The 22 Best Restaurants In Columbia, SC

This carefully curated list of restaurants in Columbia represents the culinary spots that truly define Columbia. You’ll find that it covers the entire city, various cuisines and a range of budgets.

These Columbia, SC restaurants are our most recommended eateries. Of course, we love trying new restaurants, but there’s something about the tried and true ones that are worth sharing. And it’s those that made up our list of delicious restaurants in Columbia.

Map of awesome restaurants in Columbia, SC

Columbia, SC Restaurants We Love

And now onto our list of great restaurants in Columbia, SC. You can also check out our web story on the best restaurants in Columbia for a quick glance at our top picks.

Looking for the latest restaurant news? Check our guide to Columbia’s newest restaurants.

A local Columbia restaurant for a casual date night out

Mr. Friendly’s is a casual Southern restaurant in Five Points. Their food is elevated yet approaches and they have a bistro vibe with brick walls and great art.

Somehow Mr. Friendly’s skirts the line between a casual restaurant and a date night restaurant. It’s a favorite for locals.

Though all of their fare is great, we highly recommend getting their meatloaf it’s on the menu. It’s topped with blue cheese BBQ sauce and fried onion rings.

2150 Sumter Street | the North Main area

Gourmet pizza in a pizza parlor-style shop in Columbia’s Cottontown

Il Focolare is a small but mighty Columbia pizza joint in Cottontown with a large brick oven and killer pizzas.

One of our favorite pizzas at Il Focolare is their brussels and chevre pizza with, yes, brussels sprouts. Roasted brussels sprouts, that is, along with goat cheese and a white sauce.

They also have a classic pepperoni pizza, of course, and a chopped pepperoni pizza with basil if you want to fancy it up a bit.

You’ll also find salads, garlic bread (made with smallSUGAR sourdough) and dessert. SmallSUGAR and Il Focolare share the same owner, by the way.

A perfect cafe in Five Points that feels out of a Nancy Meyers movie

Five Point’s Gourmet Shop is our go-to destination when we want to share something authentically Columbia. This restaurant is right at home in Five Points.

We especially love sitting outside when the weather allows. It’s a first-come, first-serve thing outside, and you can get your name on a list inside if it’s full.

I don’t mind waiting there because the Gourmet Shop has an awesome marketplace full of fun kitchen and pantry finds. You can find everything from fancy crackers for your charcuterie board to a french press and specialty ingredients.

They also have a deli area with various salads, cheeses and meats. We typically grab a container of their famous chicken salad and a baguette to go on our way out. It’s the perfect thing to snack on during the week. They also have their various salads/pasta available for purchase, like their tomato basil pasta and delicious pesto pasta.

The Gourmet Shop

Their food is excellent, the decor is perfect and the marketplace is definitely fit for a movie. I would definitely recommend it for brunch with parents over a USC football weekend.

The best restaurant for an intimate date night

There’s a reason Hall’s wins every award in the area for fine dining restaurants— it’s fantastic! The service, the food, the ambiance. Everything.

Halls Chophouse is a great place to celebrate something special like a birthday or anniversary. It’s the perfect cozy atmosphere for a cold winter’s night. We especially love it when the Christmas tree at the State House is lit up!

If you go, don’t miss their Halls Chop Salad (Smoked bacon, peppers, celery, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, feta cheese, green peppercorn-buttermilk dressing) and their fried green tomatoes are always a treat. And the wet-aged filet mignon!!

Halls Chophouse

Charming restaurant with a great wine menu in downtown Columbia

If you’re after charm, Hampton Street Vineyard is our pick. It’s downtown and falls in the ‘French farm-to-table’ restaurant category.

You can choose from their low-lit dining room or, if the weather allows, the sidewalk seating out front. Try the steak au poivre or duck confit, and don’t miss their impressive and extensive wine menu.

Hampton Street Vineyard offers a weekend brunch from 10 am to 3 pm.

MOA Korean BBQ & Bar opened in September 2023

1333 Main Street | Downtown Columbia

Upscale Korean BBQ restaurant on Main Street

MOA Korean BBQ & Bar elevates Korean cuisine in downtown Columbia. It’s a Charlotte-born restaurant, and also sister restaurant to 929 Kitchen in the Vista.

Try their Korean-inspired appetizers, like their signature kimchi bulgogi nachos or the classic Korean chicken wings. For the main course, you’ll find a variety of Korean favorites like stone bowl bibimbap and bulgogi stew.

If you’re up for an interactive dining experience, opt to sit at one of their 16 grill tables. Your server will handle all of the grilling for you, but you’ll have an up close look at the action.

MOA Korean BBQ

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Upscale farm-to-table fare in the Vista

Motor Supply Co is an upscale restaurant in Columbia’s Vista district. It’s a farm-to-table spot with big windows and a fresh, seasonal menu.

Though there are several great brunch restaurants in Columbia, Motor Supply Co. is our pick for a fancy morning out.

If you are looking for a great drink to go with your brunch, they are known for their bloody mary! They also have fresh peach bellinis when in season.

Delicious Southern meal in a unique setting

Housed in the historic RC Cola bottling building, Colas offers a memorable dining experience. It’s located diagonally from the State House and has a Southern-leaning menu.

Try their famous whole crispy flounder or their pimento cheese board with tomato jam.

Colas offers the perfect balance of upscale food meets a cool, unpretentious atmosphere.

Delicious BBQ joint in Five Points with great food and a cool atmosphere

Home Team BBQ is such a great addition to Five Points. They have several Charleston locations so you may already be familiar with them. If not, Home Team is a great, laidback spot for the whole family to enjoy delicious BBQ in Columbia.

As far as the meat menu goes, you can get pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, smoked turkey, jalapeno cheddar sausage, ribs, smoked chicken and smoked wings. So, everything. We typically opt for the pulled pork and wings! And the nachos! Start with the nachos!!

And they have a ton of great BBQ sides! Choose from mac & cheese, slaw, collards, baked beans, hash & rice, brunswick stew and cucumber & tomato salad. I typically opt for the mac & cheese and collards. But they also have a “side plate” with 4 sides, house pickles and a King’s Hawaiian Roll.

The best bang for your buck is the board, which comes with wings, sausage, ribs, pulled pork and turkey along with three pint-sized sides. It’s great if dining with a hungry family or a group of friends. Home Team Is one of our top picks for family-friendly restaurants in Columbia.

A hidden gem Italian restaurant on Devine Street

Il Giorgione is a great neighborhood Italian restaurant located on Devine Street. Though it has been there forever, it still has a hidden gem quality about it.

It’s perfect for a date night out because it’s not too expensive but still feels special. We love sitting outside when the weather allows!

We love Il Giorgione’s local feel, delicious recipes and outdoor seating. They are listed on our best lunch restaurants in Columbia.

A must-visit casual cafe with gourmet pastries and bites

An absolute favorite of ours! SmallSUGAR is a must-visit restaurant in Columbia. The owners used to run a great restaurant in NYC before coming back to their hometown of Columbia, SC. We are so glad this happened!! They also own Il Focolare pizza parlor.

The seasonal and locally-driven menu at SmallSUGAR is sure to delight. For lunch, we especially love their tartines and the turkey melt (mozzarella, caramelized onions, herb aioli, rosemary-grits sourdough.)

Not only do they take pride in their food, but they also have a unique business model with the goal of providing opportunity and culinary training to non-college-bound youth. They pay a living wage, with gratuity built into the prices.

Apart from a great lunch, they have an amazing breakfast menu and pastries. We definitely recommend checking that out, too. Maybe make a whole day of it– start with breakfast and stay through lunch!

SmallSUGAR is a literal hidden gem, tucked away between Lady and Gervais St. It’s behind City Grit (same owners!) but we typically park on Lady Street and come up behind it. There is some parking right next to the entrance as well.

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A local gem of a restaurant with a James Beard-nominated chef

Spotted Salamander is a great cafe perfect for those who appreciate food that is taken up a notch (think: house bacon jam on their burgers.)

Their original location is tucked away on a quiet tree-lined street in Columbia’s historic district.

Spotted Salamander is only open for lunch on weekdays. We can highly recommend their desserts and their Friday burger special.

Masa Mexican Street Food opened in February 2024

2811A Rosewood Drive | Rosewood

Mexican eatery on Rosewood with cocktails on tap

Despite being a newcomer to the Columbia dining scene, Masa Mexican Street Food quickly earned its place on this list of must-try eateries. It’s located on Rosewood across from Publix.

Masa offers a build-your-own concept, allowing you to customize burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tortas, or tacos with your choice of protein, cheese, and toppings.

 Masa boasts an extensive cocktail selection and has over five unique options on tap daily.

A laidback Mexican eatery with great food and margaritas

Cantina 76 is a Mexican-inspired restaurant known for its tacos, margaritas and great atmosphere. They have a ton of tacos on the menu, as well as a quesadilla, enchiladas, chimichanga and nachos.

Though we love dining in at Cantina 76, they make great to-go food and it has become one our go-to takeout spots in Columbia. We love getting queso, a chicken quesadilla and their fried chicken salad to go.

300 State Street | West Columbia

A great restaurant for epic breakfast in West Columbia

Though Café Strudel is actually across the river in West Columbia, it is by far one of the best breakfast spots in the Columbia area! Everything from the awesome food to the laidback vibe made this one a no-brainer.

Cafe Strudel is somehow both a great restaurant to take kids for breakfast and a fun breakfast date place.

Their hangover hashbrowns are my go-to order. They come topped with tomatoes, banana peppers and sour cream and are so flavorful and delicious.

Other great menu items include cinnamon pancakes, breakfast quesadilla, a breakfast bowl and even a crab cake benedict.

A local deli with delicious food and several locations around SC

Though there are a ton of great delis in Columbia, Groucho’s is kind of the original for us. You can get any kind of deli sandwich, they have a great secret sauce and awesome sweet tea with crushed ice.

There are several locations around town (and the state) but we really like their Five Points one. We love stopping in for lunch and then walking around the area when it’s nice out.

Our go-to order is their Apollo or STP dipper with their famous 45 Sauce and a half sweet / half unsweet tea. If you are looking for something not on a sub roll, try the international dip! It comes on pumpernickel bread.

A great Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Columbia

If you are looking for delicious Mediterranean food in Columbia, SC, head to Pitas! We love everything on Pitas’ menu, from the tzatziki wrap to the baba ghanouj and even their burgers!

We always tell people to try the chicken burger and, if it’s on the menu, the feta pimento cheeseburger. It’s one of the best burgers in Columbia.

Pitas is located downtown on Taylor Street and they have a ton of parking out front and on the side. It can get busy during lunch, though.

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Exterior or Mai Thai restaurant in West Columbia, SC

West Columbia restaurant with awesome Thai food

Mai Thai is a local favorite restaurant for Thai food and takeout. It’s actually in West Columbia, but it’s worth the drive!

One of our favorite dishes from Mai Thai is the drunken noodles. Their curries are also great. They also have bubble tea and a bakery section.

Mai Thai seems to only exist through word of mouth. We have even had people not from the area mention it to us, so you know it’s good!

Amazing vegan food in Columbia

If you are looking for delicious vegan food in Columbia, head to A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen! Their menu is 100% plant-based and they offer breakfast and lunch.

Don’t miss their famous fried ‘chicken’ sandwich! You can order online ahead of time and they’ll have it ready for you.

A Peace of Soul is a takeout-only restaurant. They have an outdoor seating area.

An excellent coffee shop with some of the best food in Columbia

Though we love all of Columbia’s coffee shops, there is something extra special about Drip. It has such a great, authentic feel, great coffee and equally great food. They are on our best lunch restaurants in Columbia list.

Not only does Drip have some of the best coffee and espresso drinks in town, but they also have a quintessential coffee shop feel. It’s somewhere I want to spend hours and I don’t think the feel is matched anywhere in Columbia.

Apart from the great coffee, they also somehow have the best breakfast sandwiches in Columbia. And their breakfast menu is available all day! We can’t get enough!

Drip’s food menu changes seasonally, but you can count on sandwiches like prosciutto, egg and fontina with roasted garlic aioli on a biscuit, egg, roasted red peppers, gruyere and avocado pesto on focaccia and even pancetta, cheddar, garlic aioli on cinnamon raisin bread.

As you can tell, their sandwich combinations are interesting and unexpected. But trust me, they are ALL delicious.

Our go-to brewery in Columbia

Of all of the various craft breweries in Columbia, Hunter-Gatherer at Owens Field Airport is our favorite. It’s such a cool concept with awesome beer and wildly good pizza.

You can watch airplanes take off from the rooftop deck or sit inside and admire the architecture of the converted airport hangar.

They have various IPAs, sours and their extra special bitter amber ale (ESB) that they call Columbia’s original craft beer.

Hunter-Gatherer is Columbia’s oldest craft brewery, this location being their second. The first opened in 1995.

An authentic Mexican restaurant in Columbia worth the drive

Without a doubt, Real Mexico is our favorite Mexican restaurant in Columbia. Their food is fresh and authentic and no matter what you order, you can’t go wrong.

We especially love their steak + chicken fajitas and the birria quesotacos (3 tacos with cheese + beef birria.) They also have great salsa, queso and guacamole. Even their beans and rice are worth mentioning!

Real Mexico is a bit out of town on Bush River Rd, but it’s less than 15 minutes from downtown Columbia. It’s a popular spot, so expect a wait, but trust me– it’s for a good reason!

We hope this list of the best restaurants in Columbia is helpful for your next meal out. It was really fun to put together and will hopefully provide you with a couple of new spots to try.

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