Best of Columbia SC Dining 2020

Posted On July 9, 2020


Saluda’s is known for elegant southern cuisine and atmosphere, and they have appetizers worth stopping to order. Located in the heart of Five Points above Starbucks by the fountain, you can experience an amazing view, dinner, and service. Prepare for mouth-watering appetizers to be served by waiters who cater to you without making you wait, and can even suggest menu items and wine pairings. The patio is also elegant and relaxing with a beautiful atmosphere you can only find by the fountain. Make your reservation for the next time you have a celebration or date night.

Authentic American
Tombo Grille

It’s no surprise that Tombo Grille wins the award for authentic American food again this year. This little gem is located on Forest Drive, tucked away in a small plaza. Its menu includes American classics such as mouth-watering burgers, a chopped salad and a classic rib-eye steak with potatoes and asparagus. If your palette is more adventurous, try the smoked brisket chimichanga or even mac n’ cheese with smoked Gouda. If you have a sweet tooth, do not leave without trying the salted butterscotch blondie. You will not be disappointed. The restaurant is open Monday-Saturday for dinner and has live music Mondays and Wednesdays.

Authentic Asian
Miyabi Japanese Steakhouse

If you have lived in Columbia long enough, you may remember the beautiful Japanese restaurant that was located in the Columbiana Centre in Irmo. The restaurant is long-gone from its mall location, but it did not go far. Now located on Columbiana Drive, the restaurant is bigger and more elegant, without changing its delicious hibachi. The restaurant still has a bar and takeout options, but the focus is on the experience around the hibachi grills. Order authentic hibachi or sushi and get it with a show. The location is also great for larger parties; just do not forget to make a reservation.

Authentic Caribbean
Legacy Caribbean Bar & Grill

Legacy Caribbean Bar and Grill is not a typical restaurant in Columbia. The location has a 100-foot bar, pool tables and room to party. The bar is also stocked with the ingredients needed to make signature cocktails. They have wings, burgers and other traditional appetizers and dishes, but that is not what won them best authentic Caribbean. The restaurant has dishes that will make you want to visit the islands, such as jerk chicken, brown stew chicken, oxtail, plantains and more. Stop by the next time you want a taste of the islands.

Authentic Italian
Villa Tronco

Standing the test of time, Villa Tronco not only dishes up some of the best Italian food in town, but it is also the oldest restaurant. As one of the best family-owned and operated restaurants, the owners look out for the community and their employees. That is why the restaurant was only taking reservations at the time of print in an attempt to strictly adhere to CDC guidelines. Be sure to try the house salad, which boasts a delicate and delish homemade dressing. No matter what you order, you will not be disappointed as everything on the menu is worth trying, including the seafood pasta. The wine list is delicious and unique, and compliments the menu perfectly. Save room for amazing desserts, including Carmella’s outstanding cheesecake. You can also see live opera singers the first Thursday of every month by reservation.

Authentic Mexican
La Fogatas

La Fogatas is a chain with several locations, including West Columbia, Chapin and Lexington. The food is delicious and the menu contains specialty entrees, combination meals, seafood and a substantial kids menu. They went the extra mile and made accommodations so patrons could celebrate Cinco De Mayo this year outside the restaurants with peace of mind. The chain currently does not have a website, so be sure to check out the locations on Facebook. Each location has its own Facebook page.

Tiffany's Bakery

Now settled into its new location, Tiffany’s continues to be Columbia’s go-to for the best in baked goods. While still on Two Notch, but in a larger location, the new bakery encompasses a bar, restaurant, and elegant bakery cases. There is also meeting space and the ability to accommodate larger parties. The menu and drink options also expanded, but still focuses on the famous petit fours, Tiffany’s should be your next stop for lunch and a bakery order. Cakes range from the basic to as creative as you can be.

929 Kitchen and Bar

929 Kitchen is another location looking out for its patrons and staff. Currently only accepting delivery and takeout orders, this Korean restaurant typically has a lively bar scene. You can find entertainment any day of the week, with a busy weekend scene as well as drink specials Monday through Thursday. Get ready to try their signature cocktails once the dining room and bar reopen.

Little Pigs Barbeque

Little Pigs Barbeque Buffet is a staple in North East Columbia. Located on Alpine Road near the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina tower, Little Pigs has all your traditional barbeque and fixins’ including banana pudding worth saving room for. If the idea of a buffet makes you nervous, do not fear. The restaurant changed its style to menu ordering until further notice. So, while you cannot fill up buffet style, you know the owners are taking precautions.

Breakfast Spot
Original Pancake House

Original Pancake House wins best breakfast spot again, and for good reason. It is a local favorite for all things breakfast, not just pancakes. Spend your morning in Forest Acres shopping, or at the spa next door, after ordering from the vast pancake menu, lighter fare or some other delicious dish on the menu. Do not forget to enjoy breakfast with a side of freshly squeezed juice and fresh bottomless coffee (with real cream).

Grill Marks

Grill Marks comes with the whole package. A huge patio, a lot of indoor dining space and bar, towering milkshakes, truffle fries and of course, burgers. Each item on the menu more mouth watering than the next, topped with a fun, family friendly atmosphere, Grill Marks wins best burger. Stop by next time you and your family are out in the Vista. The milkshake and burger will certainly hit the spot after a day on the river.

Ally & Eloise Bakeshop

Ally and Eloise win best candy and chocolate again with two locations to offer treats to satisfy your sweet tooth, one on Main Street downtown and one on Forest Drive in Forest Acres. This bakeshop uses fresh ingredients and creates from scratch. Baker and owner Ally has a passion for the kitchen and it is shown through her recipes. Frenchie Eloise enjoys being the face of the business, posing for photo shoots on a regular basis. Stop by for your next special occasion or when you get a craving for something sweet.

Southern Way

If you need an event catered, you need to call Southern Way. Winning yet again, Southern Way has made quite the impression on Columbia residents. Responsible for elegant events such as Power of the Purse, Governors’ events, and United States presidential dinners, Southern Way brings delectable Southern cuisine topped with the best in fine dining service. You can book intimate dinners, weddings, corporate galas and more. The company has catered for as few as eight people and as many as 8,000. Remember Southern Way for your next large dinner or event.

Tazza Kitchen

It’s the time of year when all you want is to order a cocktail and enjoy a nice, sunny day. Winning best cocktails again this year, Tazza Kitchen, located in Trenholm Plaza, has some of the best in town. Sip a War and Peas, Soma, or other signature cocktail while sitting on the cushioned seats or on the beautiful patio. Whether your taste is more classic, wine, beer or something unique, Tazza Kitchen has a beverage for you.


Columbia is known for local business, so of course we have several local coffee shops from which to choose. Winning best coffee shop this year, however, is Drip. With several locations in town, including Main Street and Five Points, it is convenient to just about any downtown visitor. There are also unique coffee and espresso drinks to try, all while supporting local business, which is more important now than ever.

Crab Cakes
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Travinia wins best crab cake again, so if you are a crab cake enthusiast, be sure to spend an evening at Travinia. Both the Lexington and North East Columbia locations will light up your palette with these flavorful, crab-filled cakes served with tomato orzo and lemon butter. While you are there indulge on the fresh, hot bread with olive oil. The spinach salad with fried goat cheese and warm pancetta dressing will make a great starter with the crab cakes as well.

Craft Brewer
River Rat Brewery

River Rat Brewery is still rocking and rolling, even though the taproom was closed at the time of print. Make sure River Rat Brewery is at the top of your next brewery tour list because you can grab some beer to go. When the taproom and grounds reopen, there is indoor and outdoor seating, and a silo with a view. The brewery also has a delicious menu and is family friendly. The craft beers change regularly, but are all worth trying. They also have frozen drinks, wine and non-alcoholic beverages available.


Kaminsky’s draws guests back in time and time again with their rotating selection of deserts made in-house daily, milkshakes, classic childhood desserts, specialty coffees and other cold beverage creations. The cozy atmosphere makes it the perfect place to also enjoy a hot spirited specialty, dessert martini, or hot toddy. The menu also boasts a full beer, wine, and liquor selection. Whole desserts are available via their catering services. Give at least 48 hours’ notice for whole dessert orders. Visit their website for updated operating hours and menus.

Family Restaurant
Groucho’s Deli

No matter where you live, there is probably a Groucho’s Deli nearby. This local chain has fresh, made-to-order sandwiches and salads anyone is sure to love. There is a variety of green salads you can get, as well as tuna, chicken and pasta. If you want to taste of a Groucho’s sub sandwich without the bread, try the turkey and cheese on a bed of green lettuce. The dining room is also family friendly, so you can feel good about taking even your youngest family members.

Fine Dining
Mr. Friendly's

Authentic Southern cuisine is one secret behind the success of Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café. In addition to exquisite cuisine, there is also a beautiful patio tucked away in the Five Points district of downtown Columbia. The intimate patio with ambient lighting is tree-lined and adjacent to old railroad tracks giving it a boost of the essence of Carolina. If outdoor dining is not the right scene for the evening, the indoor dining room is also beautiful and sure to set the bar for your next date night.

Happy Hour
Cantina 76

Winning best happy hour in Columbia again this year, Cantina 76 is a locally owned Mexican-inspired taqueria and bar known for delicious varieties of hand-crafted margaritas. If you prefer “skinny" margaritas, try the Cantina Margarita, which is sweetened with low-glycemic agave nectar. Both the downtown and Devine St. locations are equipped with contemporary, eclectic décor and TVs for big games and an entertaining happy hour. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. The happy hour specials vary by location.

Healthy Fare
Good Life Café

The Good Life Café is an organic, raw and vegan eatery located on Main St. in downtown Columbia. Executive Chef Sharon Wright prides herself on preparing natural, wholesome, nutritious and delicious meals that would entice even the meatiest of eaters to try the café. The menu consists of American, Italian, Indian, Thai and Mexican cuisines, as well as smoothies and juices. The café also offers catering and private events making it the best healthy fare restaurant in Columbia two years in a row.

Ice Cream
Sweet Cream

Anyone who has tried Sweet Cream’s made-from-scratch ice cream will tell you it is a no brainer that the shop won best ice cream in Columbia. The ice cream flavors rotate regularly but each one is unique and delicious. The strawberry has small strawberry pieces in it and tastes like authentic, in-season South Carolina strawberries. The bourbon ice cream is made with real bourbon and has the potential to give you more than a sugar high. These and all the other flavors make it worth the trip to Main Street to try.

Late-night Menu
Henry’s Restaurant and Bar

With four locations to choose from, dining at Henry’s is pretty much always convenient. Their late-night hours make it even easier to get your fix of classic American bar fare done right. Their standard menu includes staples like fried pickles and buffalo chips for starters and over a dozen variations of burgers. Their Cayce and Devine Street locations offer a Sunday brunch menu with offerings such as omelets, eggs benedict, shrimp and grits, pancakes, French toast, salads, and sandwiches. Their bar is fully stocked to boot. Check their website for specific hours and menus for each of the four locations.

Green's Beverage

Green’s Beverage is a game day, party, or just because it is Thursday staple in Columbia. Locals pick Green’s to stock up their homes or tailgates, making it the best liquor store in Columbia. Make Green’s Beverage your next place to shop for wine, beer (even local) and spirits. Located off Piney Grove and Assembly St. downtown, both locations offer a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage options at good prices. There is also a cash discount, so stop at the ATM on your way.

Lunch Spot

DiPrato’s wins best lunch again and all the locals know why. DiPrato’s is known for its famous pimiento cheese, available for takeout. The cases are also stocked with other gourmet sides and dips. If you are eating in the restaurant, try one of the signature sandwiches, Paninis, or salads. If you have a sweet tooth, try the giant cinnamon rolls or cheesecake that come right from New York.

New Restaurant
Halls Chophouse

Your next fine dining experience should be Halls Chophouse. Located on the corner of Main and Gervais, right across from the ABC building, Halls brings next-level elegance to Columbia. Open for lunch and dinner, with a late-night entertainment schedule and signature cocktails, there is something for everyone at Halls, even your vegetarian friend.

Organic Food
Rosewood Market and Deli

At Rosewood Market and Deli you can find your organic produce and lunches while supporting local business. The market and deli support local farmers as well as the health and wellness of their customers. There are daily lunch and dinner specials and regular menu items including soups, sandwiches and salads. Live better at Rosewood Market and Deli.

Outdoor Dining
Publico Kitchen and Tap

Publico Kitchen and Tap is open for business and ready to seat you outdoors. Located in Five Points downtown, this sophisticated “Lat-Asian” restaurant is known for its menu and craft beer menu, as well as its large patio. The next time you are looking to dine outside, go to Publico for a memorable meal with a side of fresh air.


Marcos pizza has been taking Columbia by storm with a restaurant or two available in most neighborhoods of the greater Columbia area. The pizza chain offers dine in, takeout and delivery for your family or business. The menu also consists of more than just classic pizza, with a variety of toppings, crusts and sauces as well as non-pizza items. Next time you are looking for pizza, order from Marcos.

Pub Tavern
Hickory Tavern

The Hickory Tavern has found its way to the Columbia area with two locations, one in The Vista and one in the Woodhill shopping center. Known for its menu, live entertainment and cocktails, this is a great place to grab lunch, meet coworkers for happy hour or spend your night out. There is currently outdoor dining and limited dine-in service available at select Hickory Taverns, so check the options at the one nearest you next time you dine out.

Raw Bar
The Oyster Bar

The Oyster Bar is still going strong and serving people the freshest seafood in Columbia. While the dining room was closed during quarantine, they sent people home with oysters to roast with signature “Mother Shucker Sauce” and curbside meals. Now that the dining room is back in business, the owners are taking social distancing very seriously with dividers to keep guests safe while dining at the back oyster bar So the next time you crave seafood, feel safe and dine local at The Oyster Bar.

Romantic Atmosphere
Hampton Street Vineyard

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. Be sure to visit once the restaurant reopens after a brief hiatus due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Zoes Kitchen

Located on Forest Drive and on Two Notch in North East Columbia, Zoes Kitchen is dedicated to taking care of you and your family during these unprecedented times. With individual meals and family style meals serving six people, there is something for everyone. You can dine there, order to go or have it delivered. No matter which way you choose to order, be sure to include a salad like the loaded tossed salad, chicken salad, pasta salad or another crave-worthy salad from the menu.

Blue Marlin

Winning best seafood again and providing all its usual romance, go to Blue Marlin in the heart of The Vista. The Low Country-inspired dishes like the Charleston crab cakes and the signature shrimp and grits have flavors that will light up your palette. Experience the masterfully crafted southern dishes and top them off with the crème brulee cheesecake. Open for lunch and dinner, it is easy to make time for this southern classic restaurant.

Seafood Market
Best Catch Seafood Market

Best Catch Seafood Market is located on St. Andrews Road in Columbia stocked with king crab, fried oysters and other fresh seafood. Customers rave about the cleanliness and friendliness of the market and staff as well as the freshness of the seafood it sells. If you plan to make a seafood dinner or throw an oyster roast at home, get your seafood from Best Catch Seafood Market.


Not sure where to go for happy hour? If you work downtown, you can walk right over to SakiTumi in The Vista. Do not be afraid to drive there either. There’s a garage nearby on Lady St. providing ample parking. Know you will get excellent sushi with excellent service, or something else from the mouth-watering menu if sushi is not your thing. Pair it with the made-to-order martini and you have dinner or appetizers you will not forget.

Specialty Drink

Making a lot of changes for the new restaurant protocol, Bourbon welcomes you for a safe dine-in or take-out experience. As the only whiskey bar and Cajun-Creole restaurant in Columbia, located just steps from the South Carolina State Capitol building, Bourbon specializes in bourbon, whiskey, craft cocktails and the flavors of the Louisiana Bayou. So get dinner with a signature cocktail made from the largest whiskey list in South Carolina.

Ruth's Chris

Winning best steakhouse in Columbia again this year, Ruth’s Chris is nationally known for its quality and delicious steaks. The steaks are not only prepared exceptionally well, but they are also served on plates heated to 500 degrees. The wine list is equally notable, boasting over 200 award-winning labels from around the world to compliment your meal no matter what you ordered. Located inside the Hilton in The Vista, it makes a great place to go whether you are local or visiting Columbia.

Sunday Brunch
Motor Supply Co. Bistro

As restaurants reopen, the owners take the safety of the staff and the guests very seriously. This is why Motor Supply Co. Bistro is currently only open for dinner service. As a Columbia-favorite spot for brunch, keep Motor Supply Co. Bistro on your list of restaurants for when it begins brunch service again so you can enjoy the ever-changing menu that always includes southern-inspired favorites.


Miyo’s is a local Asian food chain with three different locations in the Columbia area, including Forest Acres, Lexington and Irmo. At each location you can find a variety of rolls to fit your taste buds, including delicious tempura rolls, special rolls, sashimi and more. The restaurants also have a variety of other dishes that are equally as delicious. Stop by today for your Asian food fix.

Good Life Café

The Good Life Café is an organic, raw and vegan eatery located on Main St. in downtown Columbia. Executive Chef Sharon Wright prides herself on preparing natural, wholesome, nutritious and delicious meals that would entice even the meatiest of eaters to try the café. The menu consists of American, Italian, Indian, Thai and Mexican cuisines, as well as smoothies and juices. The café also offers catering and private events.

Water-view Dining
Liberty on the Lake

Winning best water-view dining again is Liberty on the Lake. No matter where you live it is worth the drive, or boat ride, to dine at Liberty on the Lake. Almost every table has a breathtaking view of the lake and sunset. Live music is played on the weekends. Open for lunch and dinner every day of the week, you can enjoy a cocktail in style or a meal from the menu with a wide variety of options. The restaurant is even family friendly, so do not be afraid to bring the kids to watch the boats pass.

Gervais and Vine

Gervais and Vine is a well-known tapas restaurant in Columbia that is also known for its wine, and it wins best wine list again this again this year. Choose from several flights of wine to taste and pair with savory and beautifully plated tapas. You can feel like you are in a Napa Valley restaurant with the ability to taste test three related wines per flight or pick your own. Available outdoor seating enhances the ambience and intimacy making it the ideal location for your next date night.

Wine Store
Morganelli’s Party Store

When you want to stock up on wine or other adult beverages, make sure you go to Morganelli’s Party Store in Forest Acres. Located right on Forest Drive, this party store is locally owned and operated. It keeps a diverse list of beverages and wines stocked and always comes with a knowledgeable smile to help you make your purchase.