From crisp asparagus to sweet strawberries, Columbia SC chefs kick the delicious up a notch when the temperatures rise. We’ve compiled a list of must-try hot spots in town—known best for playing up local and seasonal ingredients—so you can plan the ultimate foodie getaway when it’s time to pull out your sandals + sunglasses.
What’s In Season from April to August in Columbia SC:
Artichokes, arugula, asparagus, cherries, peas, radishes, strawberries, broccoli, herbs, cucumbers, raspberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, summer squash, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, eggplant, grapes, peppers, sweet corn, watermelon
Arguably the OG of the farm-to-table restaurant scene in Columbia SC, Motor Supply is the only restaurant in the city that changes its entire menu—both lunch and dinner—daily. As such, you can expect the freshest of fresh and seasonal ingredients on your plate. Pair it with wild-caught seafood, house-butchered prime cuts of meat and house-made charcuterie, dressings, sauces and desserts and you have a truly unforgettable meal. Be sure to order a craft cocktail from head barman/genius Josh Streetman and tell him we sent ya.
Just across the iconic Gervais Street Bridge in West Columbia, Terra was recently named one of “The South’s Best Restaurant Bars” by readers of Southern Living. Also a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement in Columbia, Chef Mike Davis opened his restaurant in 2006 and has been serving up all things fresh, local and sustainable ever since. You can expect uber-seasonal specials, impressive wine + craft cocktail offerings and sweeping views of the Columbia skyline. And who would we be if we didn’t insist you order the (life changing) Lamb Mac.
Five Points’ resident New Southern Café was originally a sandwich and cookie shop when it opened in the early 80s. Although we love the classic menu items (shout out to the fried chicken breast and the bacon wrapped filet topped with pimento cheese), the seasonal specials that change daily always knock it out of the park. And if you go for lunch, we recommend starting your meal with a bowl of tater tots and a glass of rosé. We know, it sounds strange—but trust us, it just works.
Part restaurant, part wine cellar, Cellar on Greene is famous for its three-course meal deal for only $27. Yep—less than $30 for a trio of deliciousness, consisting of menu items like basil-citrus smoke salmon tartare, red wine braised lamb ragu, and seared pound cake (a must-try!). Sister restaurant to Solstice and Mr. Friendly’s, you can expect to see produce at peak-season on your plate—and softshell crab during the season, which is now. What are you waiting for?
Southern food classics, elevated. That’s what you can expect when dining at Solstice Kitchen in Northeast Columbia. Forever favorites are amplified with a dash of creativity, like devilled eggs with pickled onion, crispy pancetta, and roasted red pepper aioli. Although, if you feel like eating outside your comfort zone, we suggest choosing one of the drool-worthy daily specials. Menu items like Togarashi seared yellowfin tuna with cilantro-peanut pesto are sure to surprise and delight—always seasonal, always delicious.
The War Mouth on North Main Street in Cottontown is best known for its genuinely unique cocktails, hyper-local + seasonal grub and adorable patio with back-yard-barbecue vibes. A body shop turned eatery that opened in 2016, the War Mouth frequently buys direct from South Carolina farmers and updates its menu regularly—remaining true to what’s in season when crafting dishes. Pro tip: order the pickle plate. The restaurant’s head pickler Zarah Newton is dedicated to keeping things interesting—pickling anything and everything, from hot dogs and rutabaga to Brussels and tomatoes.
A go-to lunch spot for Columbia SC locals, Spotted Salamander has stolen the hearts of patrons with its “inventive Southern cuisine.” Think chicken with sweet tea vodka barbecue sauce, pork belly mac and cheese, and shrimp salad stuffed avocados. Inventive, indeed. Each day, Chef Jessica designs a specials menu, with a varying soup, small plate, deviled egg, lunch plate, side dish and cocktail. She, of course, keeps it seasonal with bites like heirloom tomato sandwiches in the summer and salad with local asparagus and strawberries during the spring. Sit outside on the porch, call ahead to reserve a cronut (they go fast!), and always, always, always order the deviled eggs.
A new addition to Columbia SC’s fine dining scene, Tallulah opened in the luxurious Devine Street District in January of 2017. Chef Russell Jones works closely with local farmers and purveyors to craft a menu that emphasizes the bounty of South Carolina and the surrounding region. Jones doesn’t skimp on creativity, though, and consistently pushes the envelope with unexpected combinations and pairings. So, grab a seat on the covered patio and be sure to order the Brussels. We daydream about them daily.
Situated on the peak of the recently revitalized Main Street, The Oak Table is famous for servin’ up beautiful plates of fresh, local and seasonal—with table-side views to match. 100 feet away from the South Carolina State House, the views are top-notch whether you’re grabbing a quick lunch alone, having a romantic dinner with your boo or a boozy brunch with your besties. Chef Todd Woods is the king of thinking outside the box, so expected the unexpected. And always, always, always order a side of truffle frites.
Perhaps the newest obsession of Columbia SC locals, Lula Drake is Main Street’s resident wine bar. Located in a revitalized historic building (that was previously the home of the wine bar’s namesake), Lula Drake has a stunning collection of organic wines sourced from a small selection of winemakers who are dedicated to quality over quantity. Not to be overlooked, though, is the sophisticated menu of unique bites to pair with your vino. From “The World’s Best” Iberico Ham to house-made fresh pasta, each bite is assembled with the best of the best local + seasonal ingredients. Unforgettable experience, guaranteed.
You’ve heard us rave about Bourbon’s lamb burger, creole pimento cheese, gumbo, duck noodle bowl, all the inventive cocktails…. You get the picture—we’re obsessed. But you would be remiss in not digging into all things seasonal at this Cajun-creole bourbon bar. From City Roots produce that makes up the ever-evolving bounty salad to softshell crab from the Carolina Coast, you are sure to spot hyper-local, fresh, and in-season ingredients as the foundation of the specials menu. And if you’re into dinner-and-a-show, sit at the bar and watch bartender extraordinaire Kat Hunter work her magic.
Located in a restored soda bottling plant from the 1930s, Cola’s on Assembly Street incorporates fresh and locally sourced ingredients to craft masterpieces like crispy sesame asparagus, poached pear salad with spiced walnuts, and the famous crispy flounder—served bone-in and whole. Ask your waiter or waitress about the entrée specials and be sure to kick off the night with the pimento cheese board. Because, duh.
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!