You need to discover Columbia as a destination; I can’t begin to cover every spot I want to mention.
Know this first: Columbia has a delightful mix of locals, university folk and visitors on government business, elevating it beyond similar Southern cities. Even compared to Athens, Georgia, I think Columbia can equal it in stride. There’s notable public art in Cola too, from murals to sculpture to temporary installations, especially in its central business district, which locals are now referring to as Main Street.
The Main Street District continues to infill like crazy. Stay at Columbia’s ultimate boutique hotel: The Hotel Trundle, a collection of three historic buildings fashioned into lovely rooms and a living room of a lobby you’ll want to hang out in or work out of all day. A block away is the perfect wine bar, Lula Drake (it opens at 4 p.m.), and around the corner is a pretty rooftop stop, Hendrix. Up the street is Bourbon, a favorite of mine for dinner, cocktails and without a doubt one of the best bar crowds in South Carolina.
Don’t forget about the Whig, especially if you love iconic dive bars.
The hottest neighborhood of Cola is West Columbia. With mainstays like Terra for dinner and local hangout Cafe Strudel for breakfast, heading over the bridge is always worth the Lyft. Add to it chef Kristian Niemi’s Black Rooster and the brand-new WECO Bottle and Biergarten and it’s hard not to have a great time here. Terra recently upped their interior game, and General Manager Matt Catchpole runs a stellar ship.
If it’s Saturday, the Soda City Market is not to be missed. Different from Saturday Market, this farmers market occurs year-round and is comprised of plenty of specialty food vendors. It makes an apt experience for weekend visitors.
Cola is one of the friendliest places I frequent. If you follow me on Instagram @eatdrinkcarolinas you’ll see me here, often hanging out with barman Josh Streetman and chef Wes Fulmer at Motor Supply in the Vista.
- Hotel Trundle (Main Street District)
- The Graduate (close to the UofSC campus)
- Aloft or Hyatt Place (in the Vista)
- Drip (fantastic breakfast menu too at both locations)
- Indah Coffee Co.
- Blūm Coffee
- smallSUGAR (delish breakfast and lunch from chefs Sarah Simmons and Aaron Hoskins)
- The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli
- Cafe Strudel
- The Gourmet Shop
- Hendrix (rooftop views and the talent of chef Javier Uriarte)
- Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles
- Spotted Salamander Cafe and Catering (the lunch spot we want in Greenville)
- JJ Tea House (true Asian street food)
- Zesto of West Columbia
- War Mouth
- Smokey Loggins (inside the new Transmission Arcade)
- The Southern Belly BBQ
- Terra (dine at its pretty bar and feel like a local)
- Black Rooster (it’s French-ish and has a great rooftop)
- Baan Sawan Thai Bistro (where chefs go out to eat)
Date-night worthy pizza
- Il Focolare
- Tazza Kitchen
- Za’s on Devine (order the wood-fired okra appetizer)
Cocktails… with a side of dinner
- Bourbon (go see Kat and ask her what you should drink)
- Motor Supply Co. Bistro (Josh Streetman is the brainchild behind this bar program)
- Coa Agaveria y Cocina
Main Street style
- Lula Drake (my favorite wine bar anywhere, hands down)
- Sweet Cream Co. (amazing ice cream flavors)
- The Nickelodeon (Indie Grit Festival happens here)
- Pearlz Upstairs (Mark Rapp organizes fantastic jazz here Thursday-Saturday)
- The White Mule Music Pub
- The Senate
- River Rat Brewery
- Hunter-Gatherer Brewery (head up to the rooftop at the runway)
- Steel Hands Brewing
- WECO Bottle and Biergarten (brand new in West Columbia)
- Craft and Draft
- The Whig (check out their jukebox offerings)
South Carolina tourist-ing:
- The South Carolina Capitol (tours offered on the half hour)
- Columbia Museum of Art
- Riverbanks Zoo (zip lining the river is an awesome extra)
Soda City Market
- Cola’s farmers market is year-round with tons of food vendors
- Gorilla Boost Co. (follow them on IG and get ready to drool)
- Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits
- Mary’s Arepas
My picks for Columbia Food and Wine Festival April 25-27
The Columbia Food and Wine Festival is in its third year and the satellite events are where it’s at. Learn more at columbiafoodandwinefestival.com
“Cured, Buzzed & Butchered”
Chef Wes Fulmer of Motor Supply Co. Bistro brings charcutier wizard Michael Sullivan, aka The Reverend of Fat, from American Butcher in Birmingham, Alabama, to this event along with cocktails from Dr. Josh Streetman.
“Ladies Who Lunch”
Female chefs Jessica Shillato of the ever-delightful Spotted Salamander, Maegan Horton of Blue Marlin, Kiki Cyrus of Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles and Rosalind Graverson of Lula Drake host a coursed lunch at the Pastor’s Study along with a slew of female South Carolina farmers. Or…
“Heavy Metal Brunch”
Chef Alex Strickland of the new Black Rooster pairs up with chef David Grillo of Cantina 76 for brunch with a metal vibe on the steps of Columbia Museum of Art. Cocktails will be provided by the team at Bourbon and a ticket to Kirk Hammett’s exhibition “It’s Alive” is included.
Cover photo by Forrest Clontz Photography