20 Best Restaurants in Columbia, SC To Try

Columbia offers an array of cultural attractions for a lovely Lowcountry getaway. With historic homes, museums, outdoor activities, and arts, the allure of this secret Southern gem awaits. Soda City is a charming hamlet full of character, especially when it comes to cuisine, and there are some fantastic Restaurants In Columbia, SC to try

Columbia has reached the ranks of a cutting-edge culinary scene in recent years. This South Carolina city boasts an eclectic balance of old-school favorites and modern fares. From farm-to-table to home cooked comfort foods to exotic eats, there is something for everyone here. Any foodie will be happy to feast at all of the best Columbia, SC restaurants below. 


Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC


Terra Restaurant 

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

As the name suggests, Terra is a celebration of the bounty of the South Carolina landscape. Seasonal specials are often offered to highlight local ingredients. The menu changes daily, so you’re always in for a delightful and delicious surprise here. It’s the full farm-to-table experience, inspired by traditional Southern flavors. 

There are stunning skyline views to take in here along with an elegant interior decor and iconic charming patio. The Lamb Mac is an especially coveted culinary creation. The cocktails are classic and expertly crafted and there is a plethora of wines to pair with your plate. 


Black Rooster 

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Black Rooster is Frenchish! At least what they say. The menu is inspired by French flavors, and also by foods from around the world. The combination of fares make for some fun and exciting fusions, such as a Cuban ramen bowl, Vietnamese escargot, or a croque-okonomiyaki. 

Be sure to stop in at the rooftop bar, especially if there is a wait for a table, and soak up some sweeping panoramas of downtown Columbia with a lovely libation, like a local beer or creative cocktail. The decor is modern and chic. For a more indulgent affair, treat yourself to a rooftop brunch on the weekend. 


The War Mouth

The War Mouth is a fan favorite of the best Columbia restaurants. There is always something new and seasonal to taste here. They feature classic Southern cooking, often with more exotic ingredients like oxtail or venison. These rustic fares reflect what you may bring home from a hunting trip in the region. They even do a whole hog roast, if you’re in the mood for a real Lowcountry feast. 

It’s set in an old auto repair shop giving it a kitschy and cool ambiance. The craft beer selection is perfection. Order up some catfish stew and cornbread or a bit of Carolina gold rice chicken bog and celebrate the great state of South Carolina. The War Mouth is a real love letter to the area of Columbia. 


Motor Supply Company Bistro

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC
Photo by Columbia SC photographer Sean Rayford

Motor Supply Company is a popular pick in the city. Everything here is made in-house. The handwritten menu morphs even within a day and features local heritage food with a slow food and farm-to-fork focus. Sit amongst the beautiful outdoor sculpture garden, or in the charmingly trendy dining room, either way the experience is something special. 

The building itself is from the 1800s, and as you may have guessed, once sold engine supplies. The brick facade is a little piece of history that only adds to the allure of this eatery. Spot the original neon sign still used today to draw in hungry customers – talk about curb appeal. The dishes are certainly diverse, inspired by eclectic flavors from around the globe. The cocktail program is stellar and seasonal as well, and the beer and wine offerings are extensive.  


929 Kitchen and Bar

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

929 brings Korea to Columbia. When presented with a tray of beautifully plated and brightly colored foods, we almost couldn’t bring ourselves to eat it. The atmosphere is refined, warm and welcoming. The beverages are inventive and utilize traditional ingredients like soju and matcha. 

Preparing fresh produce in the traditional methods of fermenting and pickling, the dishes here are authentically divine. There’s a whole section just for different types of bibimbap, along with noodles, Korean tacos, and stir fry. If you’ve never tasted the enticing and exotic fares of Korea before, this is the best place to try it out.


Bourbon

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Bourbon is a trendy watering hole known for offering over 400 types of whiskey. However, those in the know will tell you it’s more than just a bar. They’re cooking up cajun and creole fares that really pack a punch. The food flavors are straight out of the bayou, and the craft cocktails are both contemporary and classic, inspired by whiskies from all around the world. 

The ambiance is always lively, while also feeling intimate and industrial. The small plates include pork mac and cheese, creole pimento, crispy boudin balls, and a Viet-cajun fried chicken sandwich. The Bourbon Gumbo Bowl is the shining star of the mains. If meandering down Main Street in historic downtown Columbia, Bourbon is a must. 


Blue Marlin

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Located in an old railroad depot, Blue Marlin has been the go-to for succulent seafood in Columbia for many years. The shrimp and grits here are some of the best in the South. It’s the first ever ocean-to-plate eatery in the city with a focus on sourcing their marine meals as sustainably as possible. 

The flavors are a reflection of the lowcountry region with delectable dishes such as Salmon Pontchartrain and the Oyster and Shrimp Skillet Bienville. See if you can spot the namesake fish on the side of the quaint brick building or inside the cozy dining room. The outdoor patio is shaded and pet friendly, adorned with strings of lights, it’s a lovely way to enjoy a meal al fresco. 


Cantina 76

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

This independently-owned Taqueria and Bar is cooking up the best Mexican eats in the city. The atmosphere is casual and upbeat, guaranteed for a fun time, especially if you partake in their famous frozen margaritas. Using local produce and unique ingredients, the fares here are always exquisite and exciting. 

They offer traditional tacos along with some inspired by their love for the lowcountry like Fried Chicken Tacos or BBQ Brisket Tacos. Place individual orders so you can try as many types offered as possible. Look for the brightly colored mural just above the building, and enjoy some outdoor street seating that’s perfect for people watching. 


Hendrix

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Housed in the historic Hennessey’s building on Main Street, Hendrix is a hip and happening eatery with a spectacular rooftop bar. The name is an homage to the grocer who once occupied the same space in the early 1900s. The dishes are creative and locally sourced, featuring modern farm-to-fork American cuisines. The cocktails are expertly crafted. 

The decor is stylish and modern with dramatic chandeliers and exposed brick. Their shareable selections include a Duck Katsu Sandwich and Beef Tartar. The Carolina Heritage Farm Pork Chop is a superb main. There’s even live acoustic music on the rooftop some nights. What’s better than a scenic skyline vista to pair with your beautiful bite and beverage?


Saluda’s

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

This eatery showcases local Southern ingredients cooked up with French and Italian twists. It’s been an institution of the Columbia culinary scene for decades, set in the heart of the Five Points district. The ambiance is open and elegant with an antique bar from the 1880s made from reclaimed mahogany as a gorgeous focal point. If possible, ask to sit outside to enjoy a stunning South Carolina sunset. 

The Sweet Tea Pork Chops and the Pasta Du Jour are just a couple of the quintessential cuisines to order here. The curated offerings of fine wines from around the globe are perfect for pairing, and the handcrafted cocktails are a refreshing departure from the norm. Saluda’s is ideal for a relaxed fine dining affair of elevated eats. 


Il Giorgione

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Il Gio is a small family-owned haunt that feels warm and welcoming. They prepare simple and traditional meals that let the authentic Italian flavors really shine. Everything is handmade in-house, from the mozzarella to the pastas to the pizzas. We love a casual environment serving up gourmet grub, and Il Gio fits the bill. 

The quaint patio out front and the rustic interior make for a serene setting to enjoy these classic cuisines. Be sure to ask about their daily specials, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get such a scrumptious creation as the lemon goat cheese ravioli with sage cream, fresh mint, and chili oil. Relax with a glass of imported fine wine and the perfect thin crust pizza pie. 


Cola’s

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Set in a restored R.C. Cola bottling plant downtown, this beloved establishment is one of the best Columbia restaurants. The name is a reference to the history of the space and the city itself. The building is from the 1930s and offers a special charm with large windows and exposed brick. Its two garage doors open up to reveal a sweeping view of the capital city’s Statehouse. 

The fares are imaginative American, and the favorites of any foodie in town. The Pulled Pork BBQ Egg Rolls and Pimento Cheese Board served with pickled vegetables and tomato jam both come highly recommended as impressive appetizers. The Cornmeal Crusted Trout is truly tasty as well. Stop by the 40-foot bar to order any libation you desire. You’re sure to fall in love with the upscale yet casual experience at Cola’s. 


Mr. Friendly’s

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Cooking up inventive takes on traditional Southern cuisines, Mr. Friendly’s is a culinary staple of Soda City and is one of the best places to visit in South Carolina! They’re famous for their meatloaf, and it really is a must try. It has a laid-back atmosphere, that’s cool without trying too hard. It was originally founded as a cookie shop in the 1980s, but it has since functioned as a cafe creating New Southern fares for the past couple of decades. 

The pecan crab cakes, grilled filet mignon wrapped in bacon and pimento cheese, and citrus herb roasted Carolina rainbow trout are all heavenly and mouth-watering meals. The proteins and produce are local and fresh, sourced sustainably. The dishes are indulgent, exciting, and sophisticated. They offer local brews and specialty beers on tap as well as an extensive wine list. Living up to the name, it’s a very friendly place that embraces the classic Southern hospitality of the state. 


Pawleys Front Porch

Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

Pawleys promises killer burgers, cold beers, and good times, and boy, do they deliver. It’s a casual joint in the area that’s full of personality and always hopping. As you peruse to pick your plate, you’re sure to have a chuckle at the silly names of some dishes, proving they don’t take themselves too seriously. The front porch portion is true to the name, giving that down home classic Carolina feel. There are plenty of local beers on tap to partake in as well. 

If you’re feeling bold (and hungry), ask about the lowcountry challenge. There are plenty of burgers to choose from like the Caw Caw Creek with jalapeno pimento cheese and butter pickled green tomato. The menu is extensive, so there will be something for everyone here. They frequently change their specials, so there’s always a fun seasonal surprise to try as well. For comfort food at its finest, Pawleys Front Porch is the perfect pick. 


Home Team BBQ

Home Team BBQ

This simple eatery aims to bring the fundamentals of white tablecloth dining to the slow and down home ideal of South Carolina barbecue. They keep their fares fresh and local and combine traditional processes and techniques to create this classic Southern comfort food cuisine. They love to invest in the community, and Soda City sure seems to love them back. We really loved the selection of sauces available, to dress up your smoked meats as you wish. 

These are elevated but approachable fares. Get a Cue Platter for your pick of meats and favorite fixings like pulled pork, chopped brisket, and collard greens. There’s a wide-ranging selection of American whiskies, frozen cocktails, and craft beers. The atmosphere is rustic and industrial, adorned with vintage photographs and repurposed furnishings for an enjoyable experience. The BBQ at Home Team is finger licking good and one of the best restaurants in Columbia, SC.

About Natasha

Natasha moved to North Carolina for college years ago (but she's not trying to age herself here). Her days were spent reading a book on the beach and enjoying a cold glass of sweet tea in between classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Upon graduation, she met her partner, Cameron, and they traveled the world together crossing 85 countries and six continents. After, six years of international travel they settled down and launched Lost in the Carolinas to share their experiences about and travel tips on South Carolina and North Carolina.

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