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Must Eats in Columbia

Chrysti Shain Chrysti Shain
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Dish of clams in broth with a cocktail
Motor Supply Company in Columbia has the best food and drink pairings.

Motor Supply Co. Bistro

What it's known for: Motor Supply Co. Bistro's distinctive name sets the tone for this jewel in Columbia's Vista, with its handwritten menu that changes daily. Everything here is farm fresh, with inventive pairings and specialty cocktails unlike any others in the city.

Style: Southern, Lowcountry, brunch

Address: 920 Gervais St.

Phone: 803.256.6687

Cafe Strudel

What it's known for: Had a late night out? Throw on your shades and head to Cafe Strudel for breakfast, order the hangover hash browns and never look back. This is diner food, but better. The menu has a nice selection of sandwiches and soups, plus entrees at dinner. Daily specials for all three meals make it even better.

Style: Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, family-friendly, diner

Address: 300 State St., West Columbia

Phone: 803.794.6634

Seafood in cream sauce atop greens, ham, toast
Terra Southern cooking is worth the trip while in Columbia.

Terra

What it's known for: Like its name suggests, Terra's menu reflects the freshest bounty of the surrounding land. The menu changes daily, and in addition to local fish, steaks and chops, also has a variety of pizza choices from the wood-burning oven.

Style: Southern, Lowcountry

Address: 100 State St., West Columbia

Phone: 803.791.3443

The War Mouth

What it's known for: Set in an old auto repair shop and named after the warmouth bass, The War Mouth is described by one of the owners as a "love letter to the 803." The menu includes dishes made with ingredients you might bring home from hunting or fishing - catfish stew, quail, venison - plus regional faves such as Country Captain. It has a hipster vibe with good craft beer choices.

Style: Southern, lunch, dinner, barbecue, traditional, family-friendly

Address: 1209 Franklin St.

Phone: 803.569.6144

Dish of shrimp and grits with gravy
The Blue Marlin's shrimp and grits is a Columbia favorite.

Halls Chophouse

What it's known for: Although Halls' expansive menu includes fresh, locally sourced seafood, veal, pork, chicken, vegetarian and vegan dishes, it's the mouthwatering steaks that earn this family-owned and operated restaurant its many accolades. The Halls family opened their first restaurant in Charleston in 2009 and has since expanded with locations in Greenville, Nexton and downtown Columbia. 

Style: American cuisine, specializing in steaks, lunch, dinner, fine dining

Address: 1221 Main St.

Phone: 803.563.5066

Blue Marlin

What it's known for: When Blue Marlin opened in an old railroad depot in the Vista in 1994, it was one of the first upscale restaurants to commit to the city's new entertainment and dining district. And it has been setting the standard for business lunches and dinners ever since. The shrimp and grits is some of the best in town, there are a number of great fish dishes and the menu is always consistent and always good. You can't go wrong here.

Style: Seafood, traditional, Southern, lunch, dinner, family-friendly

Address: 1200 Lincoln St.

Phone: 803.799.3838

Dish with vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, onion rings
Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe is classic fare in Columbia.

Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe

What it's known for: Mr. Friendly's is a mainstay in Five Points with a changing menu of modern, inventive takes on Southern classics. The meatloaf is famous here, as is the daily house-ground burger special. It's lively at both lunch and dinner, and offers great daily wine and beer specials.

Style: Southern, lunch, dinner, brunch

Address: 2001-A Greene St.

Phone: 803.254.7828

Julia's German Stammtisch

What it's known for: This is where folks gather 'round the table for some of the best authentic German food in the state. Julia's is a hotspot for expertly prepared schnitzels smothered in mushroom gravy, spaetzle, German potato salad, apple strudel, German beer and more. The friendly staff always delivers a warm welcome. Note: cash or checks only. 

Style: Classic German, casual, no frills, family friendly

Address: 120 Sparkleberry Crossing Road

Phone: 803.738.0630

Plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, collards, fried okra, corn muffin, butter
Lizards Thicket is a don't-miss diner in Columbia.

Lizard's Thicket

What it's known for: Lizard's Thicket is Columbia's quintessential meat-and-three place, where almost anything counts as a vegetable (banana pudding!) and the fried chicken is crispy, hot and hard to beat. They have other choices, but you'll be sorry if you don't try the chicken. Open for breakfast, lunch and supper (they don't call it dinner here), this local chain also is a regular stop on the political trail and has hosted presidents, lots of candidates and other celebs.

Style: Diner, Southern, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Address: 12 locations across the Midlands 

Phone: 803.799.5016

Hendrix

What it's known for: Housed in the upper level of the historic Hennessy's building, Hendrix is a trendy restaurant and rooftop bar offering creative, locally sourced dishes in a hip setting. The stylish decor includes handcrafted ash wood tables made by a local furniture shop. You'll love the hip vibe, spectacular downtown views and live acoustic music in the rooftop bar. 

Style: Upscale, modern American, farm-to-table, dinner, cocktails, brunch

Address: 1649 Main St.

Phone: 803.834.5132

Plates of pulled pork barbecue sandwich with mustard sauce and cheeseburger
For can't-miss barbecue check out Maurice's.

Maurice's Piggie Park

What it's known for: When you eat barbecue in Columbia, it's made with a mustard-based sauce, and nobody has been doing it longer than the Bessinger family. The flagship Piggie Park store, where all the smoky magic happens, has been serving up sandwiches, ribs and plates for more than 60 years. Now with 9 locations around the Midlands, you're never far from a taste of history. 

Style: Barbecue, family-friendly, Southern, lunch, dinner

Address: 1600 Charleston Highway, West Columbia

Phone: 803.796.0220

Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse

What it's known for: More than 20 years ago, and long before brewpubs became all the rage, the Hunter-Gatherer opened up shop between the SC Statehouse and University of South Carolina campus. Now, they brew their beer at two locations. The amount of detail paid to the brewing has always been impressive, and so is the food. The menu changes seasonally. Great selection of sandwiches, appetizers, salads, entrees and house-made pizzas.

Style: Brewpub, sandwiches, lunch, dinner

Address: 901 Main St. and 1402 Jim Hamilton Blvd.

Phone: 803.748.0540 (Main St.) and 803.764.1237 (Jim Hamilton Blvd.)

Columbia Saluda's salmon on a dish with potatoes
Saluda's has amazing farm-to-table fare in Columbia.

Saluda's

What it's known for: Saluda's is a beautiful restaurant with inside seating and a cool balcony overlooking the Five Points shopping district. Located in the historic VFW officers club, the restaurant showcases local ingredients with a Southern and Italian twist. Daily offerings might include a sweet tea pork chop or something wonderful involving peaches. The bar, built in the late 1800s for the historic Blakely hotel in Philadelphia, is home to inventive, seasonal cocktails.

Style: Southern, Italian, traditional, dinner, farm-to-table

Address: 751 Saluda Ave.

Phone: 803.799.9500

Tombo Grille

What it's known for: A favorite neighborhood bistro in Forest Acres, Tombo Grille is a favorite for date night or a girls night out. The menu features fresh, local ingredients prepared with an international flair. Nightly specials are particularly popular and stay consistent each week. There's often live music, too.

Style: Southern, traditional, lunch, dinner, farm-to-table, family-friendly

Address: 4517 Forest Drive

Phone: 803.782.9665

Bowls of green beans, collards, macaroni and cheese, slaw, mashed potatoes and gravy
Hudson's Smokehouse is home to tasty barbecue and sides served in a family-friendly atmosphere.

Hudson's Smokehouse

What it's known for: Barbecue is the star at Hudson's Smokehouse, along with a killer buffet that keeps on going. You smell the goodness before you get to the door, and the attentive staff makes sure you have everything you need. And if you're looking to feed a crowd, their catering menu is a great option. You'll see trays of Hudson's at tailgate parties all around during football season.

Style: Barbecue, Southern, family-friendly

Address: 4952 Sunset Blvd., Lexington

Phone: 803.356.1070

Il Giorgione

What it's known for: Il Giorgione is a small, family-owned spot serves up homemade Italian dishes in a welcoming, easy-to-love atmosphere. House-made mozzarella, pastas, pizza and the freshest tomatoes grace the menu here, and there's a great patio to enjoy a glass of wine and catch up with friends.

Style: Italian, casual, family-friendly, lunch, dinner

Address: 2406 Devine St.

Phone: 803.521.5063

Man pouring cream into coffee, skillet of hash with egg on top
Bourbon is a great place to gather in Columbia for food and drinks.

Bourbon

What it's known for: Bourbon is a favorite gathering spot near the SC State House aptly specializing in drinks and a New Orleans-influenced menu - both inspired by the restaurant's name. Serving lunch, late lunch, dinner, late night and Sunday brunch, there's always a reason to try something new. The cocktails and the bourbon list are extensive.

Style: Southern, Cajun, lunch, dinner, brunch

Address: 1214 Main St.

Phone: 803.403.1404

Cola's Restaurant

What it's known for: This is the place to go for a vibrant bar scene combined with Southern fare with an international flair. Cola's operates from a restored downtown R.C. Cola bottling plant and has a patio with a wonderful view of the SC State House. It's a great place to meet friends after work.

Style: Southern, casual, dinner

Address: 1215 Assembly St.

Phone: 803.451.0051

Chrysti Shain
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.