Food is an important part of any tourist’s travel experience, and rarely does a relatively small town offer a wide variety of dining options. Aiken, though, is the exception to the rule, with restaurants and diners that offer everything from elegant and historic settings to a great burger and beer.
For those with cultivated tastes and a love of history, The Willcox Restaurant, located inside the hotel of the same name, is the perfect blend of great cuisine and surroundings. Recognized by Wine Spectator and Best Chefs of America, chef Ed DeFelice offers an American menu influenced by his international travels. Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner can all be enjoyed in the dining room, the lobby’s cozy club setting or even by the pool.
For great Italian dishes, visit Casa Bella Italian Restaurant, where the Iannelli family has dished out great food in a relaxed ambiance for years. For lovers of traditional steak dinners, downtown’s Prime Steakhouse combines a fine dining experience with aged steaks, whole lobsters and fresh seafood.
Tiffany's at The Stables, one of two restaurants at the Inn at Rose Hill, is housed in a converted horse stable. This cozy location offers brunch and a dinner menu that includes hand helds and an array of entrees from vegetable lasagna to osso buco to shrimp and grit cakes. There's also a beer garden with live music Friday and Saturday nights. Also on the inn property is Piece of Potato, a restaurant specializing in loaded potatoes.
Another enjoyable option is Malia’s, which has been hosting locals and visitors for more than three decades. Executive chef Jason Tufts, who took the helm in the kitchen in 2017, was named a South Carolina Chef Ambassador three years later for his dedication to showcasing local products in his cuisine.
If you enjoy good food but without fancy trappings (and prices), Aiken has an array of choices, from pub food (inside the town’s own brewery) to diner dishes, pizza and more.
Whiskey Alley, located in The Alley in Aiken’s bustling Downtown district, specializes in small plates, salads and entrees such as roasted ricotta gnocchi, filet medallions, fish and chips, burgers and vegetable plates. Despite its name, City Billiards, established in 1957 and one of the city’s older establishments, is in fact a full-menu restaurant with a “few” pool tables. Original owner A.R. Edwards developed a chili recipe still used today.
For great ethnic food, Roma’s offers authentic, fresh-made Italian food, while TAJ Aiken has a vast selection on its Indian buffet. What’s Cookin’ Downtown bills itself as “food fast, not fast food.” Customers order at the counter from a menu board, sit and enjoy food cooked to order but delivered quickly; the business model is Atlanta’s famed Varsity.
Not full yet? At Flanigan's Ice Cream you'll enjoy single, double and triple cones and their famous shakes—all homemade, with flavors changing regularly.
Bottom line: If you leave Aiken hungry or unsatisfied, it’s not for lack of options.