Fall approaching in Columbia SC doesn’t just mean football, fair rides + falling leaves. Although we heart these fall festivities—and all fall festivities, for that matter—locals get especially excited about one aspect of cooler temps: al fresco dining. In Columbia, September through November means clinking glasses in the open air with the city as your back drop, and we’re pretty darn excited about it.
If you’re exploring Columbia SC in these magical months, we want you to know exactly where to go to soak up every breezy, blissful moment of outdoor dining. Here’s 15 of our favorite open-air spots to pick up our forks and raise our glasses. Cheers!
Terra is a diamond of the West Columbia food scene—celebrated for memorable eats like duck confit pizza and baked mac n’ cheese with braised lamb. If you can believe it, though, the outdoor seating sites are almost as good as the drool-worthy bites—boasting what many locals have deemed the best patio in Columbia. With hanging shrubberies, exposed brick walls kissed with ivy, romantic cast iron gates and even a small flowing fountain, a meal on the Terra patio is like an hour-long trip to Paris on a random weekday. Sounds pretty magical, right?
2. Il Giorgione
Il Giorgione, the authentic Italian café on Devine Street, has the loveliest of brick-lined patios—as if straight from the corner of a Roman piazza. Twinkly lights hanging overhead, Aperol spritz in your hand and a swirl of pasta on your fork makes for an evening that’s even better than the pictures you will certainly take. Keep an eye out for the sweet owners Monica + George, who will surely be greeting familiar faces, shaking hands and giving hugs. So, when you’re craving spaghetti carbonara, something stuffed with house made mozzarella (made in-house, daily) or you just want to feel the fall breeze while you sip a glass of chianti, Il Giorgione is the place to be.
We have a feeling that biting into Spotted Salamander's half-pound, “Comeback Sauce”-covered, grass-fed burger slathered in bacon jam on their enchanting patio is pretty close to heaven. The wooden porch of the home-turned-restaurant is filled with several quaint café tables and complimented by kelly-green climbing vines. The dripping southern charm continues with antique salt-and-pepper shakers unique to each table. Grab a seat facing the street for the best view and be sure to leave with a cronut (or five).
The spacious patio at Tazza Kitchen creates an oasis for its patrons. A haven for wood fire cooking, Tazza is noted for its assortment of delicious fare, killer brunch + upscale vibes. The patio’s dreamy ambiance is by virtue of string lights and fireside seating. Order the cast iron goat cheese as your starter and then dig into the béchamel-based pizza with extra bacon. Finish it all of with your pick from the dessert menu.
How does sippin’ whiskey while gazing at the South Carolina State House sound? #Goals, right? Main Street’s aptly-named whiskey bar, Bourbon, has several tables outside the brick-and-mortar so you can admire the State House and soak up the hustle and bustle of the city-center ambiance while you [whiskey] + dine. Add in a little pimento cheese, some boudin balls and a lamb burger with extra onion rings and you have the Cajun-creole meal of your Instagram dreams. If you’re celebrating, order a “Ya-Ya Hurricane” or the “Heart of Darkness" cocktails.
Head west on I-26 toward Lake Murray for one of Lake Murray’s most popular quick-bite spots, Liberty on the Lake, with unique views overlooking the sparkling lake. Going in on a Duck BLT or a Freedom Burger (fried egg included) while boats + skiers zoom past is definitely on our weekend agenda. The best part? The Liberty patio is the perfect front row seat to marvel at the vibrant cotton candy skies while the sun sets. Bliss.
North Main’s newest smokehouse, The War Mouth, is the kind of place that sports a cool and casual ambiance, with food that tastes anything but casual. Known for classic South Carolina fare—think deviled eggs, catfish stew, and chicken bog—The War Mouth’s patio makes each experience feel like an elevated picnic. Hanging lights illuminate the patio even when the sun goes down and, of course, all furry friends are invited to tag along (seriously, please bring your pups so we can pet them).
8. Lula Drake
Columbia’s recently-revitalized Main Street has an energy all its own. Locals + visitors alike stroll the street stumbling upon irresistible charm like one of Main Street’s newest gems, the elegant wine bar Lula Drake Wine Parlor. They have every variety of vino you could ever imagine, standout menu items like Iberico Ham and Moroccan spice popcorn, and outdoor café tables so you can take in the Main Street magic while you sip. Pro-tip: arrive early as tables are first-come, first-serve and be sure to order the Nutella-espresso crepe. Life’s short—so we won’t judge if you order it first.
9. Cantina 76
It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with Cantina 76 tacos. And, in our opinion, there’s just nothin’ quite like savoring chips, dip + margaritas outside. Cantina 76 has two locations and both have an al fresco dining option (#winning), so you can enjoy a Peruvian shrimp taco outside, regardless of where you are in town. If you’re into the hustle-and-bustle, choose the Main Street location for prime people watching. If you’re feeling something a bit more low-key, hit the Devine Street spot for front row views of many adorable dogs being walked. Wherever you choose, order one of the margaritas.
Follow the Five Points crowd to Publico Kitchen and Tap. Blue-bricked, ivy-covered and sporting marquee-style signage, you can’t miss it. Complete with garage-style doors that are rolled up on nice days, Publico has become a go-to spot for a kick back or a quick bite. The lively taproom is equipped with a large deck area for all your al fresco needs. Play a round of corn-hole, take a seat on the refurbished bar stools or cheer on your team when it’s game day. Oh, and make sure to try out the brunch menu. #SundayFunday, guaranteed.
11. The Gourmet Shop
The Gourmet Shop in Columbia’s Five Points District is #BrunchGoals, #AestheticGoals—all the goals, really. The food is simple, yet elegant. The atmosphere is relaxed, yet welcoming. And the fact that TGS is part-café, part-market makes it hard to resist some post-sammy shopping for a tub of chicken salad, artisan bread + a bottle of vino to take home. While there is inside seating, all the locals sit outside to enjoy their brie with raspberry rhubarb jam, house-made tomato bisque and pesto paninis to soak up the charisma that Five Points can’t help but evoke.
For upscale wining + fine dining with a killer aerial view of the Five Points district, take a seat on the patio of local favorite Saluda’s for post-happy hour fancy feastin’. Known for southern eats with a dash of Italian + French flare, Saluda’s has quite the fan club that comes for the buffalo fried oysters and country-fried duck breast, but stays for a birds-eye view of the iconic Five Points fountain.
13. Salty Nut Café
Salty Nut is the go-to spot for USC students to watch the big game or just raise glasses of brew in honor of the weekend’s arrival. The iconic Salty Nut patio wraps around the entire restaurant, and is guaranteed to be full of locals (and pups!) on any weekend—with plenty of seating to go around. Oh, Salty. We heart you and your laid-back, come-as-you-are, picnic-style perfection.
A staple of Columbia’s beer scene since 1995, Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse is a local favorite thanks to its killer grub (we recommend going with the nightly special), house-brewed ale and al fresco ambiance. Situated on South Main Street, behind the South Carolina State House, Hunter-Gather’s outside seating allows patrons to gaze at a different, but equally beautiful, angle of the iconic landmark. The brewery and alehouse is also within walking distance to USC’s Historic Horseshoe in one direction, and the Vista district in the other—perfect for post-dinner strolls, of course.
Featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” Pawleys Front Porch is known for its colossal + juicy burgers that are all named after places in South Carolina and, of course, its front porch. The aptly named restaurant has a vast covered deck overlooking Harden Street in Columbia’s Five Points district where each burger comes with a dagger (aka: a steak knife) stabbed through the middle + some of the best French fries you’ve ever had.
Looking for more dinner options? Browse our restaurant listings for options by region or cuisine.