Burgers and Brews

Posted On September 7, 2017

 If you’re craving a bona fide burger and want to wash it down with a great domestic, imported or craft beer, we have several suggestions for you. Bon appetite and cheers!

By Clair DeLune

Tombo Grille 

Tucked away in a lush thicket in Forest Acres is one of the hottest Burger and Brew deals in town on Monday nights. Get a thick, juicy burger and a beer for nine dollars – but wait! There’s more… kick off the week with one of Columbia’s best bands playing live while you revel in the “best bite of the night, with just the right amount of smokiness.” Paired with a frothy draft, Tombo’s C.A.B.: an Angus burger that features bacon, grilled onions, smoked tomato aioli and either Gouda, Cheddar or Gorgonzola cheeses, is nigh on perfection. But don’t wait for Mondays – for a few dollars more on other days, you can answer the siren song of their burger and beer without the serenade.  782-9665; tombogrille.com

1801 Grille

If you’ve ever been a parking vulture in the Vista, you know that complimentary parking within walking distance to Colonial Life Coliseum and the Convention Center will drop your stress level dramatically. The modern beauty of the restaurant, tended with verve and flair by Food Network chef Jason Bruner, is so soothing you’ll want to make 1801 a regular stop once you taste his world-class burgers. Choose the 1801 Melt with aged Cheddar and Thousand Island, the bacon burger with avocado, or go fresh with a grilled veggie burger with roasted red peppers. Pair with Palmetto Brewing Company’s craft beers named for Sandlapper sites such as Huger Street IPA or Low Country Pilsner, and you will feel your worries start to melt away. 777-1801; 1801grille.com

The Whig 

Celebrating 10 years as “North America’s greatest dive bar,” you must take a step (actually several) down to arrive at the Whig, a subterranean bar and restaurant located across from the Statehouse in Columbia. Standing head and shoulders over loftier locales, the locals have made this little underground meeting place a hip place to be. The Whig Burger is unique – with smoked Gouda, beef gravy, bacon and sriracha aioli. If that’s not hot enough for you, sizzle your innards with the Chipotle BBQ burger, featuring cheddar, bacon and housemade special spicy barbecue sauce. Tender palates can find a kinder, gentler burger there, too. Beer offerings vary and have included: River Rat Brewery, Holy City Brewing, The Frothy Beard Brewing Company and Brewery 85. 931-8852; thewhig.org

Hwy 55 Burgers Shakes & Fries 

One of the few chains gracing our list, Hwy 55 is an open-grill burger shop where the food is made fresh in front of patrons with a wholesome side of Carolina hospitality. Hwy 55 had humble beginnings in a tiny location in a small Carolina town and was selected as the National Hamburger Day burger, as well as a top 500-franchise business. With three spots in the Midlands, this chain of 120 is as hot as its sizzling burgers and fries. Order the hamburger steak platter: a half pound of fresh ground beef loaded with sautéed onions and peppers, topped with gravy, served with fries, slaw and grilled Texas toast. Save room for their yummy frozen custard desserts. 866-391-2072; hwy55.com

Rockaway Athletic Club

Take your pick – the pimiento burger or the bleu cheese burger. Called “a one-of-a-kind treasure,” this cornerstone of the Rosewood/Shandon communities is rock solid. The stamina of Rockaway Athletic Club is immeasurable, from its early years, through the fire that destroyed it just after the millennium through its rise from the ashes to its resurrection as a place the locals in the know go for a great burger and beer. It’s a landmark as a place to meet friends – a few or a dozen – for an easy-going, always tasty place to experience a burger and brew smorgasbord. Dare to be different each time you visit and try the Monterrey Jack burger, or if life has been a little dreary lately generate a little extra heat with the Jalapeno burger. Condiments are available, of course, but the burgers are tasty enough to serve plain. 256-1075

Pawleys Front Porch

Once a star on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Pawley’s eight-ounce, hand-ground Angus beef Front Porch burger is a burger without an attitude – it exists solely to give your palate pleasure. Or, put your zest to the test with a Caw Caw Creek burger topped with housemade jalapeno pimento cheese, pickled green tomato, grilled onions and jalapeno bacon. No matter which burger you choose or whether you enjoy it inside or while people-watching on the front porch in Five Points, you will never forget these burgers for their juicy, robust flavors and will hurry back. Other benefits are the variety of beers, a rapid-fire Trivia Night and ample off-street parking. Roll out the red carpet – your star burger has arrived. 771-8001; pawleysfrontporch.com

Hunter Gatherer

Hunter Gatherer has been on the craft beer map since the craze caught on in the Midlands. Kevin Varner debuted his own craft beer operation, Hunter-Gatherer Brewery, in 1995. Varner has brewed every batch of beer made there for over two decades. HG, as its loyal patrons lovingly refer to it, has enjoyed a University-centric locale on South Main; and this year, a second brewery is set to launch in the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar at Owens Field in the South Rosewood neighborhood. Along with a frothy glass of freshly crafted beer, try their certified Angus beef burger with your choice of cheese: cheddar, feta or Gorgonzola – please allow us to suggest you try their beer cheese, and as a side: #Hashbrowns! 748-0540; huntergathererbrewery.com.

British Bulldog 

Save the airfare and hassle of an overseas flight and wend your way to the British Isles by automobile. The Midlands has an ally in the food wars in the British Bulldog Pub, called “one of the most authentic British pubs in the Americas.” Savor a Hobgoblin English Brown ale and Tower of London burger, which is almost as tall as its namesake. Dare to pair a Magner’s Irish Cider with an English Red Eye Burger. It’s a half pound sirloin burger topped surprisingly with over-easy eggs, English bacon, two shots of Tabasco Sauce. Sip a Highland Gaelic Ale from Asheville’s Highland Brewing with Black and Bleu burgers, blackened to a perfect char, topped with premium bleu cheese, red onions, lettuce and tomato. 227-8918; thebritishbulldogpub.com

Thirsty Fellows

Thirsty Fellow is conveniently located between the University of South Carolina and the Vista. Its clientele is a mix of faculty and staff, plus working professionals who enjoy a relaxed, convivial atmosphere with a friendly and efficient wait staff. Thirsty Fellow serves certified Angus beef and we recommend their burger dripping with mushrooms, caramelized onions and melting provolone. For classic burger lovers, you cannot go wrong with a half-pound burger served with the basic tomato, onions, crispy pickles and lettuce. Your choice of cheese and applewood smoked bacon can be added. The BLD burger satisfies because it is like breakfast, lunch and dinner with its sunny side up egg and applewood smoked bacon. A full beer selection is available, but try their specials. 799-1311; thirstyfellow.com

Kraken Gastropub 

A concept new to Columbia, and only a few decades old in its native England, a gastropub is a neighborhood-style bar or pub that not only focuses on serving drinks of distinction, but also prides itself on preparing high-quality food. The Kraken Gastropub off Rosewood offers 30 selections of draught beer and boasts the largest selection of brews in a non-chain, locally-owned establishment in the city. Beefing up your visit is the Kraken Burger featuring one-half pound of 80/20 beef, which chefs extol as a key ingredient for the juiciest of burgers. The Kraken excels in the burger wars because it’s topped by a fresh brioche bun, your choice of buttermilk bleu, cheddar or pimiento cheeses and accompanied by hand-cut fries. 955-7408; thekrakenpub.com

Olde Town Hall 

Tucked next to a petite park with perhaps the world’s smallest police kiosk on the Main Street of Ridgeway, The Olde Town Hall restaurant is actually the historic former town hall. It caters to Ridgeway’s citizens, and attracts visitors who come for the food and stay for the town’s quiet ambience, as well as shopping in the town’s Cotton Mill vintage mall and quaint antique stores. A list of IPAs and craft beers as long as your arm from near - Georgia - and far - Hawaii – are popularly priced. The Olde Town Hall burger pleases with its hickory-smoked bacon paired with Georgia’s Sweetwater Blue; but don’t miss the gastronomical high of the divinely melty Mushroom Swiss burger, along with a high-altitude Colorado-brewed IPA. 337-0389; oldetownhall.com

Old Mill Brew Pub 

Located in the picturesque old mill in Lexington, this brewery and pub offers flights of beer and some unusual burgers. Their Brewpub Burger is a char-grilled burger on a brioche roll topped with Cheddar and Swiss cheeses, fried onion rings and, for a twist, they top it with a fried egg. The Old Mill Burger, topped with pimiento cheese, fried green tomatoes, smoked bacon and pepper gravy on a brioche roll, is more mild than wild; but their Brimstone Burger will put surely put the spark of the devil in you with Ghost Pepper Jack cheese, Jalapeno poppers and spicy Chipotle mayo. You have been warned. Have a beer near! Fortunately, brew master Matt Rodgers’ mission is to keep you supplied with hand-crafted brews. 785-2337; oldmillbrewpub.net

Grill Marks 

Grill Marks’ specialty Burger of the Week, or B.O.W., is a “wow” with a recent edition featuring the “Get a Load of Guinness Burger,” comprised of a certified Angus beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, onion straws, Guinness gravy, creamy ranch and famously fat fries. Their “design-your-own” burgers come with brioche bun or lettuce wrap, to which you may add from a long list of a la carte toppings. But, ooh-la-la, the French Connection, with caramelized onions, roasted garlic, brie, lettuce, tomato and cabernet ketchup might make you flip your beret! Throw back a Palmetto Espresso Porter or another of the beverages on their changing beer and ale list, but save room for dessert – Grill Marks’ milkshakes were named best in South Carolina. 661-8932; grillmarks.com

River Rat Brewery

Something new with a tasty brew – look for their specials because they don't flip burgers at the Rat, but their beer and specials are at the top of our list – could you ask for more? River Rat features their own craft beer as well as suds from more than 85 brewers that will quench your thirst after any quest you complete – whether hiking, kayaking, or even something mild, not wild. Whatever your adventure, once you are parched and starving, River Rat will satisfy. Choose the porch, which is leashed-dog friendly for furry companions; or, you humans may saunter inside if you’ve had your fill of the outdoors for the day. Brewery tours by appointment. 724-5712; riverratbrewery.com

Goodfella’s Grill and Bar

At Goodfella’s, a locally-owned grill and bar located at 760 Highway 378 West in Lexington, regulars rave about the Hawaiian burger with teriyaki sauce, but when you are hungry, our advice is to select the choice hamburger steak – a massive 10 ounces of goodness, charbroiled to put an insouciant sear on it, then they top that winning combination with grilled onions and mushrooms. Or, get the Goodburger and top it with any of the following for under a buck apiece: applewood smoked bacon; sautéed onions; jalapenos; sautéed mushrooms; bleu, pepper jack, provolone, cheddar or pimiento cheeses; or a fried green tomato. Choose from a selection of domestic or imported beers at reasonable prices to make it a meal you won’t want to refuse. 951-4663; goodfellasgrillandbar.com