Visiting the South Carolina state capital is always an exciting experience. From the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden to the Soda City Market, Columbia is a city that is full of life and wonders.
The food scene never fails to surprise me. The Soda City is an exciting destination for fine dining, fusion cuisine, and original creations from talented chefs.
After two wonderful weeks of trying new dishes and rediscovering timeless American fare staples, I decided to compile a list of the best restaurants in Columbia, South Carolina.
I picked these establishments for their creativity, their cozy atmosphere, and the memorable experiences they deliver.
Best Restaurants in Columbia
Check out these 23 restaurants that you can visit when you go to Columbia:
Motor Supply Co. Bistro
920 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201
Motor Supply Co. Bistro is one of my favorite Columbia restaurants with its farm-to-table concept.
The menu changes daily, and you might find options like fried quail, strip steak, or wild shrimp depending on ingredient availability. I love this concept because there is always something new to try.
The bistro is a popular spot for brunches and grabbing drinks. There is an award-winning wine list with over 200 choices.
If ordering wine by the glass isn’t your thing, the bistro has an excellent selection of crafted cocktails and beer from local breweries.
You’ll find this restaurant in the Arsenal Hill area, on Gervais Street two blocks west of the South Carolina State House.
1214 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201
With a name like Bourbon, I knew this establishment was going to have an amazing selection of spirits. I wasn’t disappointed.
Bourbon serves over 500 different whiskeys and spirits. Chatting with the bartender to learn more about whiskeys from around the world was a fun experience.
I also recommend Bourbon for its Cajun and Creole-inspired menu from Chef Joshua Wilson. You can enjoy gumbo, etouffee, and other classic dishes made with local ingredients.
Bourbon is directly across from the South Carolina State House on Main Street. If you keep going north for a few blocks, you’ll get to the Columbia Museum of Art.
2406 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29205
If you’re looking for a romantic spot for date night or simply want to enjoy some generous Italian fare, I can’t recommend Il Giorgione enough.
With its cozy atmosphere and wood accents, this restaurant has the feel of a small family establishment. I love the fact that the dishes use traditional recipes and quality ingredients.
You’ll find pretty much any classic Italian dish you can think of on the menu, from pizza bianca to spaghetti alla carbonara and tiramisu. The wine list is worth mentioning.
Il Giorgione is in the Five Points neighborhood, between Martin Luther King Jr Park and Emily Douglas Park.
Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe
2001 Greene St A, Columbia, SC 29205
Mr. Friendly’s uses a simple but effective concept. It’s a café that serves original creations made with fresh ingredients sourced locally.
The customer service is excellent, and the wine list with over 300 options is ideal if you want to discover local wineries. You can also explore batches from local microbreweries.
The lunch and dinner specials vary from one week to another, but I highly recommend getting the fried soft-shell crab if you can.
This café is in the heart of the Five Points area on Green and Laurens Street. It’s within walking distance of the University of South Carolina campus.
1215 Assembly St, Columbia, SC 29201
Cola’s Restaurant is an old soda bottling plant from the 1930s. I enjoyed the unique industrial atmosphere, and the owner makes the most of this setting by opening two large garage doors on warm evenings so guests can take in the atmosphere of the downtown area.
The bar is impressive with its wine, cocktail, and beer selection. I enjoyed how diverse the menu feels with seafood, burgers, fried pork chops, and chicken parmigiana. I think meat lovers will enjoy this spot.
Cola’s is on Assembly and Gervais Street. The South Carolina State House is directly across the street, and it’s a prime spot for experiencing downtown like a local.
100 State St, West Columbia, SC 29169
Terra Restaurant stands out by offering a menu that takes inspiration from diverse cuisines. The dishes change based on seasonal ingredients since this restaurant sources everything locally.
Finding Mediterranean-inspired dishes like lamb sausage with hummus along with Korean lettuce wraps feels surprising, but I love how original the concept feels. The wood-fired pizzas are also worth mentioning.
The bar also has a huge wine list with over 60 options, and the spirit list feels expertly curated with bourbons, whiskeys, rums, and more.
Terra Restaurant is near the Congaree River on Meeting and State Street, not far from the Meeting Street Artisan Market.
The War Mouth
1209 Franklin St, Columbia, SC 29201
The War Mouth has the feel of a small neighborhood restaurant. The simple décor feels welcoming, and I enjoyed the relaxing and laid-back atmosphere.
The menu includes a selection of barbecue and seafood. It’s perfect for discovering classic South Carolina fare.
It’s also a popular spot for snacks and small plates with crawfish beignets, pork rinds, and more. The cold beer, small wine list, and delicious cocktail selection make the War Mouth a fun place for drinking with friends.
You’ll find this small but cozy spot in a white building on Franklin Street, not far from the intersection with Main Street in the Elwood Park area.
Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse
900 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201
The Hunter-Gatherer Brewery is true to its name with its unique selection of brews that expertly mix hops and fresh fruits.
The owner, Kevin Varner, is extremely friendly and revealed that he learned about brewing while working at Hales Brewery in Seattle, one of the oldest American microbreweries.
His expertise shows through the crisp and refreshing flavor profiles of the different batches available.
If you’re into beer, scheduling a tour and tasting at the Hunter-Gather will be one of the highlights of your trip to Columbia. You’ll find the brewery on Main and College Street, behind the South Carolina State House.
751 Saluda Ave, Columbia, SC 29205
Saluda’s is one of the best restaurants in Columbia, South Carolina if you’re in the mood for an upscale experience. The décor immediately sets the tone with its beautiful wood accents and gorgeous mahogany bar.
The menu can vary based on seasonal ingredients, but you’ll find an amazing selection of classic Southern dishes all year round. The service is impeccable, and the quality of the food is difficult to match.
Saluda’s is in the Five Points area on Saluda’s Avenue. The restaurant is across the street from the Five Points Fountain.
The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli
2617 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29223
With creations like coconut cream or strawberry cheesecake cinnamon rolls, the Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli is sure to be an instant hit if you have a sweet tooth.
The delicious and innovative cinnamon rolls are a major draw, but you can also get delicious breakfast sandwiches, bagels, grit bowls, and more.
This deli quickly became my go-to place for a quick afternoon snack, and I highly recommend it if you have children.
The next time you have a hankering for a cinnamon roll, head to Devine and Woodrow Street in the Old Shandon neighborhood.
1635 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201
Lula Drake takes the concept of the wine bar to the next level by offering an upscale experience in a memorable setting.
You’ll find some retro-inspired elements in the décor that create a cozy atmosphere, but the bar and seating options feel modern.
This wine parlor possibly offers the best wine list in Columbia with some rare finds. You can also discover craft beers from local breweries.
Lula Drake offers a selection of small plates that enhance your wine or beer-tasting experience. Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for a food recommendation based on what you’re drinking!
This wine bar is in the downtown area, a block away from Finlay Park.
342 Pickens St, Columbia, SC 29205
DiPrato’s is a popular spot for brunch and lunch on Rice and Pickens Street, within walking distance from the University of South Carolina campus.
This family-friendly deli has an extensive selection of salads and panini sandwiches for lunch while the brunch menu focuses on classic fare like omelets and pancakes.
My favorite menu items include the prosciutto ham panini sandwich and the antipasto salad.
Everything felt fresh and prepared with care. I also loved the casual atmosphere and functional décor. I highly recommend this neighborhood deli if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat!
929 Kitchen & Bar
929 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201
With its upscale take on Korean fare, 929 Kitchen & Bar is one of the best restaurants in the Congaree Vista neighborhood.
One of the specialties is the bibimbap, a traditional Korean rice dish topped with meat, eggs, and vegetables. You can also enjoy some delicious Udon noodles with your choice of toppings, or try Korean fried chicken.
The food feels authentic, but some of the flavors feel unique and modern. If you’re in the mood for some Korean food, head to Gervais and Park Street. 929 Kitchen & Bar is not far from the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
Julia’s German Stammtisch
120 Sparkleberry Crossing Rd, Columbia, SC 29229
From schnitzel fingers to pretzels and chocolate torte, Julia’s German Stammtisch serves authentic German fare.
In German, Stammtisch refers to an informal group meeting and I think this word perfectly sums up the fun and relaxing atmosphere.
I thoroughly enjoyed this culinary experience. I discovered some dishes and flavors I wasn’t familiar with. It’s also an excellent spot for grabbing a drink, thanks to the selection of European beers.
You’ll have to follow I-20 heading northwest from Columbia until exit 80 to get to Julia’s German Stammtisch on the corner of Clemson and Sparkleberry Crossing Road.
Alodia’s Cucina Italiana
2736 N Lake Dr, Columbia, SC 29212
Alodia’s is a traditional Italian restaurant that makes you feel welcome right away with its walls adorned with family photos.
I think it’s one of the top spots in Columbia for pasta, but creations like the stuffed quail or the tuna carpaccio are worthy of the best Italian restaurants.
The plates look beautiful, and the décor is elegant. It could be an excellent option for a fun family dinner, but I can also see Alodia’s being a romantic spot for a date.
You’ll find this restaurant in the Murray Landing shopping center on North Lake Drive. The best way to reach it is to follow I-26 heading north until exit 101A.
Inakaya Japanese Restaurant
224 Oneil Ct STE 9, Columbia, SC 29223
Inakaya delivers an authentic experience with its delicious sushis and its counter where you can see the talented chefs prepare the sushis.
The sushis are excellent and use fresh seafood, and Inakaya also offers a selection of hot dishes.
You can sit at the sushi bar and grab a few small plates, or pick one of the tables for a more traditional sit-down restaurant experience.
Inakaya is one of the best restaurants in Columbia, South Carolina for Japanese cuisine.
This restaurant is in Dentsville, northwest of Columbia. The best way to find it is to follow Two Notch Road until you reach Oneil Court.
702 Cross Hill Rd, Columbia, SC 29205
If you enjoy smoked meat and barbecue, you can’t visit Columbia, SC without stopping by the Midwood Smokehouse.
With three locations in North and South Carolina, it’s easy to see why this small chain is such a hit.
I tried the Carolina pork and couldn’t believe how fragrant the smoked aromas were. The combo platters are an excellent value if you want to try different meats, and the sandwiches or appetizers are ideal if you’re looking for small plates.
You’ll find this popular BBQ joint in the Cross Hill Market shopping center at the corner of Fort Jackson Boulevard and Cross Hill Road east of the downtown area.
Real Mexico Restaurant Y Tienda
2421 Bush River Rd, Columbia, SC 29210
With its cheesy quesadillas, flavorful soups, and authentic tacos, Real Mexico Restaurant is one of the best spots for grabbing some delicious South American fare in Columbia.
It’s also an opportunity to eat like a local and discover the Seven Oaks neighborhood in northwest Columbia.
I highly recommend this inexpensive spot because the atmosphere is friendly, the portions are generous, and the outdoor seating is the perfect way to relax with friends.
Real Mexico Restaurant is on Bush River Road, across the street from CVS. If you’re coming from downtown, follow I-26 until exit 107B.
The Gourmet Shop
724 Saluda Ave, Columbia, SC 29205
The Gourmet Shop is a small business with an amazing selection of gifts, chocolates, cheese, wine, and other fun items.
There’s also a small café that serves salads, wraps, sandwiches, and mouthwatering charcuterie boards for brunch and lunch.
I tried the brie & bacon croissant. This simple but delicious menu item was everything I expected with its rich buttery texture.
The café has a plant-based menu with some paninis, wraps, and other options. It’s a fun spot for a vegan or vegetarian lunch!
The Gourmet Shop is in the Five Points area on Saluda Avenue, not far from the Five Points Fountain.
1301 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201
Cantina 76 is a Mexican restaurant and bar. I recommend it for its laid-back atmosphere and affordable prices.
The menu impressed me with its creativity. There are four different kinds of shrimp tacos, and each one has a unique flavor. The BBQ brisket taco is another highlight.
Margaritas are a popular drink with eight flavors available, but you’ll also find wines and beers. Every day of the week has a different special on drinks or tacos, and the fun atmosphere is ideal for meeting locals.
Cantina 76 is a downtown restaurant on the corner of Lady and Main Street. It’s only two blocks away from the Soda City Market and the Columbia Museum of Art.
1649 Main St, Columbia, SC 29201
Hendrix immediately feels classy and sophisticated with its rich wood accents and its industrial-inspired ceiling.
The menu includes a mix of reimagined pub fare and fine dining. It’s a great spot for trying original seafood creations like baked mussels or a memorable grilled salmon salad.
The rooftop bar is a popular feature, and I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a warm summer evening in Columbia. There is a breathtaking view of Arsenal Hill, and the cocktails are delicious and refreshing.
Hendrix is within a block of Finlay Park, at the intersection of Main and Blanding Street.
201 Meeting St, West Columbia, SC 29169
The Black Rooster is a classy riverfront restaurant that serves French-inspired fare. You can find timeless classics like steak frites or escargots, but the menu also includes dishes with varied influences, like a delicious bun thit xao or a Nashville chicken sandwich.
I loved how diverse the menu felt, and the sophisticated décor makes for an upscale dining experience. It’s one of the best restaurants in Columbia, South Carolina if you want to explore new flavors and discover surprising dishes.
The Black Rooster is near the Gervais Street Bridge. Take Meeting Street toward the river and turn left on Alexander Road.
709 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201
smallSugar is a unique restaurant that focuses on grains and healthy creations. It’s a popular breakfast spot with delicious and nutritious options like granola and oatmeal bowls to start your day with some energy. You’ll also find some delicious lunch options like the pork loin sandwiches.
One of the reasons why I recommend smallSugar is because this business supports non-profits and provides meals for a local children’s home.
Besides enjoying some excellent food, you can make a difference by supporting a small business with an important mission.
You’ll find smallSugar on Gervais Street, not far from the intersection with Gadsden Street.