What looks like a honky-tonk biker bar is, in fact, a source of excellent seafood, fried or broiled. If you are a food-focused person visiting Aiken, Harry's is a must.
The Red Shed is a colorful and welcoming roadside enterprise where you can buy local produce, eat stout meat loaf, fallapart-tender grilled chicken, and all manner of southern-style vegetables, and indulge in a spectacular selection of blue ribbon pies and cakes for dessert.
Fine Lowcountry fare and more: Start with house-made potato chips topped with blue cheese and green onions or Lowcountry bouillabaisse in which the seafood is augmented with Tasso ham and andouille sausage; feast on buttermilk fried chicken accompanied by cracked pepper biscuits, top off the meal with swoonful pecan pie adorned with vanilla bean ice cream and bourbon caramel sauce.
Midlands South Carolina barbecue at its finest: smoke-infused pork, blue-ribbon hash on rice, collards, mac 'n' cheese, and a choice of Pretty Lady or Sexy Lady sauce -- served by an exuberantly friendly, mission-conscious staff. The location is West Columbia's Triangle City. The dining room is bright, clean, and happy.
Biscuits are made fresh Monday through Friday mornings, but Saturday is the day to bring a serious appetite to this country-road grocery store. That is when the menu includes barbecued ribs, chicken, and chopped pork cooked in the big iron pit just across the road, along with hot-from-the-oven mac 'n' cheese, barbecue beans, and hash on rice. For dessert: peach cobbler, please!
Bush's is a humble fish and chips joint where seafood is prepared with expertise and served at low-low prices. Fried shrimp -- jumbo or minis -- are superb, as are scallops, oysters, flounder, and even pork chops. Side dishes are a roster of soul-food classics.
Compton's Kitchen is a friendly urban diner with a loyal clientele of blue-collar (and no-collar, and white-collar) Columbia citizens who come for well-priced breakfast (featuring significant buttermilk biscuits) starting at 6am and square meals at lunch. A community favorite since 1977.
A classic South Carolina Midlands barbecue featuring whole hogs cooked slowly over hickory coals and scrupulously hand-pulled into the Platonic ideal of succulence. Here might be the best hash in a land where all worthwhile barbecues strive to make great hash; and the charred, brine-infused, fat-rimmed, crusty skins -- available only Friday and Saturday -- are the best part of any pig, anywhere, ever.