Eating Out in Columbia, SC: Top 10 Restaurants & Local Eats

Virág Gulyás

As South Carolina’s largest city and the state capital, Columbia is a vibrant metropolitan hub with plenty of museums and art galleries, dance companies, orchestras and theatres. This rich panorama suitably matches the dining scene, and it is a challenge to name the best eateries. Our previous collection attempted that mission. Read our latest roundup of the top 10 cultural restaurants of Columbia, from local Southern spots to top-notch fusion venues.



What makes Alodia’s truly the best Italian restaurant in the area is its constant quest for excellence. Born from a passion for Italian gastronomy, the owner Adam Huneau named this, his first venue, after his grandmother Alodia, whose kitchen was a bond for the family. Together with his wife, Adam aims to create an authentic Italian place that not only features a delectable classical Italian repertoire of family recipes, but also conveys the Italian love for food and family. The rich selection of lunch and dinner choices showcases the finest Italian dishes, made from fresh and homemade ingredients. Expect a warm and faithful trattoria interior with a semi-open kitchen, which reveals some of the secrets behind the scenes. Alodia’s, 2736 N Lake Drive, Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 781 9814

1. Cola’s

Restaurant, Bar, American, BBQ

Outside Cola’s
© Cola’s

An iconic gem of the local food scene, serving excellent seafood and steak specialties, Cola’s is a trendy dining destination for local and visiting foodies alike. The restaurant is set in a renovated 1930s RC Cola bottling plant, where brick walls, wooden tables and textile chairs create an upscale ambiance. The elegant interior merges with the massive building from a time gone by, evoking a fusion of comfort and style. While the name, unsurprisingly, refers to the original function of the building, the menu lacks no creativity by featuring a revitalised American kitchen, filled with such specialties as the Cola platters and other dishes of the house. Special attention is dedicated to the ingredients that come from local famers. A chic 40-feet-long bar serves guests who opt for a more chilled presence, enjoying one of the many signature cocktails, or a pick from the excellent wine list.


A few steps away from the University of South Carolina, Hunter-Gatherer is the perfect place to eat well at budget-friendly prices. A micro-brew pub that guarantees a vibrant ambiance amongst staff and guests alike, it serves a great choice of eclectic, wholesome foods, including salads, sandwiches and pizzas, all made from local and fresh ingredients. The real treat at Hunter-Gatherer, however, is the excellent hand-crafted beer selection that never lacks a wheat beer, pale ale, extra special bitter, or a seasonal beer on its taps. To add to the ambiance, live bands often play, showcasing an eclectic range of genres from jazz and blues, to funk and folk. This place is a low-key venue that has proudly served contented guests since 1995. Hunter-Gatherer, 900 Main Street, Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 748 0540

Inakaya Japanese Restaurant

Amongst the impeccable Southern kitchens, Inakaya Japanese Restaurant offers an escape to more exotic flavours. Serving the best sushi in town, Inakaya is the place for authentic Japanese dishes. The creative chefs serve everything a true Japanese kitchen in Tokyo would: from miso soup to sushi, from sashimi to rice and noodles. Not to mention the sake, which is excellent to wash down the characteristic flavours. If unsure what to order, feel free to ask for a sample to taste first. Be it a business meeting (opt for the terrific lunch menu) or a romantic evening out (in which case choose one of the more hidden, intimate tables), Inakaya makes sure to effortlessly adapt to any occasion. Inakaya Japanese Restaurant, 655 Saint Andrews Rd, Columbia, SC, USA, + 1 803 731 2538

2. Little Pigs Barbecue

Restaurant, Bistro, BBQ, American, Dessert

No true American city is complete without a landmark BBQ spot. Little Pigs Barbecue takes on this role in Columbia, voted as the best barbecue hut, both by official ratings and by local praise. Opened in 1962 as part of the Little Pigs of America franchise (which went bankrupt), this little barbecue place survived and changed hands in 1978. This got things back on track, leading to an eatery that is a real local experience, where taste and flavour are unbeatable. Little Pigs Barbecue’s reputation is faultless. They serve a vast variety of barbecue, ribs, brisket, pork chops, chicken wings, and many more home-cooked dishes, with fresh vegetables as a side dish.

3. Motor Supply Company Bistro

Bistro, Restaurant, Cocktail Bar, Fusion, American

Motor Supply Company Bistro

Being one of the first restaurants in the notable Congaree Vista area, Motor Supply Company Bistro has stood firmly as an essential element of Columbia’s culinary scene since 1989. Located in a refurbished engine supply building from the 1800s, the atmosphere is laid-back with a chic rustic design. With daily changing, attentively crafted, handwritten menus, the venue never lacks creative surprises, whether the occasion is a relaxed brunch, lively lunch, or exclusive dinner. An award-winning venue with eclectic dishes featuring fusion specialties of American, French, Italian and Asian cuisines, dishes are prepared with the latest techniques. The primary cooking concept follows a farm-to-table model, making every dish organic and fresh.

4. Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café

Cafe, American

pecan crab cakes
©Sheri Wetherell
Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café is nestled in Five Points, a historic area filled with local bars and galleries, and a popular destination for the students of the nearby University of South Carolina. The place was founded in the 1980s as a sandwich and cookie shop, and turned into a Southern culinary gem in 1995. Labelled as one of the most innovative restaurants in South Carolina, Mr. Friendly’s is a gourmet place, where classical dishes receive an innovative twist, and turn into something memorable. Ricky Mollohan, the owner and chef, is always around, guaranteeing impeccable service and quality. The menu features ocean-fresh fish and seafood specialties, and creative meat plates, served in a laid-back milieu within the art-decorated brick walls.

5. Saluda’s Restaurant

Restaurant, American, French, Italian, European

Over the last two decades, Saluda’s has become the backbone of Columbia’s culinary scene, serving as a flawless venue for exclusive fine dining. The restaurant is set in the gorgeously renovated Veterans of Foreign Wars Officers’ Club, with the most charming tables situated on the balcony. If places fill up outdoors, the elegant, crystal glass-decorated white-linen tables ensure a more-than-ideal indoor setting for this upscale dining experience. The kitchen, led by Chef Blake Fairies, follows Saluda’s unique cooking philosophy of fusing local ingredients with exotic international ones, creating fresh, innovative tastes. Guests can enjoy Southern traditions showcased in authentic French and Italian dishes. The chef’s signature dishes, being the dry-aged rib eye stake, and the seared shrimp and scallops, elevate Saluda’s to one of the premier venues of the area.

6. Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Wine Bar, American

Courtesy Terra
A kitchen that changes with the seasons, Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar is a unique venue featuring New American, or rather New Southern, tastes. The place has a modern interior that is chic enough to uplift any dining but simple enough to keep it friendly and warm. With extensive lunch and dinner specials, along with the seasonally changing menus, Solstice offers a rich selection of creative dishes such as rib eye, pork spring rolls, salmon, and veggie options, pleasantly accompanied by the restaurant’s wine selection and crafted cocktails. If going with children or dogs, look for the special events such as ‘Patio Dining with Dogs’ or ‘Babysitter’s Night’, when parents can enjoy a romantic dinner while their children are taken care of right nearby.


West Columbia’s acclaimed culinary gem is Terra. The restaurant was opened in 2006 by owner and award-winning chef Mike Davis, whose heart and passion for excellence show in everything he does. The venue is a slow-food paradise, receiving seasonal ingredients directly from local farms to ensure freshness and quality. The menu changes daily and follows the local supplies. As guests choose from the delectable scallop, pork or lamb specialties, Mr. Davis is always happy to make a personal visit to any table. Besides the exceptional signature dishes, the venue also boasts wood-oven pizzas that are celebrated each Wednesday with the unique Pizza & Pinot evenings. Excellent food is accompanied by a similarly excellent list of local and international wines. Dining at Terra is an unbeatable upscale experience that is added to further by the views of the city’s skyline. Terra, 100 State Street, West Columbia, SC, USA, +1 803 791 3443 By Virag Gulyas

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