Columbia area restaurants adapt to best serve patrons and flatten the curve
By April Blake
Springtime in the Carolinas is a welcome time for all — once the pollen subsides that is — sending us bursting forth to the great outdoors, looking for adventures and great meals to punctuate the fun. We originally planned to do the greatest al fresco dining guide around, but as we were planning this feature story, the world took a drastic turn, sending us indoors, quarantining and self-isolating in our homes in hopes of flattening the coronavirus curve as early as mid-March.
In response, restaurants and bars had to pivot, and quickly, to keep their employees working and the business going forward. With physical distancing a priority and dining rooms shut down by governor’s orders, curbside and to-go became the options that many restaurants are still offering. To differentiate, curbside means that the servers bring the food outside to cars, keeping customers from even entering the premises at all. To-go options still allow customers to come inside and order, with extra sanitary precautions in order. Whether a restaurant offers to-go or curbside is dictated by logistics like parking, staff capacity, and safety.
It’s those employees who are willing to serve as essential workers who are keeping us fed at a potential cost to their safety. When ordering to-go or curbside options from these and other local restaurants, please show appreciation for these folks on the front lines with grace in action, kind words, and most importantly, fiscal appreciation. The bottom lines of restaurant workers are hurting as well with reduced hours and the inability to serve as many customers as usual. We can only hope, as a city, that these to-go efforts will keep our favorite restaurants afloat and able to make a strong come back once restrictions lift.
Please keep in mind that restaurants are currently modifying their operations (sometimes daily), so call ahead or check social media to confirm that a restaurant is still operating and to check on their current hours and menu offerings.
Alodia’s Cucina Italiana
One of Irmo’s and Lexington’s favorite Italian spots is embracing the curbside options they are offering with great enthusiasm to keep fresh noodles cranking from their pasta makers to locals’ bellies. Nearly all their regular menu from zuppa to dessert is available for curbside pickup and limited delivery.
803-781-9814 | 2736 N. Lake Drive, Columbia
803-957-1986 | 101 W. Main Street, Lexington
One of the hallmarks of dining at Saluda’s is the second story view overlooking Five Points’ twinkling lights and bustling foot traffic. Even without that present option, their curbside menu offers just as fine of a dining experience. Enjoy one of many menu options at your own white-clothed table (or coffee table). Imagine pan seared Atlantic salmon or a 6-ounce filet mignon, paired with a cheese or salami plate – or perhaps Saluda’s famous fried green tomatoes. Dinner packages of a three-course meal to feed four hungry adults are also available, starting at $105.
saludas.com | 803-799-9500 | 751 Saluda Avenue
This Five Points staple is still operating in both its cafe and retail capacities. After all, they carry food and cookware, and are considered essential! Cafe favorites like chicken salad and weekend brunch can be ordered for curbside pickup, or even delivery for $25+ orders within 15 minutes of the shop (for an $8 delivery fee). The retail shop — brimming with baking accessories, upscale ingredients, fancy chocolate, and wine — is open to walk-ins from Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
thegourmetshop.net | 803-799-3705 | 724 Saluda Avenue
Stay good lookin’ and eat country cookin’ using Lizard’s Thicket’s curbside pickup or drive-through windows that adorn each of their 13 locations in the Midlands (plus the one in Florence). Check their social media profiles for the daily special. Store hours are varying but generally begin at 7 a.m. through 8 or 9 p.m.
lizardsthicket.com | 13 locations are open around the Midlands
Primal Gourmet’s long-running set up of offering delivery and to-go is serving them well during these strange times. Though they’ve temporarily consolidated operations to only their West Columbia store as of March, Primal Gourmet is thriving. Their delivery options include meal deliveries for homebound seniors and meal pack drop offs to select locations throughout the Midlands. Their to-go counter and market boasts a huge selection of healthy offerings from marinated kale salad to roast beef by the pint, quart, or pound. A small market in the store also provides fresh local lettuce, bags of Adluh ground grits, and more fresh options and pantry staples for those who want to support local and avoid larger grocery stores.
primalgourmetsc.com | 803-509-0604 | 725 Meeting Street, West Columbia
Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits
It’s not a good weekend breakfast without biscuits, and food stand Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits is doing its best to get biscuits in the hands of their ravenously loyal customers each Saturday morning while things are shut down. Online ordering options open a few days before the weekend and limited quantities mean biscuits go quickly, so pay attention to their social media to beat the biscuit rush! Deliveries are currently limited to downtown Columbia and some areas of Lexington.
fatcatcolumbia.com | 803-881-9060 |
Carolina Ale House
When a big plate of meat sounds like the ultimate in comfort eating, turn to Carolina Ale House’s family value meals for four. Choose from cheeseburgers, chicken breasts, ribs, and pulled pork plus a big salad and four sides for $25-40, plus free doughnuts! This option is available for pickup from 4-8 p.m. or can be ordered through Ale House’s delivery partners.
803-227-7150 | 708 Lady Street
803-407-6996 | 277 Columbiana Drive
Publico Kitchen + Tap
Taco ‘bout an essential need — tacos! For those missing their favorite Tex-Mex cuisine or those who want a fresh take on what’s between tortillas. They have options from single meals to $40 family packs for 12 available for pickup and delivery via Uber Eats, Bite Squad, Chow Now, and GrubHub.
publicokitchenandtap.com | 803-567-5738 | 2013 Greene Street
Duke’s Pad Thai
A quickly beloved Cayce staple, Duke’s Pad Thai is doing brisk pickup service, often leaving their front door open during the day to minimize surfaces to touch. In addition to their Thai staples like tom kha soup and drunken noodles (a local favorite), their noodle bar offers dozens of ways to customize your meal for something different every time.
dukespadthai.com | 803-661-6455 | 904 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce
Menkoi Ramen House
It’s a fantastic choice on its own merit, but Menkoi Ramen is also one of the best hangover foods in all of Columbia. If self-isolating has you hitting the wine bottle more than usual, soak up the extra alcohol with an order or two of Menkoi’s tonkotsu or vegetable ramen. Curbside to go is easier than ever with Vista parking plentiful.
menkoi-ramen-house-columbia.business.site | 803-708-1569 | 1004 Gervais Street
Great cuts of meat are great cuts of meat, no matter where they are consumed. Luckily Halls, selling the best around, is offering curbside to go service of many of their usual cuts, including wet and dry aged, grass fed beef and waygu. Their vast selection of elegant sides, tempting salads, and sandwiches can be boxed up to go and eaten at home … if you can wait that long. Bottles of wine can be brought curbside too and are currently on sale at 20% off.
hallschophouse.com | 803-563-5066 | 1221 Main Street
Long considered one of Cayce’s best-kept secrets, La Estrella has both its restaurant and tienda (grocery store) open for business. Get the freshest and most flavorful carnitas, barbacoa, barbecued pork, and chicken around to evoke memories of Central American trips. To-go orders can be prepared while you shop or just duck-in for pick up.
803-739-6520 | 1921 Airport Boulevard, Cayce
River Rat Brewery
A little alcohol to take the edge off of our anxiety isn’t uncalled for, and Columbia’s River Rat Brewery is still safely churning out local brews of canned favorites like Broad River Red Ale, 803 IPA, American Kolsch Story, and their Columbia Fireflies inspired Luminescent Lager, to name a few. River Rat beers can be found at most major beverage retailers.
riverratbrewery.com | 803-724-5712