Guide to Awesomeness

The Flock and Rally Guide to Awesomeness
in Columbia, SC

Image: Thomas Hammond

We love our “famously hot” capital city! We like to choose independently owned restaurants, bars, cafes and other businesses that actively support our local progressive culture. Here are a few of our favorites at @FlockandRally!

Super-casual yet high-quality pubs downtown

The Whig #WhigSC, @WhigSC
1200 Main St., Columbia, SC 29201, (803) 931-8852
Corner of Gervais at Main St., right across from the State House

North America’s finest dive bar; The Whig is where many of the city’s creative working class end up any night of the week, from fixed-gear bike riders to buttoned-up arts administrators. Excellent draft beer selection and great, inexpensive food. The owners are incredibly supportive of the arts and non-profit scene, too. Full bar. Food served til late (midnight weeknights, 1am weekends) Open 7 days. FaR suggests the burgers, great handmade full-size pizzas, gouda mac & cheese, the bacon cheese fries, and every other Sunday, the transcendent chicken and waffles.

Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse @HGbrewery
900 S. Main St., Columbia SC 29201 (803) 748-0540
Across State House Grounds and down one block, corner of College & S. Main

Very casual fine dining menu, as well as great burgers and exemplary beer brewed on site. Full bar, some outside seating, a local favorite of any and all progressive-minded folks from age 25-75. Closed Sundays. FaR  recommends anything on the chalkboard.  Their daily specials are the best.  If you’re a vegetarian, the Portobello gyro is yummy.

Independent restaurants with chef-driven menus

Motor Supply Co. Bistro @motorsupply
920 Gervais St., between Park and Lincoln (803) 256-6687
Executive Chef Wesley Fulmer, who has cooked in CHS, NOLA & Philly, buys religiously from small sustainable farms and makes beautiful charcuterie, while barman Josh Streetman runs the most innovative cocktail program in town, making ingredients like orgeat from scratch. The lunch and dinner menu change daily and the new temp-controlled patio means outdoor dining day and night. Open Sunday brunch and Sunday evening, closed Mondays.

Terra @TerraSC
100 State St. at Meeting St, West Columbia (803) 791-3443
Just across the Gervais St. bridge in West Columbia, Terra is Columbia’s most renowned farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Mike Davis has cooked at the James Beard House in NY and won the prestigious DiRoNa award. Excellent fish, steaks, wood-fired pizzas, fancypants cocktails. Large outdoor patio. Closed Sun + Mon. FaR recommends the $12 Pinot & Pizza special on Wednesday, the expert cocktails and the large patio. Our favorite: the duck confit wood-fired pizza with port-soaked cherries, and any of the seafood dishes.

Bourbon @bourboncolumbia
1214 Main Street Columbia SC (803) 403-1404
Owned by Chef Kristian Niemi of Rosso, Bourbon is the small, casual-yet-glammy, cocktail bar/restaurant Cola’s grown ups have been needing, complete with a full whisky bar serving both big name and craft distillers. This Cajun-Creole eatery opened its doors in Spring 2014 and quickly became an FaR favorite. Chef Gordon Langston continues Niemi’s tradition of purchasing quality local ingredients to craft Bourbon’s casual Southern bistro fare, the branding by The Half and Half is on point, and the cocktails kill.

The Oak Table @theoaktable
1221 Main at Gervais (803) 563-5066
With a fancy/hip Southern chic interior and stellar view of the State House from the long bar, it was opened in 2012 by the folks who The Macintosh and Oak in Charleston. Highbrow cocktails, delish gnudi, excellent pastry chef and arguably the best fancy restaurant burger in town.

Cellar on Greene @CellaronGreene
Greene St. at Laurel in Five Points
Owned by Chef Ricky Mollohan of the epically famous Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café, Cellar on Greene has light, farm-to-table small plates and a killer wine list. It’s a wine bar with a much beefier, cooler menu than you’d expect, and they’re always playing good indie tunes on the stereo. We love the ahi tuna nachos, the parmeson truffle potato chips, and whatever fish special they’ve got. Oh, and Champagne Tuesday, when bubbly is half off by the glass. WORD.

116 Espresso and Wine Bar @116_State
116 State Street in West Columbia (803) 791-5663
Much more than coffee and wine, Chef Ryan Whittaker and staff ensure that this full service restaurant has some of the best small plates cuisine and cocktails in the Midlands. Big supporter of Slow Food movement. Sit at the bar to eat the smoky, Romesco-drenched mussels and sip Ryan Ditman’s tasty cocktails.

Camon Japanese Restaurant @camonsushi
1332 Assembly Street Columbia SC (803) 254-5400
Tucked away on the 4-lane Assembly Street, this unassuming sushi restaurant is a staple in Columbia and a hidden gem. It’s where all of the Japanese businessmen from around the state go for izakaya. Fresh sushi made by a locally revered Japanese family, the scion of which, @NotShigeharu, founded the saying, “Columbi-YEAH!”  FaR loves the handrolls, spicy asparagus roll, and Crunchy Spicy Salmon roll.

Other indie restaurants we absolutely love but haven't written a blurb yet: 

Spotted Salamander Cafe (Historic Downtown)
Baan Sawan Thai Bistro (Five Points)
The War Mouth (North Main)
Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe (Five Points)
Za's on Devine (Devine St. Corridor)
Cantina 76 (Devine St. and Main St.)
SEA/&/SALT (Vista)
Ristorante Divino (Vista)
Publico Kitchen & Tap (Five Points)
Ariana's (Greek & Turkish food, West Columbia)

WiFi, Coffee, and Lunch (even on a Sunday)

Drip Coffee #DripCoffee
729 Saluda Avenue, Columbia SC (803) 661-9545
Still Columbia’s hottest artisan coffee shop, doing high-quality drip coffee by the cup and duck confit sandwiches on Saluda Avenue in Five Points. WiFi, open 7 days, hip, relaxed atmosphere, see-and-be-seen knowledge worker/creative economy scene, addictive bagel with lox.  FaR recommends that you get the drip coffee, but be prepared to wait a few minutes for it. 

Drip on Main @DriponMain
1441 Main St. btw Washington and Hampton
Second outpost of Drip Coffee downtown, with decadent breakfast and lunch sandwiches, by-the-cup coffee, excellent wi-fi, and more suits in the mix than the hipster haven in Five Points. We run into, like, 6 people we know every time we go to either Drip location. We love it.

Cool Beans Café & College Grounds @CoolBeansSC #CBCoffee
1217 College St., Columbia SC (803) 779-4277
Between S. Main and Sumter, this two-story home is in the same block as Hunter-Gatherer and is two restaurants in one.  Coffee, wraps, sandwiches, wifi. Hip, easy.  FaR recommends the black bean wrap with pasta salad upstairs and downstairs try their homemade donuts!
Immaculate Consumption #immacSC
933 S. Main St., Columbia, SC (803) 799-9053
CLOSED WEEKENDS! Where hipsters, legislators, USC students and professors commingle over in-house roasted fair trade coffee and tasty sandwhiches.  FaR recommends the golden, toasty granola w/yogurt; the veggie and brie on pita; the tuna salad; the Vietnamese banh mi special (if you’re lucky) and their pasta salad is balsamic-y good!  Please note:  Lunch is only served until 3pm.

Cafe Strudel #Strudel
300 State Street, Columbia, SC (803) 799-6634
Another cafe in the cool strip of State Street, Cafe Strudel is best known for their great Sunday brunch, beers, and desserts, but they have liquor at their new digs. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. FaR recommends the hangover hashbrowns and the Lowcountry BLT wrap with fried green tomatoes!

The Gourmet Shop #GourmetShop
724 Saluda Ave. Columbia, SC (803) 799-9463
In the heart of Five Points, The Gourmet Shop is a cafe, deli, culinary shop and wine store with true European flair. Super casual, but de rigueur among the Ladies Who Lunch set, with killer by-the-bottle prices.  We recommend the chicken salad croissant, pimiento cheese, artisan cheeses and chocolates.

Sweet Cream Co. ice cream and coffee shop
Main Street between Taylor and Blanding
Nothing but gelato and fair trade locally roasted coffee. And it’s all awesome.


The Wired Goat cafe (Vista)
The Local Buzz cafe (Rosewood)

Tasty lunches elsewhere

Good Life Café
Columbia’s most stylish raw, vegan + organic resto – serving liquor, beer & wine, too! Their juices are the real deal. Open lunch + dinner.  (Main St., downtown, across from The Nickelodeon.)

Menkoi Ramen House
Open daily, lunch + dinner, til 3am on weekends. The spicy ramen is so good, and to-go orders are ready in 3 minutes tops. (Vista)

Blue Cactus
Tex Mex meets Korean, w/killer bibimbop & kim bob. Legendary. Beware – orders take a while, and there’s no beer. (Five Points)

El Burrito
Fresh, hip, cheap Mexican w/beer (Five Points)

DiPrato’s Delicatessen
Best pimento cheese in town, great fancy picnic fixins

Farmers’ Markets

Soda City Market @SodaCitySC
Main between Hampton and Taylor
Saturdays, 9am until 1pm
This is the king daddy of Columbia farmers’ markets if you like seasonal, sustainable, artisan produce, meats, seafood, eggs, baked goods, and crafts. Lovely scene for strolling with your coffee from Indah Coffee Roasters and grabbing a plate of strata from Rosso or breakfast tacos from the Pawley’s Food Truck. Wine Down on Main opens its doors for mimosas, too, which is swell. Formerly known as the All-Local Farmers’ Market; used to be at 701 Whaley.

Art-House Cinema

The Nickelodeon Theatre @NickTheatre
1607 Main at Taylor,
The non-profit arthouse cinema with such chutzpah they’ve opening a huge, new renovated historic theatre. Oh, and they throw the Indie Grits Festival, too.

Cool Art Galleries + Museums

·      701 Center for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley Street, Columbia, SC 29201
·      The Columbia Museum of Art, Main at Hampton
·      Tapp’s Arts Center, Main at Blanding
·      If Art contemporary art gallery, 1223 Lincoln Street, Columbia, SC 29201
·      Vista Studios/Gallery 80808, 808 Lady St @ Lincoln, Columbia, SC 29201

Great bars in downtown Columbia, SC
In addition to any of the bars at the restaurants mentioned above, we like these:

Art Bar @ArtBarSC
Owned by artist Clark Ellefson, this is the o.g. scene for creative. Great outdoor patio, dancing Friday nights, hipster karaoke Wednesdays.
1211 Park St, Columbia, SC 29201, (803) 929-0198

Did we mention THE WHIG?
1200 Main at Gervais

Capital Club
Gay bar! Gervais btw Assembly and Park St.

1109 Assembly
Gay club! Next to Takosushi on Assembly btw Gervais and Senate

Flying Saucer
Park at Senate. It’s a chain, but it’s got a great, huge outdoor covered deck and about a frillion beers.

The Rooftop Bar at the Sheraton Downtown Columbia
Main Street at Washington
The vault is an old bank vault, and it’s a cozy place to grab a martini. The rooftop is the only public bar atop a tall building, so it’s got its cache.

Music for every taste

·         Indie Rock at The Whig: Occasional
·         Bluegrass night at El Burrito: Thursdays in good weather
·         Bluegrass at Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor
·         Big names at Music Farm in the Vista
·         Indie shows at New Brookland Tavern – State St., West Columbia

Grocery Shopping

Rosewood Market and Deli

2803 Rosewood Drive, Columbia, SC 29205
(803) 765-1083, @rosewoodmarket

The best natural foods market + deli in town is Rosewood Market and Deli, in case you need to stock up on Tom's of Maine toothpaste, housemade vegan chipotle mayo, shrimp burgers (Wednesdays and Saturdays), SC-made cheeses, or random fruits and veggies from small organic farms for your RV fridge. They're the OG spot for the local/sustainable food scene here in Cola since the 80s, they support our Slow Food Columbia events, and they use compostable serviceware at the deli, a rarity in these parts.


There’s a Publix in the Vista at Gervais and Huger, a BI-LO across the Blossom St. bridge in Cayce on Knox Abbott at State St. (and the Cayce Ace Hardware store). Also an Earth Fare and a Whole Foods down Devine St., and a Trader Joe’s in Forest Acres!