Summer Foods We Love

Posted On July 9, 2018

When the temperature and your temper start to soar, tame them with fabulous fare in cool locales. Here are Columbia Living's picks for savoring summer:

By Claire DeLune     Photographs by Sally Scott

What is lighter summer fare than salad? Start with a divine appetizer of pimiento and goat cheese with buttery toast points, then order the best Cobb salad in town at DiPrato’s. Resembling a map, the Cobb allows you to travel your way around the bowl of chopped red tomatoes and cool cucumbers, crumbles of buttermilk bleu cheese, crunchy bacon, hard-boiled egg and plenty of fresh and oh-so-heavenly avocado slices in turn. You may order grilled chicken or almond-encrusted duck tenders to elevate the experience. A bottle of beer provides balance. 799-0606; dipratos.com

Liberty on the Lake
Admit it. You’re hot and lakes are cool. Whether you live lakeside, or just hope to one day, one of the coolest places on Lake Murray is Liberty on the Lake, which offers taproom style repasts inside and on the patio overlooking boats afloat, so perhaps a fish dish is in order. A seared Atlantic salmon is flaky and light with its snappy roasted red pepper-almond romesco sauce and is accompanied by a warm farro salad. Whet your captain’s whistle with signature Liberty Ales, or any of 48 draft and craft brews on tap. 667-9715; libertytaproom.com

Poke Bros  
In famously hot Columbia, we look to tropical climes for inspiration on staying cool. The Hawaiian poke bowl, pronounced poh’kay (meaning “small bites”) has arrived in Sunny South Carolina. Four locations (Five Points, Vista, Irmo and Lexington) offer a variety of predominantly seafood-centric poke to keep you huihui. For those who love a little spice on a summer’s day, The Duke combines tuna, salmon, shrimp, seaweed, jalapeño, sweet onion, edamame and cucumber. Ponzu, a tart citrus-based sauce; and gochujang, a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented red chili paste, provide the spark. Try the Jasmine Pearl tea and seaweed salad to get that true island feeling. Mahalo. 764-5567; eatpokebros.com

Shealy BBQ
It’s practically the law of the Southland: you need barbeque to survive and Shealy’s is worth the drive. Many have tried to manage a taste of all that Shealy’s offers on their bounteous buffet, but few have succeeded. However, everyone leaves with a contented smile. Two rooms of buffet lines adds veggie options, as well as salads, desserts and even an ice cream machine (see if your swirl is a pearl). Keep your cool at your summer parties with Shealy’s catering – enjoy their food while spending time with your special guests instead of in your steamy kitchen.  532-8135; www.shealysbbq.com

River Rat
According to a classic beach music song, it’s a great idea to go “Up on the Roof” to escape the heat. Only 21 and up are allowed on the roof, and if you are used to their open out-of-doors policy for pooches, even the fanciest of Fideaux are not permitted upstairs. Enjoy a schnitzel sandwich, consisting of a pork cutlet fried with garlic panko breading on a hearty ciabatta bun with kohlrabi slaw tossed in spicy mustard. Try the Edisto, the brewery’s new IPA named for a Lowcountry river that boasts spicy notes of pine, which goes great with truffle parmesan fries. 724-5712; riverratbrewery.com

Michael's Café
When downtown, stop by Michael’s Café on Main – another wonderful sidewalk café situated perfectly to people watch the artsy crowd, located conveniently near Tapp’s Arts Center and the national award-winning Columbia Museum. A salad of Ahi tuna served over cucumber noodles with ginger lime vinaigrette is refreshing. Pita chips and a choice of hummus or pimiento cheese artfully paints the rest of the picture for this summery bill of fare. 726-2233; michaelscafecatering.com

Pawley's Front Porch
The only thing missing from Pawley’s Front Porch deck is a hammock and some Grand Strand sand. For a simmering summer sufferer on the Atlantic side of the country, we suggest a Pacific Mahi-Mahi salad topped with black bean and corn salsa sparked with south of the border sass. It comes with shredded pepper jack cheese, and a grilled pineapple with Vidalia onion dressing for even more of an Atlantic and Pacific pop. Balance that with Midwest flavor by adding pickle chips with buttermilk ranch dip. You’ll visit all over the map for the modest price of dinner. 771-8001; pawleysfrontporch.com

Gourmet Shop
If you can’t escape to France this summer, ne pas despair, mon frère. Five Points has a little bit of Paris tucked away on Saluda Avenue. Promenade to the Gourmet Shop’s sidewalk café, order a melted Brie and hot bacon croissant with fresh fruit or dill potato salad on the side and enjoy a brief respite from your pedestrian life while you watch pedestrians stroll by envying your good taste. Extend your mini-vacay by selecting a basket of Compagnie de Provence soaps, vintage French champagne, a fresh baguette and selection of fine cheeses for a luxurious home-spa pampering. 799-3705; thegourmetshop.net

Pelican’s Snoballs
Snoballs are back and Pelican’s has ’em! Seasonally open, nearly a dozen of the bright blue Pelican’s Snoball shacks dot the Midlands landscape. Cool, flavored “snow” is a grand way to chill down when the mercury rises. Fat-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, high-fructose-corn-syrup-free and offering a few sugar-free varieties, a Snoball is a festive treat that is guilt-free. At around 100 choices, your biggest problem will be selecting a flavor. While we’re counting out “Toothpaste” - at least in the Snoball iteration – we welcome “Coffee” into our lives in a refreshing new way. By the way, they do parties! Rosewood location: 614-2080; pelicanssnoballs.com

Cantina 76
Cantina 76’s BBQ shrimp tacos are pan-seared with sautéed onions, topped with feta cheese and boosted by chipotle BBQ sauce, while the equally popular Peruvian shrimp tacos are topped with coleslaw as a counterpoint to sweet sesame chili sauce. If shrimp isn't your sizzle, you can go full-on southern with shredded smoked pork tacos covered in sweet mustard ancho BBQ sauce and coleslaw. An unassuming taco of refried beans, shredded cheese, chipotle ranch, grilled onions, lettuce and Pico de Gallo is a dream come true – whether or not you are a vegetarian. C'mon, it's summer ... finish with fried ice cream! 708-6004; cantina76.com

Gervais & Vine
Gervais and Vine is the place for flights of wine and tapas, and in warmer months their patio provides a panoramic view of the Vista. Servers rival sommeliers regarding pairings and will advise you which wine marries well with each food selection. Humbler favorites such as hummus or goat cheese spreads stand up valiantly against competition from heartier fare such as seared duck with mango chutney, beef paillardes in demi-glace, and Moroccan-spiced pork with gorgonzola fondue. Don’t discount mini-pizzas made in their 700° stone pizza oven. Our favorite is the Margherita topped with Roma tomatoes, marinara, basil and mozzarella. 799-8463; gervine.com

With two locations (Five Points and Downtown), you are never far from a locally-owned, top-notch coffee bar – yes they also serve beer and wine – with a barista who will take time to make your coffee drink by hand pouring the elixir slowly to the very last… wait for it… DRIP. Coffee, you moan? When it’s 90 degrees in the shade? Ah, dear ones, take heed! You need only request the perfect summer brew: café-au-lait, over ice. Note that it goes quite well with the perfect summer sandwich: brie and turkey with raspberry on sourdough. Now you are just so way cool. You’re welcome! 661-9545; dripcolumbia.com

If you want a meal that screams summer fun, Racks Sports Bar is the place for you. It is said that if you eat spicy foods, you feel cooler; so order the Carolina Reaper wings – so hot you might need a sweater, if that saying has merit. Tame that tortured tongue with celery and carrots dipped in ranch or bleu cheese and a generous bowl of hand-cut fries. If you still need a cool-down, Key Lime pie with raspberry sauce should chill your bill. FYI, for the less daring, Racks also makes wings that don’t happen to require a proactive call to the Fire Department. 569-6512; Facebook: @RacksNortheast

Wingard’s fresh produce market
Fresh Southern produce is pure joy. Whether you buy farm-to-table food that local farmers grow for the ultimate in freshness, or ask Wingard’s advice about how to grow your own, one thing is certain: you will ultimately enjoy great food. Their blogs on topics about gardening, in addition to bird feeding and other interesting aspects of South Carolina life, are intriguing and informative. Shop for products from A-Y made by specialty vendors and gathered from around the state. Try creamy Adam's Apple Butter (Lexington) or, for some pep in your step, chug some Yoder’s Good Health Herbal Tonic (Fair Play).  

Summer officially begins with cool breezes on Saluda’s second-story porch. Jumpstart your meal with appetizers. Open with an antipasto of cured meats, fine cheeses, pickled vegetables, candied pecans, jam and grilled bread. Then, why not add either tuna crudo, featuring a lemony ahi tuna with pickled radish and onion salad, pickled jalapeño, ginger saffron gel and arugula pesto; or beef carpaccio, which boasts horseradish aioli, grilled bread, pickled onions, olives and crisp cornichons? It isn’t a Sandlapper summer without a smattering of fried green tomatoes – Saluda’s provides a twist, serving theirs with smoked cheddar and Gouda pimento cheese, Dijon honey mustard and an earthy herb puree. 799-9500; saludas.com