Posted On January 9, 2021

Area restaurants serve up options for dining in or taking out during this unique season of love

by Katie Gantt

Pearlz Oyster Bar
936 Gervais St, Columbia | 803.661.7741 | Pearlzoysterbar.com

This eclectic little raw bar offers a variety of Lowcountry and Gulf oysters, specialty oysters and fresh seasonal shellfish. Menu favorite, the chilled seafood plateau, displays the variety of raw and cooked seafood available to guests: three house oysters, nine varietal oysters, six hard shell clams, four peel and eat shrimp, chilled mussels, lobster claws, tuna tartare, and chilled crab salad – served with a variety of garnishes. (Ask the server for market price.) If your house is divided on the matter of seafood, no worries, the menu offers plenty in the way of signature burgers, sandwiches, and steaks. Online and call ahead ordering is available if you’d prefer to eat in this Valentine’s Day. Contactless curbside pickup is streamlined. Simply call ahead when you arrive, identify your vehicle, and pop your trunk. Restaurant staff will secure your food and send you on your way. Call or visit their website for hours and specials.

Gervais & Vine
620 Gervais St, Columbia | 803.799.8463 | Gervaisandvine.com

With over 40 wines available by the glass, it’s no wonder the Vista’s Gervais & Vine made our Valentine’s Day list. This staple on the Columbia restaurant scene underwent some cosmetic changes when a team of new owners took over in 2019. But for now, the tapas style menu remains largely the same (read: your favorite dishes are still there). The cheese plate, blue crab dip, eggplant fries, Spanish meatballs, sauteed Brussels sprouts, and wedge salad should all be seriously considered. The bar is comfortable, and the main seating area is cozy. Staff are required to wear masks and undergo a temperature check at the beginning of each shift. Call or visit their website for hours and specials.

Motor Supply Company Bistro
920 Gervais St, Columbia | 803.256.6687 | Motorsupplycobistro.com

This intimate, upscale American restaurant with a daily changing (and charmingly hand-written) menu has been serving sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine in historic downtown Columbia since 1989. Indoor dining is available for dinner, daily lunch, and weekend brunch. Curbside orders can be placed during business hours via their website or by calling ahead. Indoor seating is currently at a reduced capacity, which is standard across the restaurant industry right now. Though the menu is by nature unpredictable, guests can look forward to a broad selection of New World entrees with French, European, Asian, and Italian influences, farm-fresh salads and soups, and unique desserts. Service is always top-notch.

Bodhi Thai Dining
126 E Main St, Lexington | 803.957.1994 | Bodhithaidining.com

Visit Lexington’s Bodhi Thai Dining for a modern, fine dining, experience. The glamorous, yet warm and intimate restaurant serves fresh, beautifully plated, modern Thai cuisine and an experience you won’t soon forget. Chef Nivit Tipvaree, a native of Thailand, wears many culinary hats. His expertise as a Thai, Sushi, and French culinary chef provides a broad base for his beautiful and delicious dishes. Try the popular Toong Tong as an appetizer. It’s a fried wonton stuffed with chicken, water chestnuts, shitake mushrooms, and garlic, served with a sweet chili sauce. Main course options include crisp duck, a grilled pork shop, braised chicken quarters in Massaman curry sauce, and pan seared scallops.

Inakaya Watanabe
655 St Andrews Rd, Columbia |803.731.2538 | Facebook.com/InakayaWatanabe

Inakaya Watanabe is serious about sushi. If you are too, strongly consider them as your Valentine’s Day dining destination. They offer an unforgettable experience and some of the most authentic Japanese food in Columbia. The menu includes sushi, sashimi, maki, specialty rolls, traditional Japanese cuisine and home-style fare, noodles and more. The bar is stocked with hand selected wines, domestic, Japanese, and specialty beer, and extensive varieties of sake including hot, chilled, sparkling, flavored, and premium sake. Even at 50% dine-in capacity, business is booming for this local foodie favorite. Their Facebook page reports that with curbside dining included, they’re even busier on the weekends now than they were pre-Covid.

Black Rooster
201 Meeting St, West Columbia | 803.724.2853 | Blackroostersc.com

The most recent brainchild of local restauranteur, Chef Kristian Niemi, Black Rooster is “Frenchish,” with a menu based on eastern French traditional cuisine, along with flavors from places where France had colonies, such as Vietnam and Africa. Located at the foot of the Gervais Street bridge in West Columbia, the restaurant has curb appeal and stellar views of the downtown Columbia skyline. The burger tops the list as the most popular menu item. It’s done French-style with Gruyere cheese and caramelized onions and served with steak frites that are fried in tallow. Other entrees include pork loin and duck confit. Vietnamese coffee flan is a dessert menu standout, serving up a unique take on the well-known custard dish with its roots in the Caribbean. Call ahead or check their website for hours and specials.

Halls Chophouse
1221 Main St #150, Columbia | 803.563.5066 | Hallschophouse.com

The name Halls carries a lot of weight when it comes to the subject of steak. And it’s South Carolina owned to boot. The chophouse serves only USDA Prime Steaks from Allen Brothers of Chicago, the premier purveyor of the finest prime meats. Allen Brothers’ steaks are hand-selected, aged with a meticulous process, and hand-cut to exact portion specifications. USDA Prime is the finest grade of beef under federal regulation and is seldom available in retail stores. Whether you favor a filet mignon, New York strip, ribeye, or porterhouse, Halls has you covered and offers a variety of other dishes too. Consider oysters on the half shell, chilled lobster tails, a rack of lamb or a 16 oz center-cut, frenched rib veal chop, served with an arugula salad and cherry tomatoes.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
924-A Senate St, Columbia (in the Hilton Columbia Center) | 803.212.6666 | Ruthschris.net

Located within the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in the Vista, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is one of the most famous restaurant chains in the world. The Columbia location boasts two private dining rooms and a comfortable bar. Excellent service is the standard, and a dress code is firmly in place. Guests are asked to refrain from wearing gym clothes, pool attire, tank tops, clothing with offensive graphics or language, or exposed undergarments – ensuring an ambiance of sophistication. Steaks and chops are served on plates heated to 500 degrees, a signature touch. And there’s something to please every palate, whether you’re in the mood for chicken, seafood, or even vegetarian fare. Valet parking is available at the front of the Hilton.

Villa Tronco
1213 Blanding St, Columbia | 803.256.7677 | Villatronco.com

Casual fine dining is on the menu at Columbia’s oldest Italian restaurant. Located in an historic 19th century firehouse, Villa Tronco serves the traditional Italian cuisine that Mama Tronco first introduced to Columbia 80 years ago. Enjoy generous portions of pasta, pizza, and other Italian favorites in a warm, brick and wood paneled setting. With Covid-19 restrictions firmly in place, they’re accepting a limited number of tables for dine-in seating, so be sure to make a reservation (and bring a mask). Visit their website to view the new, “Covid-Limited” menu that can be found under the specials tab. It has plenty of favorites to choose from.

Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse
1508 Main St, Columbia | 803.728.0887 | Cowboybraziliansteakhouse.com

This Main Street, upscale eatery offers a wide assortment of meats sliced tableside plus an extensive salad bar featuring over 30 items. It’s a unique, all you can eat churrascaria – a place where meat is cooked churrasco style, which translates roughly from the Portuguese word for “barbecue.” Choose from six hot Brazilian dishes and a parade of sixteen different types of beef, chicken, pork, and lamb sliced at your table by the server. Along with a full bar, they have a beautiful walk-in wine cellar with a fine selection of wines from Argentina, Chile, and California. Dessert options include varieties of cheesecake, a triple layer chocolate mousse cake, key lime pie, Brazilian flan, and gelato.

Blue Marlin
1200 Lincoln St, Columbia | 803.799.3838 | Bluemarlincolumbia.com

Enjoy a taste of the Lowcountry at this Vista favorite, specializing in seafood and steaks. Signature dishes blend African, West Indian, and Caribbean flavors. Continuing in the same vein, they also feature many dishes with the Cajun and Creole influence of the Louisiana Delta. Charleston crab cakes are made with lump and claw crabmeat and served with a sweet onion remoulade and roasted corn salsa. The fried green tomatoes are breaded with a mixture of cracked cornmeal and lightly seasoned flour, deep fried and served with a chipotle cream sauce. Their signature dish is shrimp and grits: Adluh grits are topped with creek shrimp, andouille sausage, and Tasso gravy.

Tombo Grille
4517 Forest Dr, Columbia | 803.782.9665 | Tombogrille.com

Located in the heart of Forest Acres, Tombo Grille is best known for their creative comfort food, new-favorite wines, high-gravity beers, and desserts too good to be missed. It’s a warm and inviting place just right for any occasion, such as a dinner for two by candlelight. Entrees include the grilled meat loaf, served with mashed potatoes, collards, and mushroom gravy and the pan-roasted Norwegian salmon served with a butternut squash risotto and a kale salad topped with dried cranberries, granny smith apples, and a toasted pecan vinaigrette. Curbside pickup is available, of course, by calling the phone number listed above.