In the summer heat, a crisp salad bursting with flavor is the ultimate refreshing meal. With access to an abundance of fresh and vibrant South Carolina produce, Columbia chefs are serving up salads that can compete head-to-head with even the most indulgent of menu items. We've rounded up 15 of the most drool-and-Instagram-worthy salads in Columbia SC that will cool you down and fill you up - guilt free.
Okay, we know what the Columbia SC locals are thinking.... BUT THE SPOTTED SALAD. We will never argue that the Spotted Salad, with all its bacon-and-cornbread-crouton glory, is the OG of killer salads. That sweet tea vodka BBQ chicken is pure gold. However, the Farro salad is the epitome of a summer salad so, for this round, it wins. This star salad is filled with warm Farro, roasted (and local!) summer veggies, Parmesan, arugula and tangy lemon avocado dressing. Yes, honey. Yes.
Za's on Devine is not just for getting your pizza fix-although, we always encourage ordering up some ‘za. With seared salmon, fresh spinach and arugula, chilled orzo, capers, olives, tomatoes, fresh parsley and lemon oil, Za's salmon + orzo salad is the perfect complement to your summer day, especially if paired with a glass of white wine and a spot at a table on the patio. With lean protein, carbs, veggies and healthy fats, this salad is essentially the lunch or dinner of champions. If we haven't sold you yet, the salad comes with house-made champagne vinaigrette. Yes, please.
Fruit in salad is a trend we can 100% get behind, especially if it's being served to us alongside creamy Burrata, chopped hazelnuts, a bed of fresh local microgreens and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Il Giorgione's berry-filled Insalata Estiva made its debut on the Italian café's summer menu, in addition to a seasonal pasta + pizza feature and, the best part, summer cocktails. Order the salad as a starter for your seasonal meal and pair it with a Mojitaly pitcher to share with friends. A Mojitaly is a mojito that is topped with prosecco. We know, we cried too.
What screams summertime more than heirloom tomatoes? The answer is the seasonal heirloom tomato salad from Terra. Juicy, local tomatoes, pesto, shaved fennel, pine nut tuile, balsamico, olive oil and Sandy Creek cheese by Goat Lady Daiy all pair together perfectly in a salad that should be named "July." Add to the magic of it all by sitting on Terra's patio that encompasses all the vibes of a tiny café in an Italian village. Oh, and pair your salad with the Lamb Mac & Cheese because, balance.
If margarita flights (yes, you read that right) aren't enough to have you running to Publico in Five Points, meet the peanut & lime chicken salad. Packed with grilled chicken, shaved carrots, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, cilantro, Napa and red cabbage, this Asian-inspired salad is tossed with a peanut lime dressing as an added kiss to the deliciousness. Turn it up a notch and pair your salad with a white or pale ale, at the suggestion of the Publico pros. Add some avocado, too, if you're feelin' fancy.
Have a chronic bad habit of grocery shopping while you're starving and leaving with 5 bags of marshmallows in your cart? Us, too. Thankfully, we have an easy fix. Before you start scratching off items on your list at Columbia's favorite little grocery store, Rosewood Market, head to the deli counter and order the Greek salad. This epic salad is packed with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, and pepitas-all served on top of fresh mixed greens. We hear the ginger salmon and the chicken salad pair perfectly as an added protein source. Drooling.
An Italian classic with a Southern spin, Di Prato's Southern Panzanella salad is filled with ingredients that epitomize the South-like fried okra, black eyed peas and cornbread. Sliced Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and onions bring an added freshness to this balsamic vinaigrette dressed salad, and cubes of cheddar cheese are the cherry on top of the meal. Not a fan of cheddar? No worries-just sub feta instead. Yum.
If you're dedicated to the bacon and brie croissant or the "Little French Cheese", we get it. But, just hear us out-the salads at the Gourmet Shop are phenomenal. Our chosen pick, the spinach salad, is bursting with cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon and avocado and topped with sunflowers seeds and a house-made celery seed vinaigrette. Add the addiction-inducing chicken salad on top and boom, you've got sunshine + summertime on a plate. Pair with a mimosa pitcher, obviously. Cheers!
Although this salad is called the "Spring Salad", we're making the executive decision that it still works for summertime. Crafted by the hands of the talented Chef Todd Wood, this seasonal salad is filled with Watsonia Farm asparagus + strawberries, FGF red mustard greens, lemon citronette, basil buttermilk and cornbread crumbs-ingredients that all contribute to a gourmet salad plate that is (almost) too pretty to eat. We recommend kicking off the bliss with the roasted bone marrow appetizer. Don't knock it ‘till you try it.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a food that is more refreshing than watermelon. Juicy and sweet, yet versatile, the bright red melon serves as the foundation for 116's Watermelon and feta salad. Kale pesto and fresh mint make this fruit salad an unforgettable stand-out on the chic wine bar's food menu. Ask a member of the wait-staff to recommend the perfect vino to pair with your salad, and enjoy the skyline views from State Street.
Café Strudel-not just for Hangover Hash browns, anymore. This State Street gem serves up delicious, gourmet eats sun-up to sun-down. The protein-packed salad is filled with grilled salmon with a sweet Thai chili glaze, Arcadian greens, goat cheese, tomato, croutons and candied pecans. Sit on the back porch + be sure to order dessert.
A new kid to the Main Street block, Main Street Public House is known for its extensive drink menu + frequent live music. Go for this salad, though, and you'll be hooked for life. Spicy buffalo chicken atop mixed greens, roasted red peppers, house-cured bacon, avocado, hard boiled egg and crumbled blue cheese makes for a hearty, decadent and delicious salad, perfect for a quick lunch on Main. Finished with a drizzle of buttermilk herb dressing, this meal is sure to be your new go-to.
If you aren't already a Cellar on Greene frequent-flyer, dedicated to the $27 three-course meal deal, you will be after trying this salad. Colorful beets are roasted and placed alongside arugula, pickled fennel, shaved onion and Bulgarian feta. A drizzle of caramelized shallot vinaigrette finishes out this salad-perfection. So, what are you waiting for?
You can argue that this isn't technically a salad, but we will stand behind our decision until the end of time. This cylinder-shaped salad is piled high with fresh shrimp, crab meat, tomato, bacon, egg, asparagus and shredded lettuce, then topped with a house-made green goddess dressing. It has lettuce, dressing and is under the salad portion of Pearlz's menu so...case closed.
No one does local + seasonal quite like Bourbon. Placed on the menu alongside indulgent items like the lamb burger (our personal favorite) and the duck confit gumbo, Bourbon's bounty salad is the perfect fresh addition to your Cajun-inspired meal. Filled with fresh and seasonal produce - all sourced from South Carolina - you can feel good about your healthy and all-local salad. Ingredients rotate seasonally, so prepare to be surprised!
If you're looking for more delicious sips + bites in Columbia SC, check out our restaurants page where you can search by category to find exactly what you're craving!