Columbia, South Carolina, has become an epicenter for chefs, artists, and craftspeople (not to mention craft brewers!) of all stripes, with a creative culture that’s palpable. When the meetings wrap, enjoy a night out in one of the downtown districts, each with its own personality and expert culinary offerings.
Many Columbia-area restaurants have groups in mind. Here’s where you can enjoy a local meal together in a private dining room:
Wander into Main Street Public House on any given night, and there will likely be live music to enjoy alongside the rustic décor and dishes such as the bacon and brie burger and the deep-fried confit chicken drizzled with honey sriracha.
Hampton Street Vineyard strives to both keep patrons on their toes and provide a consistent, classic experience by changing its menu on a quarterly basis. The intent is to use the freshest ingredients of each season and keep the chefs creatively engaged. Plus, the prime location across the street from the downtown Marriott Hotel is convenient for convention attendees.
The shrimp and grits are legendary at Blue Marlin, and the restaurant is housed inside a former train depot, adding to its character and rich atmosphere.
Get all the pasta your heart desires at Ristorante Divino, an intimate restaurant that focuses on Northern-style Italian dishes such as risotto, gnocchi, and scampi.
Though it’s best known for its wood-fired pizzas and wine menu, Za’s on Devine also serves charred okra, salmon orzo salad, and zucchini “pasta” that shouldn’t to be missed.
Tallulah chef Russell Jones, a Columbia native, made his mark in D.C. before returning to his hometown to establish roots and open a restaurant named after his great-grandmother. The sleek navy and white décor is made all the more posh with velvet banquettes and armchairs. When the “bar snacks” menu includes items such as Szechuan-style crispy chicken skins and lamb meatballs with local Congaree Milling Co. grits, you know you’re in for more than a meal — you’re about to gain a dining experience at the peak of sophistication.
Make a trip to Al’s Upstairs and ascend toward one of the best dining views and menus in town. The panoramic windows allow you to look out over the Gervais Street Bridge, the Congaree River, and the downtown Columbia skyline. First-timers should try the Pasta Alla Al — shrimp, scallops, and lobster claw in a roasted garlic sweet chili sauce over cheese tortellini. Bellissimo!
Specializing in “simple food without pretension,” chef Mike Davis of Terra serves up dishes as beautifully plated as they are delicious. Start with the lamb mac and a pimento cheeseburger pizza to share — although once the entrees come out, you may not be willing to spare a single bite.
Although Café Strudel’s Hangover Hashbrowns and bottomless coffee bar make it a popular spot for breakfast and brunch, don’t sleep on their happy hour, when you can get some of the best smoked wings and bloody marys in town without breaking the bank.
Sometimes you just need a burger and a beer. That’s where Henry’s in Cayce comes in. Henry’s Signature Burger, with imported Dijon-mustard-infused white cheddar cheese and sautéed mushrooms and onions, caught the eye of Southern Living, and it deservedly made the magazine’s list of the top 10 burgers.
An advantage of working with our team at Experience Columbia SC is insider access to hidden gems and lesser-known tours and experiences for you and your attendees. We’ll be happy to coordinate a personalized culinary experience for your group in the real Southern hot spot.
For example, take advantage of the pop-up Bierkeller beer garden. Mix and mingle while sipping on locally made, German-style brews down by the river, over at City Roots Farm, on Main Street, or wherever it pops up next. These events happen about once a month, and private events can be set up for your group as well.
Book an event with F2T Productions at City Roots, our atmospheric urban sustainable farm that supplies many of the restaurants in town. Dig in to a family-style harvest dinner, create a Brunch by Design, get your hands dirty with a Lowcountry Boil or Oyster and Pig Roast, or spice things up with a Private Paella Party.
Can’t decide on a place to eat? Sample your way through The Vista’s finest culinary offerings (and get a little history of the area, to boot) with a walking food tour organized by Two Gals and a Fork.
Hop aboard the Columbia Brew Bus for transportation to local breweries, where you’ll get to indulge in a tour and tasting at each without having to get behind the wheel afterward. Talk about a win-win.
For more information on Columbia’s culinary scene, check out ExperienceColumbiaSC.com.