Pâté isn’t just for fine-diners anymore—at least not in South Carolina. Below the Mason-Dixon line, our version is chockablock with sharp, salty cheese + mayo, sans the minced meat. “Pâté of the South”—formally known as pimento cheese—is as likely to end up on the menu of a South Carolina picnic as boiled peanuts, devilled eggs + pulled pork doused in Carolina Gold barbecue sauce. And sweet tea, of course.
The OG recipe always starts the same: shredded sharp cheddar cheese, mayo + a jar of diced pimentos. However, Columbia SC locals like all things crafted + creative, so the variations of pimento cheese you can munch on while in town are endless. Smooth or chunky, Duke’s or Blue Plate, on top of a burger or straight to your mouth via spoon, we know you’ll take to it like a duck to water.
To get you acquainted with this Carolina classic, we’ve rounded up 11 spots that are known for their delicious creations that incorporate pimento cheese. We dare you to go on a PC crawl and try them all in the same weekend. Pics or it didn’t happen.
As local Tracie Broom put it, Columbia is a DiPrato’s town when it comes to a deep, committed love for pimento cheese. In fact, when we were doing research on the cheesy spread, nearly a third of people who weighed in on their favorite PC in Columbia named DiPrato’s as the cheese-to-beat. People consistently talk about it, post about it—and some go as far as traveling from other cities just to get their fix. There are several different varieties, but we say stick to the original + order a side of warm pita chips (and a slice of peanut butter pie because, health.) We aren’t sure what DiPrato’s secret is, but we have a feeling it’s locked away in a fireproof safe somewhere. Treasure hunt, anyone?
The chefs at Bourbon take the cheesy southern classic and sprinkle it with a pinch + a dash of Cajun-creole flare. Perhaps the creamiest in town, Bourbon’s pimento cheese is filled with Sweet Peppadews (instead of traditional pimentos), and then given a final kiss of smoked sea salt. Served with lavash crackers for an added crunch, this unexpected take on pimento cheese is the perfect bite to fill your stomach before you sip on a “Ya-Ya Hurricane”, complete with 4 ounces of whiskey per glass, or a “Heart of Darkness”, which is finished with hickory smoke. Keep killin’ the game, Bourbon.
Photo by: @BourbonColumbia
Kind of like Raymond, everybody loves The Gourmet Shop. The quaint outside seating, the comforting café eats…oh, and we can’t forget the Instagram-worthy spreads of goodness on each and every table. #Aestheticgoals, amirite?! TGS has made a reputation for itself for serving up simple salads + sammies that you just can’t get enough of—and the pimento cheese is no different. Thick, flavorful, and sporting just the right amount of mayo, it kind of feels like homemade. And guess what? You can take home pints of the stuff, so it can be. Add it to a BLT, pair with chicken salad + fruit…. or just eat it with your hands. We won’t judge. (Ok, we might judge a little).
Ah, Rockaways. A #RealColumbiaSC institution, for sure. Known for? Pimento. Cheese. Burgers. All the deliciousness of pimento cheese, piled on top of a juicy burger so it gets warm and melts into ooey-gooey perfection. Y’all, it’s so good. Columbians love Rockaways for the pimento cheese burgers (and pimento cheese fries, of course), but also because it’s the type of come-as-you-are spot where you always feel comfortable—and that’s arguably the best part.
At Tallulah, Devine Street's newest gem, pimento cheese is everything that it should be: full of high quality cheese, the perfect amount of mayo + a little kick to keep things interesting, of course. Sharp cheddar cheese is mixed with a fusion of Duke’s mayo (always), blended piquillo peppers + a touch of cayenne. Perhaps the star of the show, though, is what the pimento cheese is slathered on: house-made toasted baguette chips. The sourdough baguettes are made from scratch + then sliced, drizzled with olive oil and toasted until crunchy. Go ahead and order extra - you'll definitely want/need them. We suggested ordering the pimento cheese and the killer roasted Brussels as your entree and calling it a day.
Photo by: @MessyKitchGirl
Photo by: @MessyKitchGirl
Nestled away on a side street in Five Points, Mr. Friendly’s is known for bringing elevated southern classics to the table—with the perfect wine pairing, of course. Add pimento cheese into the mix and things get crazy. Can you say “Fried Green Tomato-Pimento Cheese BLT?” HELLO, we’re so in. If you’re feelin’ extra ravenous for pâté of the south, start your meal with the “French Quarter” pimento cheese skillet with ciabatta, then move on to the BLT for your main course. What about dessert? Well, cheese is served as dessert in France so…. your move. Ps: order the tots as your side because potatoes are veggies and you need them.
7. The Whig
Sometimes, it’s 1 a.m. and you need food covered in melted cheese ASAP. Behold, Columbia locals’ go-to spot for late-night eats + good beer: The Whig. If we didn’t sell you already with the promise of cheese-smothered eats after midnight (who are you?), get this—the Whig is actually underground. Below the ABC Columbia building, the Whig adds a bohemian vibe to the city’s Main Street. Place an order for jalapeno pimento-cheese fries with a side of ranch, get some quarters to feed the juke box + enjoy the excellent people watching from the bar. Oh, and on your way out make sure to stop and admire the view of the South Carolina State House at night. Swoon.
Photo by: @MessyKitchGirl
Located in a former auto repair shop off of the up-and-coming North Main district, The War Mouth supplies Columbia with traditional eats from the Midlands—like catfish stew and chicken bog—all crafted with the utmost attention to quality + detail. It’s no surprise that the War Mouth menu features pimento cheese but, of course, the chefs add their own spin to things. Enjoy PC slathered on white bread + toasted on a griddle for an elevated version of the ever-comforting grilled cheese. Or, take the spud-route and start your meal with an order of the smashed + fried Yukon golds (smothered in warm pimento cheese, of course). Pro tip: sit outside at a picnic table close to the garden for the intoxicating smell of fresh herbs lingering in the air while you dine.
Photo by: @MessyKitchGirl
Jake’s Bar + Grill is famous for its Tuesday and Thursday Yappy Hour. It’s exactly what it sounds like—happy hour where everyone brings their Instagram-worthy pups. It’s magical, but we’re sort of partial to Sundays at Jake's because, well, brunch. Didn’t know that pimento cheese could be a brunch thing? Well, now you do and at Jake’s it’s infused into sausage gravy and poured like a cheesy-waterfall over a house-made buttermilk chicken biscuit. Served with house diced hash browns, it’s the ultimate cure for all that ails you.
10. The Oak Table
If it’s a special occasion (or you just feel like treatin’ yourself), but you also want to see what the pimento cheese-hype is all about…take a seat at The Oak Table on Main Street for Sunday brunch. Stuffed with bacon, chives + roasted red peppers and then broiled for a smoky finish, the Oak Table’s pimento cheese delivers a gourmet version of this beloved snack. It’s served with toasted baguette slices and, in our opinion, should be paired with bubbly brunch libations. That’s a complete meal, if you ask us.
11. Sandwich Depot
Similar to the iconic pimento cheese sandwiches served at the August National, the Sandwich Depot features a cold PC sandwich that’s the ideal lunch choice for a hot day. If you want to kick it up a notch, however, ask for yours to be served on their signature jalapeno cornbread. That’s a South-in-your-mouth meal, to a T. If it’s cold out, though, don’t sleep on this casual ‘which stop to get your fix. You can get the classic sandwich grilled—melty goodness, guaranteed.