We’re going to have to update our Meet Us! page here soon. Right now on there, we described ourselves as “newlyweds… currently living in South Carolina.” Well for one, I’m not sure we’re newlyweds anymore. When does that end exactly? And secondly, we’re leaving South Carolina. We moved down here to attend graduate school back at the end 2015. Well, we finally finished our program and graduated from the University of South Carolina! 👩🎓👨🎓 When we moved down here, I wasn’t all that excited about my new town – I had never lived anywhere except for Virginia and was
a little very sad about leaving my home state. Selim was (is!) a little more open to the change – he’s from Cleveland and has lived in Maryland and Virginia as well. Fast forward almost three years and we both love Columbia. To be honest, I’ve already shed a few tears 😢 at the thought of leaving our current home.
The food in Columbia was one of the main reasons, outside of all the wonderful friends we made here (see above ⇑⇑⇑ for wonderful friends), that we grew so attached to this city. Even though our time here has been brief, we’ve already realized that some other South Carolinians or Southerners in nearby states look down their noses at Columbia, thinking this city cannot compare to other nearby destinations. You hear about the Low Country charm of Charleston and Savannah, the hubbub of Charlotte and Atlanta, or how cool and up-and-coming Greenville is… We’re here to tell you not to skip Columbia. It may not have the reputation the other cities have, but your taste buds won’t be disappointed by a stop here. Selim always says he’d put Columbia’s best restaurants up head-to-head with the top spots in Charleston or Greenville. And we’d win!
So we thought for our last hurrah in Columbia we’d give a shout out to our favorite Columbia spots!
Baan Sawan Thai Bistro – 2135 Devine Street
- We’ve probably frequented this family-run upscale Thai restaurant more than any other place in town. This is not your average Thai take-out place, though who doesn’t love that? They offer an amazing combination of a small, intimate restaurant, the best Thai food I’ve ever experienced from the chef brother, and a stellar wine list with thoughtful recommendations from the sommelier brother! One of their soups, the Tom Kha Matz, is a fusion of tom kha & matzo ball soup and is Ally’s favorite dish in the whole city!
- Ally’s Favorites – Tom Kha Matz, calamari, mussamun curry with sliced duck
- Selim’s Favorites – three flavored duck, fried bananas, every wine Sam pairs for me, & whatever special protein is available that night (like the 36 hour sous vide pork shoulder)
Motor Supply Company Bistro – 920 Gervais Street
- This farm-to-table restaurant, in a gorgeous 1800s era historic brick building, never disappoints. The menu is different every night, but a few items reappear. Local ingredients are used to create Southern classics, as well as dishes with world-wide influence. Their wine list has been carefully curated and has won national awards from some of the top wine magazines in the country.
- Ally’s Favorites – CAB culotte steak, braised short ribs, shrimp & grits
- Selim’s Favorites – Duo of duck, the diver scallop appetizer
The War Mouth – 1209 Franklin Street
- The War Mouth is helping to pull the Main Street revitalization efforts into the North Main corridor. The food here is heritage Southern and South Carolina fare with a few surprises here and there. The menu does change some – seasonally I think. Of note, there’s a new brewery next door and a great coffee shop around the corner; North Main is definitely up-and-coming.
- Ally’s Favorites – Chicken bog, the pickle plate, the bread/biscuit basket
- Selim’s Favorites – “All of the little snacks,” the pickle plate
Scoopy Doo Gelato Shop – 725 Saluda Avenue
- The best reason go to Five Points! This gelato shop only offers are few flavors, but what they have is spectacular! The care and love this gelato-maker puts into each and every batch is evident in the deeply rich flavors. There’s always vanilla, chocolate, pistachio; usually two dairy-free sorbettos; and frequently a 21 & older alcoholic concoction. Trust us, you want your scoop in a homemade cone – there’s a surprise in the bottom!
- Ally’s Favorites – Coca-Cola sorbetto (it’s like they know me…), peanut butter sorbetto
- Selim’s Favorites – pistachio gelato, Captain Crunch gelato (this one goes quickly)
Lula Drake Wine Parlour – 1635 Main Street
- Lula Drake is predominantly a wine bar, as its name suggests, and those wines are unique and carefully curated. It’s a delicious oenologic learning experience every time we go. But the food is sneakily perfect here too, even though it isn’t the focus. If you want fresh handmade pasta, you won’t anything better than what Pierce makes every night. Probably, the most authentic pasta we’ve had outside of Rome, Italy. We love the story behind the name Lula Drake too!
- Ally’s Favorites – Can Xa sparkling rosé, duck fat hushpuppies, the newest red on the menu, the pasta of the night
- Selim’s Favorites – The opportunity to taste new and unique wine every time – where else would I try an inky Macedonian varietal?
Menkoi Ramen House – 1004 Gervais Street
- This is our favorite stop for quick, cheap, filling, and comforting food. The bowls of ramen are massive, with flavorful broth. Conveniently located in the Vista close to the State House, this is also a favorite among USC students, politicians, and business professionals.
- Ally’s Favorites – tonkatsu ramen, shoyu ramen, gyoza
- Selim’s Favorites – tonkatsu ramen, spicy ramen
Spotted Salamander Cafe – 1531 Richland Street
- This cafe occupies an old house on a historic street in downtown Columbia. They have the best lunch in town in our opinion. The whole menu is great, but we seem to always gravitate towards the daily specials. Fried chicken sandwich Tuesdays and burger Thursdays are always good. We only wish they were open for dinner instead of just brunch & lunch.
- Ally’s Favorites – the daily deviled egg, fried chicken sandwich
- Selim’s Favorites – cronut of the day!
Sure Fire Tacos & Tortilla Grill – 916 Gervais Street
- This Tex-Mex taco place has handmade tortillas, some unique tacos, and a salsa bar. It’s a great quick dinner with a group of friends. Plus, who doesn’t love queso? The owners are actually from Houston, TX. They had this restaurant there, but quickly realized that the market there is quite saturated. After a quick market analysis, they settled on Cola and have been making tacos here since 2016. We realize they might not be 100% authentic Tex-Mex tacos, but they make their tortillas in-house and the tacos are unique & made with really fresh ingredients.
- Ally’s Favorites – Ball Park taco, Mr Piggy taco, The Big Hass taco
- Selim’s Favorites – I go here for the variety. I like every taco. The three tacos I get each trip are my favorite that night.
Immaculate Consumption – 933 Main Street
- We came in here the first time for the coffee, but came back for the sandwiches. This is a lunch spot where you’ll find USC students studying and politicians getting a quick afternoon pick-me-up. They roast their beans in the basement in an really small roaster, and the first time we went here Selim got to help with the process (pulled a lever to spread the toasty beans).
- Ally’s Favorites – Scott’s Chix Salad, Turkey Green Apple
- Selim’s Favorites – the coffee!
Soda City Market – Main Street, between Taylor Street & Lady Street
- The market is our favorite Saturday morning activity. You can’t quite call it a farmer’s market because the prepared food options outnumber the farm-fresh veggies, though you can get those there too! Ally has to walk the length of market at least twice before making a decision. This market is expanding too; it was only 2 blocks when we first moved here and now it’s 3, with special events frequently taking up a 4th. This place gets packed, and we always run into people we know.
- Ally’s Favorites – beef empanadas & fried yucca from Los Bellos Portales, bean & cheese papusas from Papusas Salvadoreñas Sandrita, samosas from Indian Palace, dumplings from Fuperman’s Potstickers
- Selim’s Favorites – BKeD donuts, the fact that there’s food from a variety of ethnicities every week
This, of course, is not the all-encompassing review of the Columbia restaurant scene. These are the places we found ourselves coming back again and again and that contributed to our love of the city. There are SO many other places in the city worth visiting!
Thanks for the food and the memories Columbia. We’ll miss you and your people! ❤ ❤ ❤