Whether cooked medium or well-done, meat-and-cheese only or stacked a mile high with toppings, paired with French fries or crispy onion rings… it’s near-impossible to resist a delicious burger. And, as the birthplace of the pimento cheeseburger, we know a thing or two about juicy handhelds in Columbia SC. From classic + simple to gourmet spinoffs, there’s a burger for everyone in this dynamite city. Which will you try first?
Up for a life-changing experience? Head to Bourbon on Main Street and sit at the bar. Order up the lamb burger + crispy Brussels. Sip on a Hurricane while you wait + watch Kat work magic crafting cocktails. Then, cry. It’s okay, really… we do every time.
On any given Thursday, follow the locals to Spotted Salamander for Burger Day. Topped with ooey-gooey melted cheese, house-made pickles, a thick slice of tomato and, get this, BACON JAM, it’s sure to leave you counting down the days until this weekly holiday comes back around.
The burgers at Mack’s are just what you’d expect to order at a drive-in or a 50’s diner. Cooked fresh with no frills (although, we do recommend adding pimento cheese or chili if you feel like treating yourself), it’s nostalgic + delicious… further elevated only if paired with hot onion rings.
A true institution in Columbia, Rockaway Athletic Club is famous for its pimento cheeseburger—and for good reason. It’s giant, decadent and, of course, delicious and you’d be remiss in not penciling it in while in town. Extra napkins encouraged.
The Kingsman is known primarily for its ribeye burgers—10 oz. patties of fresh ribeye, ground + formed daily. Order “The Palmetto”, topped with pimento cheese, bacon and fried jalapeno if you’re into eats with a little kick. If you’re brave, try the big cheese: a ribeye burger between two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches.
The Whig has stolen the hearts of locals + travelers alike thanks to its indulgent late-night eats, waiting for you when you’re suddenly starving at midnight. Try the famous “Whig Burger” with smoked gouda, bacon, beef gravy and a kiss of sriracha aioli. Food coma to follow.
Head to Henry’s for the big game + make sure to bring an even bigger appetite—you’ll need it with this impressive lineup of craft burgers. We recommend the “Big Breakfast Burger” with grilled ham, bacon + a fried egg or the “Greek Burger” (Feta + greek dressing, included!). And don’t forget the sweet potato fries!
This aptly named burger joint boasts a build-your-own-burger menu, with 77 different selections + more than 200,000 combinations. With drool-worthy toppings from fried jalapenos to honey ham, every bite is sure to be unique.
Featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Pawleys Front Porch made a name for itself in Columbia SC thanks to a roster of half-pound burgers all named after South Carolina cities. Try the Fripp Island Burger because fried green tomatoes are involved.
This local fast food restaurant has been grillin’ + servin’ hamburgers in Columbia SC for more than 50 years. The burgers are famously delicious and no one can seem to figure out the secret—but we aren’t complaining. Make sure to top off your meal with hot fudge cake.
Established in 1949, Zesto has a long line of loyal customers who keep coming back for classic Zestoburgers + soft-serve (with extra sprinkles). Look for the little blue shop under the "giant cone in the sky" —you can’t miss it.
Known for its mile-long list of “sophisticated” hamburgers, Grill Marks is fairly new to Columbia + the Vista. Topped with a slew of unique additions—from melted brie to bone marrow—these handhelds are sophisticated, indeed. Make sure to order some white truffle parmesan fries because, duh.
Boasting a menu of all-local ingredients, the “Hand Spanked Beef” burger menu at Polliwogs is sure to make you forego the salad. For all of the decadence, try the “Mac N Cheese Stuffed burger” (Yep, we are serious) or the “Boss Hawg”—covered with barbecue pulled pork & coleslaw.
How To Get Through Mondays 101: head to Tombo Grille + take full advantage of the Monday night burger-and-a-beer special for only $9. And there’s live music! You don’t have to thank us if you’ll let us tag along.
From the classics to a walk on the wild side, the Root Cellar has something for everyone in the burger department. We recommend the self-titled “Root Cellar” burger—finished with goat cheese + a fried green tomato. Yum.
If it involves Mac N’ Cheese, you can count us in. Case in point: the “Mac Attack” at Old Mill Brewpub—topped with pepper jack mac, bacon and slam sauce. If you’re up for something a bit unexpected, try the “Joaquin”, a coffee rubbed burger with maple caramelized onions.
Higher Ground Char House has quickly become a local favorite thanks to its charbroiled + carefully crafted artisan burgers. With 15 burger varieties to choose from, all with names that’ll make you giggle (i.e. “Cow-A-Bunga), we know you’ll become a big fan like we are.
Cover photo credit: @CrushRushSC