The Willcox is a piece of South Carolinan history, full of glamour, high society, luxury, and a bit of mystery. Patrons of high social standing, politicians, and even royalty graced its halls during its height in the 19th century. Now, the inn is a beautiful reminder of that opulent past, and serves as a luxe destination for guests. The onsite restaurant at The Willcox serves upscale American fare in a beautiful, yet comfortable setting. The restaurant is dedicated to using locally sourced, organic produce and meats, cementing its interests and roots even deeper into the community, and making its dishes as fresh as possible.
The Rose Hill Estate was once the winter residence of a wealthy family, and is now cataloged on the National Register of Historic Places. The estate is made up of several buildings nestled idyllically under tall trees. Along with the inn at the main house, the estate has a cottage, a gazebo, a darling small chapel, and an old stable where the onsite restaurant is housed. The Stables at Rose Hill offer American cuisine, with some Italian and German influence. Open only for dinner, the menu is small, offering well thought-out dishes made from local ingredients. Much of the original charms were left in tact when the stables were renovated into a restaurant, giving the space a rustic and romantic atmosphere.
The folks at Aiken Brewing Company are passionate about beer. Creating inventive microbrews all the time, the pub has an impressive variety of beers on tap that is constantly changing. Along with its excellent selection of microbrews, the food at Aiken Brewing Company is not to be missed. Of course, the restaurant offers pub classics like jalapeno poppers, cheese fries, and wings, but its menu also includes dishes with Southern flair like a fried chicken salad, baby back ribs braised in pale ale and smoked, and crab-stuffed mushrooms. This is the perfect place to grab a bite, mingle with the locals, and enjoy a craft-brewed mug.
Magnolia Cafe & Market is a bright, fresh addition to Aiken’s dining scene. The restaurant is founded on the idea of healthful, healing food. The produce and ingredients are organic, and sourced from local farms. The kitchen is happy to cater to any dietary preference or restrictions, and offers gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, and vegan options. Soups, salads, paninis, wraps, and creative side dishes are offered on the regular menu daily. There is truly something for everyone at Magnolia Café, as the restaurant will do anything to make guests comfortable, and to provide a memorable, fresh meal.
The owners of Auten’s wanted to offer an unpretentious, stress-free environment for adults to relax and reminisce about easier times. They created a restaurant centered around bygone school days of chalkboards, desks, and school bells. The thematic element of this restaurant isn’t kitschy, but comes across as playful and innocent. Open for only breakfast and lunch, the menu offers hearty home classics like eggs and ham, grits, and country fried steak. Lunch consists of mostly sandwiches like grilled chicken on Texas Toast, and pulled pork, with classic Southern sides. Auten’s is warm, welcoming, and family-friendly.
The General Elliot is another of Aiken’s historic estates, turned into a picturesque inn and restaurant. Located across the street from a world-class polo club, it offers an up-close peek into Aiken’s horse culture. The dining room is small, but precise and inviting. With views out to the verdant lawns and towering oak trees, it is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy a meal and a glass of wine. The owners of the inn and restaurant are gracious hosts, often personally welcoming guests and checking in on their experience. The restaurant is open on Friday and Saturday nights, by reservation only, and serves classics like aged Angus steak, seafood, and chops.
Operating for over 25 years in Aiken, Malia’s chef and owner has established a place where locals and visitors go for creative dishes that are always on-point. Malia’s menu is seasonally driven, changing often to incorporate ingredients that are fresh and available locally. Open only for lunch and dinner, the chef creates classic dishes with unexpected twists. Salmon is stuffed with mushrooms and crab meat, lamb ribs are dressed with molasses and balsamic, and spinach gnocchi is topped with fresh corn and pimento. Malia’s is fine dining, yet with a small-town character that keeps it approachable.
Set in one of Aiken’s charmingly historic homes, Casa Bella serves warm Italian fare in a casual setting. The restaurant also has delightful outdoor seating that offers a perfect place to dine in the evening and enjoy some fresh air. Serving classic pastas, risottos, meat dishes and desserts, Casa Bella is spot-on for Americans looking for Italian fare. Portions are generous, and recipes are consistent, ensuring that customers have a great experience every time. The waitstaff is friendly and eager to serve, and the dining room is romantic and intimate.
On the corner of Barnwell and Laurens sits a little cafe that is both nostalgic and friendly. Betsy’s on the Corner is a restaurant that strives to make guests feel at home, offering classic dishes, always made in-house from scratch. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, and serves breakfast only on Saturdays. Favorite menu items include the shrimp po-boy sandwich, the Appleton Grilled Cheese with cheddar, grilled apples, and bacon, and the sweet potato fries. During its breakfast on Saturday mornings, Betsy’s has some of the best grits and waffles in the county. With its warm atmosphere and homestyle blue plate classics like pot roast and fried pork chops, Betsy’s is reminiscent of home.
The Red Pepper is a great place to relish a night out in Aiken. The restaurant often hosts live bands to provide great local entertainment, and has a laid-back vibe that is relaxed and inviting. An outdoor patio lends an opportunity to take in the setting and the music from outside. The lunch and dinner menus both offer a variety of options from finer meat and seafood dishes, to bar favorites like wings and queso. Reviewers rave about the desserts, which are always changing, made fresh daily, and often have playful twists like a chocolate cheesecake with a bacon-studded crust.