Places to Eat in Columbia, SC: Ultimate Guide (2023)

Columbia, SC is a charming, budding city in the heart of South Carolina. It’s the state’s capital and best known as the home of the University of South Carolina.

But, did you know that Columbia also has a great restaurant scene? Whether you’re a foodie or a casual weekend diner, the city has a variety of cuisine that appeals to everyone.

Below are 10 of the best places to eat in Columbia, SC sorted by the type of dining experience.

Breakfast and Brunch

You won’t have any trouble finding a great breakfast spot in Columbia, SC! Check out these spots to fuel your Saturday morning or Sunday brunch adventures.

Motor Supply Co. Bistro-Upscale American eatery
-Brunch, lunch, dinner
920 Gervais St., Columbia SC 29201Click Here
smallSugar-Cafe, seasonal menu
-Daily fresh-made pastries
709 Gervais St., Columbia SC 29201Click Here
Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits-Southern, American
-Breakfast, lunch
-Scratch-made biscuits
2430 Main St., Columbia SC 29201Click Here

1. Motor Supply Co. Bistro

Motor Supply Co. Bistro is a restaurant in Columbia’s Vista district serving farm-to-table dishes with a menu that changes daily.

Motor Supply’s building was an old auto repair shop, and the original sign marks the building.

The interior is classic and cozy, and features paintings by local artists. The outdoor patio has garage doors that roll up to let the sunshine and breeze through.

You can dine here for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu features both savory and sweet dishes, so there is something for everyone!

For those who like sweet dishes, there’s usually a French toast on the menu, served with farm-fresh eggs and bacon. For savory brunch lovers, try a classic like shrimp and grits or a breakfast biscuit.

Motor Supply Company also has a full bar and features hand-crafted cocktails on the brunch menu.

View the menu and make your reservation.

2. smallSugar

smallSugar restaurant in Columbia SC

smallSugar is a cafe located in Columbia’s Vista arts district. It’s best known among locals for its pastries, which they make fresh every morning.

smallSugar is also known for using quality, farm-fresh and local ingredients. Almost every dish on the menu uses some type of fresh, seasonal fruit or vegetable.

You’ll find lighter breakfast foods like overnight oats and a granola and yogurt bowl on the menu. They also serve different “tartines”, which are like toast.

The tartines are unique and delicious! Below are a few of the different options.

  • Avocado with radish, lime, and herbs
  • Ricotta and honey
  • Scrambled eggs and chives

The cafe also serves classic coffee and tea beverages. There is outdoor and indoor seating available.

Check out the menu here.

3. Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits

Rambo’s Fat Cat biscuits is a newer breakfast restaurant in Columbia’s NOMA district.

They serve from-scratch biscuit sandwiches Tuesday-Sunday. The atmosphere here is casual with a small indoor dining room and some outdoor patio chairs.

Here are some of the delicious creations you’ll find on their menu:

  • Fried chicken biscuit with pickles and scallion aioli
  • Pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes
  • Brie and fig jam biscuit
  • Classic bacon, egg and cheese

Fun fact: you can also find Rambo’s on Saturday mornings at Columbia’s Soda City Market! Soda City is an outdoor market that features hundreds of vendors.

Rambo’s is even available for catering and special events.

Check out their menu here.

This is just a taste of some great breakfast and brunch spots in Columbia, SC.

For more, check out our list of the top 10 breakfast and brunch spots in Columbia.

Upscale Dining

Celebrating a special occasion or enjoying a date night in downtown Columbia? There are plenty of upscale dining options for you to choose from.

Below are some of the best upscale restaurants in the city.

Hendrix-Upscale, chef-inspired
-Seasonal and farm-fresh fare
-Rooftop bar
1649 Main St., Columbia SC 29201Click Here
Blue Marlin-Seafood, American, Southern
-Lunch, dinner
1200 Lincoln St., Columbia SC 29201 Click Here
Coa Agaveria y Cocina-Mexican
-Tapas-style dishes
-Full bar
823a Lady St., Columbia SC 29201 Click Here
Mr. Friendly’s-Southern, American
-Lunch, dinner
2001 Greene St., Columbia SC 29205Click Here

1. Hendrix

Hendrix Restaurant in Columbia, SC

Hendrix is an upscale restaurant in Columbia’s Main Street district. It’s one of the only restaurants in Columbia with a rooftop bar overlooking the city.

Hendrix is a great place to go for a quality, chef-inspired meal and house-made cocktails.

The menu features quick bites, small plates and shareables and main entrees.

I recommend getting a few small plates to start, like the beef tartare and baked mussels.

The main entree options highlight a meat or vegetable from a local farm and rotate sides and sauces. You’ll find delicious dishes like the Carolina Heritage Farms pork chops or a grass-fed ribeye steak.

The interior is classy and warm. Then, head upstairs to the rooftop patio for a hip vibe and drinks with a gorgeous view of Main Street.

Check out the menu and make a reservation on their website.

2. Blue Marlin

Blue Marlin is an upscale seafood restaurant in Columbia’s Vista arts district.

It’s the perfect place for a work lunch or special occasion, like a birthday dinner or anniversary.

Blue Marlin brings Low Country cuisine to Columbia. There is also a taste of Creole and Cajun influence in their dishes.

This restaurant has some of the freshest seafood you’ll find in the Midlands.

Blue Marlin in Columbia, SC

To start, you won’t want to skip the She Crab soup! This is a rich and creamy soup with fresh lump crab meat.

The menu is full of Low Country classics like shrimp and grits and Charleston crab cakes. There are also fried seafood platters and fresh tuna, Mahi, or scallops on the menu.

For groups or special occasions, private dining is also available.

Check out the Blue Marlin website for more information and to view the menus.

For more seafood options in Columbia, check out our quick seafood guide.

3. Coa Agaveria y Cocina

Coa Agaveria y Cocina is an upscale Mexican restaurant in Columbia’s Vista district.

The dishes here are served small plate style, which means they are perfect for sharing! Here are some of the small plates you’ll find on their menu:

  • Street tacos
  • Ceviche
  • Tostadas
  • Empanadas

Coa also has a large drink menu featuring many tequila-based cocktails.

The atmosphere at Coa makes this one of the best places for date night! There are dimly lit chandeliers, cozy booths and a backlist bar. The decor is warm and the whole space has an authentic Mexican feel.

Check out Coa’s menu on their website.

4. Mr. Friendly’s

Mr. Friendly’s is a staple in Columbia that has been around since the 1980s. The restaurant has a sophisticated yet casual feel, great service and a top-notch wine list.

Mr. Friendly’s is the place to go for classic Southern cuisine that’s prepared in a more modern way.

The menu changes daily, but you’ll usually find a delicious steak option or fresh fish option on the menu.

Entrees come with classic soul food favorites like creamy stone-ground grits and seasonal veggies.

If you’re not feeling like an upscale dinner, you can enjoy a more casual dinner by ordering a burger.

Mr. Friendly’s serves burgers on the menu Monday and Tuesday nights. Try the French quarter pimento cheeseburger for a true Southern classic!

View the menu and reserve your table on their website.

Casual Dining

Most restaurants in Columbia fall within the casual dining category.

These are spots that you don’t need a reservation for, you can show up as you are, and they’re affordable.

Il Giorgione-Italian
-Wine bar
-Lunch, dinner
2406 Devine St., Columbia SC 29205Click Here
Spotted Salamander-Southern, American
1531 Richland St., Columbia SC 29201Click Here
Cantina 76 -Mexican-inspired
-Lunch, dinner
-Full bar
View Both LocationsClick Here

1. Il Giorgione

Il Giorgione is a pizzeria and wine bar in the Five Points district of Columbia.

This is a hidden gem casual dining spot. They serve authentic Italian cuisine at a very affordable cost!

The inside of the restaurant is cozy and features a full wine bar. There’s also a patio in the back that gives off a European feel.

I recommend starting off with the Caprese, which comes with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic. It’s super fresh and a great start to any meal!

The menu consists of pizza and pasta options. Each dish is inspired by authentic Italian cuisine. The dishes at Il Gio are simple but flavorful and made with the freshest of ingredients.

The wine list features many Italian wines which are perfect for pairing with your meal.

Check out the menu on their website.

2. Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander is a top spot for Southern cuisine in Columbia. This is a lunch-only spot open Monday through Friday from 11 am-2:30 pm.

The menu features seasonal Southern classics with a twist.

You’ll find lunch items like salads and sandwiches on the menu, as well as daily specials like “fried chicken Tuesday” and “Burger Friday”.

Some of my favorites are the pecan chicken salad on a croissant and the spotted salad.

Spotted Salamander also sells housemade desserts that are a must-have. Customer favorites are the oatmeal cream pie and coconut cake.

Check out the menu on their website.

3. Cantina 76

Cantina 76 in Columbia, SC

Cantina 76 is a Mexican-inspired restaurant serving unique tacos and delicious margaritas. They have two locations in Columbia.

Cantina 76 has a casual atmosphere enjoyed by families, college students and the happy hour crowd. Both locations have a large indoor dining room and a patio.

On the menu, you’ll find a fun assortment of tacos with options like buffalo chicken, smoked pork and jalapeno shrimp. You’ll also find enchiladas, a quesadilla and salads.

Cantina has a full bar with both classic and unique margarita options. Different happy hour specials are available at each location.

Check out the menu here.

In Short

In short, Columbia has a great restaurant scene. No matter the occasion, you can find a delicious spot with a nice atmosphere.

Interested in staying in and cooking instead? Check out these resources on Amazon:

Interested in dining outside of Columbia? Check out some of our other dining guides for cities close by:

The Complete Fine Dining Guide for Augusta, GA

Best Sushi in Downtown Atlanta, GA

10 German Restaurants in Helen, GA

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