When brothers Scott and Duncan MacRae and friend Darrell Barnes opened Yesterdays Restaurant & Tavern in Columbia in 1977, they wanted the kind of place where they would enjoy eating, drinking and hanging out. They had no idea their concept would last more than four decades—and become a local institution.
Generations of Columbians, from politicians to business people to students, have frequented the flatiron-shaped building in the heart of the Five Points urban village. Homestyle cooking, comfy booths and relaxed conversation have made it a go-to destination for casual dining and meet-and-greet outings.
Across South Carolina, you'll find numerous other iconic hangouts that likewise serve their communities and have become a home away from home for many of their patrons. Here are some of the best iconic hangouts:
Finding this favorite spot is easy: just visit Five Points (near the University of South Carolina) and look for the cowboy in a bathtub above the main entrance. Barnes, from Lancaster, SC, (pronounced LANK-a-ster) and the MacRaes (from LAN-cast-er, PA) wanted a symbol that suggested a relaxed vibe, and Yesterdays' is that with a comfort-food menu and friendly waiters and bartenders who know their customers by name. It doesn’t take long to become a “regular” here.
Another location with about 40 years serving Columbia customers, “The Trap” was opened in 1979 by former University of South Carolina football player Bill Jerry and quickly became the neighborhood bar of choice for residents of Middleburg Plaza and Forest Drive. In recent years, Andy Jerry, Bill’s son, and partner George Floyd decided to change from “a bar that serves some food” to a restaurant-first establishment with a bar. It’s a favorite of generations of USC athletes, and the updated menu gets good reviews.
Located in a former hardware and feed store on West Washington Street less than a block from Greenville’s bustling Main Street, Barley’s offers a nice lineup of craft beers as well as a food menu. The original (1996) location of a North and South Carolina chain, Barley’s annually earns “best of awards” for its pizzas, pool room and bar, and has been named “best place to hang out,” too.
This East Washington Street standard for 50-plus years bills itself as a “no frills classic bar and grill” with “the best wings and steak sandwich in town…maybe the state.” It's also a cool place for families.
A favorite of Clemson students and locals, The Spot has been voted Best Bar and Best Burger in the Upstate by the local Readers' Choice Awards. “Whether you’re a local, a Yankee or a half-back, or some mix thereof, you’ll feel at home” here, the website says. Entertainment includes big screen TVs, pool tables and video games, plus trivia, bingo, karaoke and more.
Talk about an endorsement, Moe’s has been featured in Esquire magazine’s “Best 50 Bars in America.” Located on Rutledge Avenue in downtown Charleston near Hampton Park, it’s a locals' favorite for beer, burgers and sports on TV. The menu features “bloodies and mimosas” along with other mixed drinks.
This is another Charleston watering hole with a long history. The term “Blind Tiger” was coined in the late 1800s to describe then-illegal drinking and gambling establishments that cropped up when temperance legislation was the rule. The Blind Tiger Pub dates to 1992 and was part of a 2016 area restoration.
Part of Charleston’s “old Slave Market” area, this Irish pub features occasional Irish musicians—including bagpipers—a variety of beers and an extensive menu with an emphasis on local seafood. Condon’s has been around for 20-plus years and remains a favorite.
Dunleavy’s celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. A “little slice of New England,” it was founded by siblings Patti and Bill Dunleavy to fulfill their father's dream of owning a little Irish pub. The pub’s distinctive T-shirts have reportedly been spotted in Las Vegas, the Vatican and (where else?) Ireland. The menu features bar favorites as well as salads and 14 beers on tap.
The pub is named for famed poet Edgar Allen Poe, who, in 1827, was based at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. A rustic little jewel, it's renowned for its burgers, but offers great seafood too and a large beer selection. Bonus: you might spot one of a number of retired football and basketball coaches who maintain homes on the island and frequent the place.
In Myrtle Beach, “iconic hangouts” begin (and some say end) with this famed beach joint, open since 1944. From 1973-80, the house band was Alabama, now in the Country Music Hall of Fame; the current house band and others provide music most nights. It might not be your place if you like a variety of beers as The Bowery only has one, an unnamed draft beer served in a clear glass mug. Some bartenders and waiters have earned a reputation for their “chugging” skills. The atmosphere is very Southern, so you’ll see some Confederate influences in the décor, but everyone is welcome.
A gathering spot for locals since the 1980s, this classic beach bar at Sands Ocean Club is called “the one place where locals and tourists most naturally coexist.” Two house bands perform from late morning until 11 p.m., and the beach in front of the bar draws locals to play volleyball, horseshoes and cornhole. When the bar closes each night in the summer, patrons move to Sandals inside the hotel.
Yes, it’s a late-night joint, the exterior is olive-drab green and brown, and the beer of choice is Bud Light. But no other place in the Pee Dee region has as much history—it’s the oldest continuously operated bar in Florence. Want to get a taste of local character? Pull up a stool and start a conversation.
A more “upscale” establishment than the Fountain, the Nickel welcomes all ages with plenty of beers, food, karaoke and occasional live music. Football on TV, especially when owner Jimmy Langston’s University of South Carolina Gamecocks play, is also a big draw, as is its annual Christmas and Halloween parties.
If you want Mexican food, the original Willy Taco (another restaurant is located in Greenville) is your destination. The place’s slogan is “Tacos...Tortas…Tequila,” which pretty much covers it. Load up on good Mexican, margaritas and friendly, down-home service.
Gerhard and Mary Grommer established this European-American restaurant and bar in 1993, and the food remains German and Austrian traditional. Located right off East Main Street in Spartanburg’s revitalized downtown, the café also has an extensive wine and beer selection.
Anglophiles, this is your place in Hilton Head with authentic English food, American favorites and certified Angus beef. The selection of beverages includes English, Scottish and Irish beers and whiskys (that’s how they spell it), including fine Scotches. The décor is pure Open Championship, fitting for golf-centric Hilton Head. Originally opened in 1998 in the Village at Wexford, it added a second location in Bluffton in 2012.
Opened in 1982 and designed to recreate a “true Boston pub,” Reilley’s serves up steaks, seafood and pub sandwiches, indoors or—thanks to convertible walls—on one of the island’s best pet-friendly outdoor patios. The brunch was voted “best brunch” by Hilton Head Monthly magazine in 2015.
For a real island experience, Broad Creek Marina and its pub and grill are as authentic as it gets. Enjoy a meal and beverage while planning dolphin tours, parasailing, kayaking or a charter boat cruise, or watch the ferries that run to Daufuskie Island come in and out of the marina. Yes, the views are pretty nice, too.