu has a southern flair, offering delicious items for every palate. It’s a great date night destination.

Authentic Asian

Sakitumi

sakifresh.com

Since 2006, those in the know have wandered down the alley in the Vista to enjoy an evening of creative cocktails, fresh sushi and very flavorful grill items.   The Rio Roll is one of many interesting options, and includes crab, spicy tuna, Sriracha and jalapenos, topped with avocado and salmon. There’s also a super brunch offered thanks to Chefs Bobby Wessinger and Rich Kuk who feature a creative delicious menu on Sundays from 11am-2pm. 

 

Authentic Caribbean

Legacy Caribbean Bar and Grill

legacycaribbeanbarandgrill.com

If authentic Jamaican food is on your wish list, it’s here.  The jerk chicken gets rave reviews on social media, but there’s lots more to love about their food, including brown fish stew and great munchies.  Island cocktails will make you feel downright exotic, and the 100-foot bar and pool tables promise a good time. Monday night karaoke, Friday nights with DJ B Lord, and Reggae night every Saturday?  Oh yeah.  Indoor or outside.

Authentic Italian

Il Giorgione Pizzeria & Wine 

ilgiorgione.com

When you’re advised to “Eat at Gio’s” it’s good advice indeed.  With an Italian background and love of all things Italian, George and Monica Kessler make sure that your dining experience is as authentic as it can get.  From their truly special pizzas, to the pastas and salads and specials, the food is delightful.  The atmosphere and service add to the experience. They invite you to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy – Buon Appetito!

Authentic Mexican

Real Mexico Restaurant

realmexicorestaurant.com

The rave reviews say it all.  This authentic Mexican restaurant serves fresh food with a delicious twist.  Try the chicken Fajitas Monterrey with cheese, sautéed mushrooms and crispy bacon.  Or the Baja Fish Tacos, with beer battered cod on soft corn tortillas with cilantro-jalapeno coleslaw, chipotle mayo and avocado.  And the Seafood Molcajete with its sautéed shrimp, clams, mussels and baby octopus served on a hot stone Molcajete covered with salsa Verde and cheese.

Bakery

Ally & Eloise Bakeshop

allyandeloise.com

They had me at the macarons.  Arguably the best we’ve tasted, they’re indicative of just how good this bakeshop is.  From the cookies to the signature cakes and more, everything is made with skill, passion and a devotion to quality.  Take a look at the funfetti cake and we guarantee a smile.  As for Ally, she shares the credit for her success with Eloise, the French bulldog who happily lends her name and likeness to the shop.  Open since 2012, there are two locations in Columbia.

Barbecue

Little Pigs Barbecue

littlepigs.biz

Since 1963, this barbecue favorite has been serving pork cooked with hickory smoked flavor.  As for the sauce, take your pick.  South Carolinians have their favorite flavors, of course, but that’s your choice.  The buffet has truly southern sides like collards and tomato pie, mac and cheese and hash.  And for something different, fish, wings, ribs, chicken and brisket are on the menu.  Need some catering?  They can do that, too.  Eat in or take out.  Just make sure you order enough for seconds.

Breakfast Spot

Original Pancake House

originalpancakehouse.com

Have you tried their scrumptious Dutch Baby, an air-filled delight, oven-baked to golden perfection and served with lemon, whipped butter and powdered sugar?  What about their savory mushroom omelet with homemade rich-tasting mushroom sherry sauce?  This is breakfast for every taste, including apple crepes, Spanish omelets, chicken salad sandwiches, fajita crepes, and more. Everything here is made fresh in house and crafted with care.  Enjoy!

Burgers

Higher Ground Char House

highergroundcharhouse.com

Their philosophy is being nice and genuine to people and creating food that’s worth getting off the couch and driving for. “Best burger I ever had,” is the phrase heard all over Chapin.  But there’s more.  Their Higher Ground Flip can be ordered with a burger, chicken or steak and comes smothered with sautéed peppers and onions, four cheeses and the rest of the fixins.  Hint from those in the know.  Order the sweet potato fries.  Just make sure there’s enough to share.

Candy & Chocolate

The Peanut Man Chocolate Factory & Gourmet Café

Thepeanutman.com

Perhaps you didn’t know the Peanut Man has a gourmet café on site, where you can enjoy Gorgonzola steak salad, or fig and goat cheese flatbread with arugula, balsamic glaze and more.  Delicious.  The regulars are here, as well, with so many different flavors of popcorn, candies, chocolate, candied apples on a stick, chocolate covered strawberries and more, including their fabulous boiled peanuts.  It’s a great place for gift baskets, too. Dine in or pick-up curbside.  

Caterer

Spotted Salamander

spottedsalamandercatering.com

Have you ever enjoyed shrimp pie?  It’s as southern as they come, with shrimp, farmer’s veggies, Swiss cheese, buttery cornbread crumble and a flakey crust.  A café favorite that’s just a bit different from common lunchtime fare.  Make note of their deviled eggs as well – different flavors every day.  And that’s just on-site.  Since 2008, Chef and Owner Jessica Shillato has catered events large and small to rave reviews.  The café opened in 2014 and expanded in 2016.  You’ll love its historic ambiance downtown.

Cocktail

Bourbon

bourboncolumbia.com

You don’t have to be a whiskey drinker to enjoy cocktails at Bourbon, but if you are, it’s the place to go! With the largest whiskey list in SC, the choices also include Irish, Scotch, Canadian, Indian and Japanese varieties.  Bourbon, however, and for obvious reasons, is the star along with their Cajun-Creole cuisine.  Bar Manager, Kat Hunter, has been named “Bartender of the Year” by the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.  Drop by for a drink (no reservations) and appreciate the quality, care and expertise that comes with those great cocktails.

Coffeehouse

Drip

dripcolumbia.com

Coffee, tea and great food are part of Drip’s vibe, and it’s a good one.  Their house blend is great, but branch out to a Macciato, or smoked-salted caramel latte with whipped cream.  Their mission is to provide high-quality service and superior coffee and espresso-based drinks in a warm and inviting atmosphere.  They succeed, admirably.  Grab a cup to go or some in and enjoy the ambiance.  Find them in five points or downtown.

Crab Cakes

Backstreets Grill

backstreetsgrill.com

A relative newcomer to Devine Street and Columbia, this family-operated grill receives rave reviews on lots of their dishes, but let’s start with the crab cake.  Available in sandwich or a la carte form, it’s full of the good stuff – lump crab – and in sandwich form, arrives with Cajun Caesar dressing and all the fixings, served on a toasted Brioche bun.  This is modern-American cuisine, prepared with only the freshest of ingredients, with unique sauces that are house-made, daily. 

 

Craft Brewer

Columbia Craft Brewing Company   

803-799-6027 

columbiacraft.com

A family home brewing hobby that began on a napkin, the company’s quality, flavorful products are years in the making and award-winning. Quality, sustainability, innovation, and hospitality are their core values.  The result is a broad range of exceptional cutting-edge beers.  Famously Hop is their year round flagship India Pale Ale brewed with 4 varieties of malt; Carolinian, their crisp ale has a clean malt backbone, low bitterness, and just a touch of honey malt sweetness. Animal lovers, check out the Belgian Blonde Ale. 

Desserts

The Baked Bear

thebakedbear.com/Columbia

Begun in San Diego by high school buddies, The Baked Bear’s only Carolinas location is right here in Columbia. It’s their mix and match philosophy that allows a peanut and chocolate lover to order a giant ice cream sandwich of caramel pretzel ice cream surrounded by peanut butter Nutella cookies, topped with hot caramel.  Choose from over a dozen original-recipe cookies and ice cream flavors.  Creations can be rolled in toppings and even pressed for a bit of warmth.  Aren’t we lucky?

Distillery

Hollow Creek Distillery

hollowcreekdistillery.com

Nine generations in the making, the Amick family likes to say they pour their pride and passion into every bottle they produce.  Their hand-crafted spirits are distilled on Faith, Family and Hard Work, and it shows.  Stop by their distillery any Thursday-Saturday and taste the results of their labor, especially the spirits you simply can’t find anywhere else including  34.08 Wheated Whiskey,  Salted Caramel-flavored moonshine, Carolina Honey, Hell Fire, and seasonal options like Peach and watermelon.  

Family Restaurant

Flight Deck Restaurant

flightdeckrestaurant.net

For the kids, there’s the largest arcade in the Lexington area.  They can play favorite games while waiting on the food; adults can enjoy a bit of a break.  Everybody’s happy with the food as well, with American classics, Greek dishes and their famous blue plate special, featuring dishes like homemade meatloaf, country fried chicken, shrimp and more.  There’s kid-friendly fare as well, and wings, of course. Desserts range from super cheesecakes, to pies, cakes and homemade cookies.  The aerial theme adds to the fun.   

Fine Dining

Griffin Chophouse

griffinchophousegroup.com

Start with the brisket candy, but don’t stop there.  This Lexington favorite has all the right moves, with your favorite cuts of beef, plus some you may not know.  With homemade appetizers, innovative salads, wings, sandwiches, and salads – think Caprese and Caesar – and dishes like hot Nashville chicken sandwiches or shrimp po-boys, every taste is satisfied.  For other side of the lake folks, Griffin Chophouse at Timberlake Country Club is another fine option.

Happy Hour

Cantina 76

cantina76.com

People just love it here, with its casual vibe and great margaritas (so many flavors).  The Mexican-inspired cuisine is fresh and includes all your favorites, from tacos (every filling you love, and four for shrimp), to quesadillas, enchiladas and you get the picture.  People come for happy hour, but usually stay for dinner.  The bar features a nice selection of premium tequilas and their Cantina Margarita is sweetened with low-glycemic agave nectar.  Healthier and just as delicious!

Health Fare

Well Café

facebook:/wellcafecola

This little gem on Rosewood Drive is gaining quite the reputation amongst those is search of healthy and tasty.  A few things to note:  they use unsweetened milk – from either cows or nuts – so no added sugar; their wellness lattes are coffee free, with nondairy milk and full of nutrients.  And they are proudly a woman-owned business which also works hard to promote and support products from other woman-owned businesses.  Try the Birds of Paradise smoothie, with spinach, pineapple and mango, or Mama’s Muffins Smoothie, full of blueberries, strawberries, bananas and oats – yum.

Ice Cream

Sweet Cream Co.

sweetcreamcompany.com

Now this is ice cream!  With 16 flavors made in small batches, when one is gone, another is made to take its place – embrace the surprise!  Their offerings are carefully crafted to be one-of-a-kind experiences.  Located on Main Street in downtown Columbia, drop by and enjoy.  We love Whiskey Pecan, but have been known to choose Raspberry Cheesecake or Mango Sorbet when available.  Owners Joe and Jessica also have homemade doggie treats for $1 which they match and donate proceeds to local animal rescue efforts.  A worthy cause indeed. 

Late Night Menu

The Whig

thewhig.org

After a long night, you just gotta have a place to relax and grab a bite before heading home.  This subterranean getaway is the place, and since 2005 it’s soothed many a poor soul gone astray in the night. Consider their gravy fries, or perhaps their chicken sandwich adorned with pimento cheese.  The baked soft pretzel will do the trick, or for veggie lovers, there are vegetarian burgers.  Kitchen is open until midnight weeknights and later on weekends.   

Liquor

Green’s Beverage

greensbeverages.com

You will find a great selection at Green’s, either downtown or at Harbison.  Pay with cash and get a discount, or use your credit cards.  This is a great place to prepare for tailgating, a picnic or a get-together at home.  Downtown has been operating since 1984, and Harbison has a huge warehouse, but lucky for us, their very knowledgeable staff is eager to help you find exactly what you want – or introduce you to something a little different. It’s all good. 

Lunch Spot

929 Kitchen & Bar

929kitchen.com

It’s quite popular with the lunchtime crowd, but 929 Kitchen & Bar is open for dinner as well.  This Korean cuisine is inspired by ancient Korean traditions.  It’s great food you may not have tasted before.  Just ask your knowledgeable wait staff to explain the Bibimbap, doenjang, and combinations of flavors available (hot chili, sweet and spicy, and soy garlic, to name a few).  Located on Gervais Street in the Vista, try it for lunch and you’ll return for dinner. 

New Restaurant

Boca Grande Burritos

bocagrandesc.com

In Forest Acres, this relative newcomer to the area garners rave reviews for its chicken burritos and there are options for those who prefer a rice bowl, salad or gluten-free option.  Build your own burrito and consider their salsa, chile rojo sauce or Mole. Owned by former Cantina Chef David Grillo. Open Monday-Saturday from 11am-8pm.  Can and bottle sodas and local craft beer.

Outdoor Dining

Tazza Kitchen, Trenholm Plaza

tazzakitchen.com

With energy to spare and a casual, upscale vibe, reserve a table on the wraparound patio for lunch or dinner.  The starters, sides, salads and sandwiches include great options and the tacos are delish.  Their mains are just as good, and the outdoors (or inside, if you prefer) adds a bit of charm with its landscaping and comfortable seating.  Don’t forget the craft cocktails, beer and wine.  And the Sunday Brunch for middle of the day decadence.

Pizza

Za’s Brick Oven Pizza

zasbrickovenpizza.com

It’s been a Devine Street favorite for more than 20 years and with good reason.  Yes, the wood-fired pizza is part of the reason why – it’s possible to build your own epicurean masterpiece, or choose from one of their specialties.  There’s more.  Local sourcing, house-made Italian sausage, small plates, happy hour, substantial salads, free-range organic chickens, and one delicious basil Lime Martini, made with Firefly Vodka.

Pub/Tavern

The British Bulldog Pub

thebritishbulldogpub.com

It takes the right stuff to make a world-class pub.  This one’s got it all, from 30 different kinds of beer on tap to another 100 types of bottled beer.  (Wine, too.)  Locally owned by two Londoners and a Texan raised in Irmo, the pub was born from a strong desire to serve quality ales and spirits, plus traditional English food and international cuisine.  There’s always something wonderful on the big screens, from soccer, to American football and more.  Try the British Bulldog Sampler, or the fish and chips – haddock breaded and cooked to perfection. 

Raw Bar

The Oyster Bar, Columbia  

oysterbarcolumbia.com

There’s just something about their cocktail sauce that’s addictive.  Sold in house and this oyster centric eatery, it’s also available in select stores.   That warmed-up goodness isn’t the only reason to go to The Oyster Bar, in the Vista since 2001, but it sure adds to the seafood you enjoy.  The gulf oysters are always delicious, and always shucked for you, at the long, u-shaped bar.  The beer is cold, the cocktails great and the Oyster Shooter’s a must.  In addition to the briny bivalves, they serve, crab, clams, crawfish and shrimp, with sides and specialties.  

Romantic Atmosphere

Hampton Street Vineyard

hamptonstreetvineyard.com

This American Brasserie is winner of Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence.  It is the quintessential date night experience.  And if you aren’t confident about wine selections with your meal, the knowledgeable staff are happy to make suggestions.  The Bouillabaisse is memorable, and the fish de Jour is always outstanding.  If you’re guessing a French influence you’d be happily correct. Open for lunch, dinner and brunch. Save room for dessert.  You can thank us later.

Salads

No Name Deli

nonamedelisc.com

For more than 30 years, this downtown spot has had a line of hungry patrons every day, waiting to order a very fresh sandwich or one of their signature salads (chicken, tuna or shrimp) plus salads topped with grilled or fried chicken, Greek offerings and even a taco salad.  Their tea is legend, sweet, unsweet, peach or raspberry.  Fast, fresh and no frills says it all and Columbians love it.

Seafood

Blue Marlin

bluemarlincolumbia.com

In the heart of the Vista in the old train station, this Lowcountry-inspired restaurant has a loyal group of customers who come for the freshest seafood (think Charleston crab cakes, award-winning shrimp and grits).  They serve delectable starters and salads, and offer a taste of Caribbean, African, Cajun West Indian and Cajun and Creole cuisines.  Open for lunch and dinner, and save room for dessert.  Key lime pie?  Yes, please.

Seafood Market

Ole Timey Meats

oletimeymeatmkt.com

They’ve got great seafood but for a truly amazing dining experience, swing by when the Scottish Salmon has arrived.  Buy some and plan on one delicious meal for the night.  They’ve also got excellent shrimp and scallops, plus other delicacies upon request.  Their frozen swordfish is mighty tasty as well.  Yes, Ole Timey is known primarily for its meats, but the seafood is sourced from a Lowcountry operation and the quality cannot be beat. Three locations: Irmo, Lexington and South Congaree. 

Service

Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café

mrfriendlys.com

What began as a sandwich and cookie shop in the early 80s, this wildly popular Five Points restaurant has evolved into so much more.  Since 1995, it’s been open for lunch and dinner, serving New Southern Cuisine in an atmosphere that is both casual and sophisticated.  You’ll always find fresh fish and seafood, plus meat, poultry and wild game.  Their wine list tops 300 selections and they feature a wide variety of local brews, unique micro-brews, small batch and Reserve Bourbons, and single-malt Scotch. Their concept: Great food, Great service and Great wine!

Steakhouse

Halls Chophouse

Columbia 

hallschophouse.com

The steaks at Halls Chophouse are well-traveled, cut from USDA Prime beef and flown in from Allen Brothers of Chicago.  They are wet or dry-aged for ultimate tenderness, juiciness and flavor but the story doesn’t end there.  Every conceivable cut and type of meat is offered here, from a Japanese A5 Wagyu filet, to a Kansas City Bone-in Strip.  Choose from 14 options, and for those who prefer seafood, salads, and superior sides, Halls does not disappoint.  

Sunday Brunch

The Woody on Main

thewoodyonmainsc.com

Yes, they are “big on brunch” and we’re glad.  Brunch is served from 10am-2pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Choose from beignets (three sauces), crab cakes, shrimp and grits, The Woody breakfast burger and homemade sausage gravy over buttermilk biscuits.  Started by iconic radio personality Woody Windham along with his daughters who grew up working with dad, its Main Street location has it all.  It’s also open for dinner; bring your dancing shoes!

Sushi

Inakaya Watanabe

facebook.com/InakayaWatanabe

Open Tuesday –Saturday for dinner and Fridays for lunch, this restaurant prides itself on superb sushi, using only the freshest seafood, assembled into edible works of art with utmost care and skill.  Those who know proclaim it “amazing” and worth the drive.  It’s unassuming from the outside, but fascinating inside, with service and quality that cannot be beat.  Enjoy and branch out from your favorite roll.  This is the place to experiment a little. 

Vegetarian

14 Carrot

14carrot.net

As a full line health food store, shopping here gives you healthy alternatives for everyday needs (and wants).  In addition to high quality supplements, health and beauty aids, you can purchase groceries, fresh organic/natural meats and deli food, organic produce – ideal for those seeking vegetarian, vegan, wheat/gluten free or raw.  They support local agriculture and farmers and carry Certified South Carolina-grown produce and meats year round.  Need help?  Their staff has you covered.

Water View Dining

Griffin Chophouse at Timberlake Country Club

griffinchophousegroup.com/timberlake

Sister to Griffin Chophouse in Lexington, this restaurant is within the Timberlake Country Club in the middle of the action (tennis courts, pool and golf course).  Outside is a breezy patio that looks out to the lake and golf course.  It’s a great place to unwind after a day of doing anything at all.  The drinks are cold and the food delicious.  Start with peel and eat shrimp, or warm pimento cheese dip, then move on to steak, seafood, salads or pulled pork.  Hint: just like the Lexington location, they offer brisket candy. Yum.

 

Wine List

Gervais and Vine

gervaisandvine.com

Well known for its spirits, beer and wine, it’s the wine that really shines at this downtown favorite.  They have an extensive list of wines by the bottle and wines by the glass are available in multiple sizes. Don’t neglect the food – it’s delicious – but do consider the wine list.  You will see selections you know and love, as well as new-to-you options.  Life is short.  Drink wine.

Wine Store

Morganelli’s Party Store

Facebook.com/morganellissc

Just imagine. 4500+ different wines, craft beer from down the road and across the world, and every liquor you need.  This is a family-owned store that’s been serving the Columbia area from Forest Acres for almost 50 years.  That’s a lot of knowledge and it’s yours for the asking.  Want a very special wine for a certain someone?  Just ask.  These are the folks who can deliver a spectacular bottle for you or someone you cherish.

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