Columbia, South Carolina is the home base of the University of South Carolina. Whether somebody is a Gamecocks fan or a townie, they know that Columbia has an unreal food scene.
If you’re a current student there, an alumnus, or just visiting Williams-Brice Stadium for a home game, make sure you visit some of these incredible restaurants.
2617 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29223
Cinnamon Roll Deli, or CRD, is known throughout the country as one of the best breakfasts you’ll ever eat. They have creative and delicious sandwiches, like The Big Max, topped with two eggs, cheddar, black pepper thick bacon, and slathered with whole grain mustard. While they’re all delicious, it’s all about the specialty cinnamon rolls, made from a special Hawaiian recipe in-store every single day. You can get the Original, or go bolder with options like the Black Pepper Bacon Maple Glaze, Apple Cobbler, or the Bananas Foster.
724 Saluda Ave, Columbia, SC 29205
Located right in the middle of the action since 1979, The Gourmet Shop is an upscale market as well as a restaurant. Their chicken salad is rightfully famous, but any of the sandwiches will win you over. They serve brunch every day, and everything you get has that same level of quality that you should expect from The Gourmet Shop. There’s even a plant-based menu for those living the vegan lifestyle, and there’s just as much love in those items as anything else. If you want to take your experience home with you, you can select from a wide variety of cheese, charcuterie, wine, cookware, and even fine cigars at the market.
700 Harden St, Columbia, SC 29205
Home Team BBQ is relatively new in town, but it’s already become a beloved institution, thanks to its location right in the heart of Five Points as well as its next-level BBQ. Fiery Ron’s Smoked Chicken Wings are a favorite, whether served dry or with their tart and creamy Alabama White Sauce. The BBQ Nachos are phenomenal, whether you top them with pulled pork, pulled chicken, or black beans. The Pork Cracklins are crunchier and tastier than anything you could dream of, the perfect vessel for their homemade Pimento Cheese. No matter what you order, make sure you pair it with their renown Carolina Mustard Sauce to elevate your meal even more.
2112 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29205
University of South Carolina students know that Jake’s is the spot to grab a pint. Wednesday is Pint Night, and people flood in from all over town. They also have Yappy Hour every Tuesday and Thursday, where dogs nearly outnumber the humans. As if this wasn’t enough to entice you, they have over thirty craft beers on draft, which you can enjoy on their back deck and green area. Plus, they have killer food, so eat up to make sure the beer doesn’t win!
2307 Devine St, Columbia, SC 29205
The Publick House has been Columbia’s quintessential pub since opening in 1988. There’s no better spot around town for 10 wings with those famous raw fries (house-made potato chips). If wings aren’t your speed, the Guinness Breaded Shrimp with cocktail sauce or even the Philly Cheese Steak, tossed with onions and bell peppers and topped with provolone.
This is a popular spot for shooting pool, throwing darts, or just enjoying your evening with a great meal with a perfectly-poured draft.
2421 Bush River Rd, Columbia, SC 29210
There’s not too much to say about Real Mexico besides that it brings authentic and fantastic Mexican food to Columbia. The menu covers items both traditional and unexpected.
The Loco Bean Dip is a perfect start for the table, consisting of refried beans with chorizo and topped with cheese and pico de gallo. The Birria Quesatacos are crispy and cheesy and juicy and just about perfect. The Molcajete is a hot volcanic stone mortar filled with salsa verde and all kinds of tender and flavorful meats served with a side of warm tortillas.
1213 Blanding Street, Columbia, SC 29201
Located in a historic 19th century firehouse, Villa Tronco is the “Oldest Restaurant in South Carolina,” as well as the first Italian restaurant in Columbia! Don’t worry, this intimate eatery has the delicious food to back up their rich history.
All the antipasti are fantastic, like the Italian Eggrolls with mozzarella, spinach, and roasted red pepper, and topped with a balsamic glaze. Mama Tronco’s Homemade Pizza is the first of its kind in Columbia, and those square slices still make customers very happy. The Fettuccine Alla Tronco is their take on alfredo, with butter, cream, and a parmesan cheese sauce, and it definitely hits the spot. They also have a nice selection of Carmella’s Famous Cheesecake, available by the slice or as a whole cake.
2001-A Greene St, Columbia, SC 29205
Mr. Friendly’s was founded in early 1980s in Historic Five Points as a sandwich and cookies shop, but redefined itself as an upscale New Southern spot in 1995. There’s nothing revolutionary about the menu, but that’s only because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
They focus on the freshest ingredients and the simplest preparation, so the food speaks for itself. The menu is changing on a daily basis, to accommodate whatever is available, from veggies to seafood. On top of that, they have a phenomenal wine selection with over 300 varieties, with an emphasis on domestic selections.
620 Gervais St, Columbia, SC 29201
This modern Mediterranean restaurant in the Vista area is a great date night spot, with its cozy seating inside and its relaxing patio.
Their main menu is tapas, so you can enjoy a nice variety of well-composed small plates. Some of their tastiest options are the Seared Scallops with three sauces, the Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with bacon, feta, and balsamic, the Grilled Shrimp with basil pesto and lardo butter, and the Duck Breast with port-soaked cherries! They also have a robust wine list, putting the “vine” in Gervais & Vine.
1200 Lincoln St, Columbia, SC 29201
Blue Marlin is a continuation of the enduring power of South Carolina Low Country cuisine, with a pinch of Cajun and Creole influence. This food is refreshingly simple, but just as delicious as any foods that may be more complex.
Any regular will recommend you get the award-winning Shrimp & Grits, made with stone-ground grits and topped with sauteed creek shrimp, andouille sausage, and tasso gravy. There’s also the Charleston Crab Cakes, served with a sweet onion remoulade, fire-roasted corn salsa, Savannah red rice, and sauteed green beans. If you want something lighter, check out the rich and creamy She Crab Soup topped with sherry.
To learn more about the delicious food spots at other SEC schools, check out our Best Restaurants in the SEC guide, which includes all 14 college towns and their amazing eateries.