Restaurants in Columbia, SC

South Carolina’s capital city, Columbia has dining gems galore: grand BBQ parlors where tangy-sweet mustard sauce is the common condiment, pimento cheeseburgers that set the benchmark (pimento cheeseburgers first were created in Columbia in the 1960s), inimitable greasy-spoon diners, and some of the few true artisan bakeries in the state. Of special note for sweet tooths are an ooey-gooey bananas Foster cinnamon roll at the Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli, sublime caramel cakes and cupcakes at Happy Cafe, and a salted espresso brownie at Rise Bakeshop. Rockaway Athletic Club, which is a restaurant, not a gym, makes fine pimento cheeseburgers; and the place itself is unforgettable. There’s no sign at all outside; inside it is an impenitent tavern with a bar known as the South Carolina Liquor Library (boasting the biggest booze inventory in the Southeast). Just inside the front door is a working Zoltar fortune-telling machine. Up the road from Williams-Brice stadium, home of the USC Gamecocks, is a superior fast-food broasted chicken joint called Bernie’s, where cole slaw has a sneaky pepper punch and banana pudding is freckled with bits of Moon Pie. The chicken itself is crazy moist, snug inside a crisp, well-seasoned crust. Bernie’s motto: “Come Try My Chicken.”

Columbia’s Most Famous Dishes

Macaroni & cheese, spangled with herbs, comes in a small cast-iron pot

Mac N Cheese

A thin cake square dusted with powdered sugar shows a chewy edge and custard-soft center

Gooey Butter Cake

Fried chicken drumstick and thigh rest upon greens and corn

Fried Chicken

Creamy chicken salad atop al dente broccoli

Chicken Salad

Columbia’s Best Restaurants

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