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No Chowhounds in Columbia, SC????

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The two most recent posts on Columbia SC (Dec 2002) come from some native Californian from San Diego who never had real Southern BBQ until he was in his 50s.(me) I'm going back to Columbia in early April. Please, any Chowhounds in the area, is there anything new I've got to try?


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  1. The question, Bob, is where did you try barbeque in Columbia. I graduated from college there 15 years ago and return for a few football games every year. Unfortunately, Columbia 'que is often defined by Bessingers aka Piggy Park which isn't bad. But, it's far from the best.

    In my opinion, the best 'que is found in the small towns around the bigger cities. Two of my favorite are Shealy's in Batesburg (a 20 minute drive)and Sikes in Eastover (a 30 minute drive). Shealy's is an all you can eat buffet affair that's quite good and inexpensive too($6-8 depending on the day and meal that you're eating). At Sikes, you walk through a cafeteria line and you're served. If you order a "large" plate, you can go through the line again. Back in my day on campus, Sikes large plate was $5.50. I'm betting that it's not more than 7 and a half bucks today.

    What makes SC barbeque unique in my estimation, outside of the sauce, is what the locals call "hash", a stew of all of the parts of the pig that are inedible on their own. It's served over rice and very tasty though one of my college friends from Philadelphia once noted correctly that "it looked like somebody yakked on my plate".

    Second thing. There is a small place near the USC football stadium called The Biscuit House. This place used to make the most awesome buttery cinnamon rolls that you have ever eaten in your life. I hope for your sake that they still do.

    The main drag through downtown and the University is Assembly Street. On Assembly near the State Capital, you'll find Cromer's Peanuts which sells another local delicacy, boiled salted peanuts. Buy a small bag and try them with a cold beer. They're quite good that way.

    There are two major bar/restaurant areas in Columbia, 5 Points and The Vista. 5 Points backs up to USC and is more of a college hangout while the Vista tends to be a bit more grown up. 5 Points has a very fine restaurant in Dianes on Devine Street. Many of the restaurants and bars in the Vista are mid priced regional chains. Not bad for what they are.

    Columbia is not going to knock your socks off as a culinary destination. It is a college and government town and that's reflected in the large majority of its dining choices. However, if you try, there is some good regional fare to be found there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: YourPalWill

      FYI There is no more Cromer Peanuts for the general public. There is a warehouse near the stadium but I don't think the public can go shop there anymore, which is a pity cuz they did after all have the "worst" no the best peanuts and other things in town.

    2. For BBQ: In SC, you can rate the places by how few days they are open: the fewer the days, the better the BBQ.

      Maurice Bessinger's Piggy Park is pretty much chain stuff, although it is either cooked with wood or finished with wood. The sauce is a very sweet mustard-based one that I find cloying. Expensive, and I don't go there. Open all week. Don't waste your time, there's better elsewhere.

      Little Pig 4927 Alpine Rd. in NE Columbia near I-20. Really good, although not pit cooked with wood. Good sauce, but the last time I went, the sauce on the table tasted a little rancid. The sauce on the pulled pork was excellent. No ribs, but the carcass of the pig is sitting in the middle of the room for anyone to get the Mr. Brown and skin, plus whatever else you want to tear off. All you can eat buffet, reasonably priced, senior citizen and under 13 discount. One of my favorite places. Open Thurs-Sat. No wood in evidence

      Sikes BBQ About 20 miles east of Columbia on Hwy 378/76. All I have to add to the previous description is that the large plate is about $7.95, and that the last time I went the mustard-based sauce was a little too strong on the mustard, which tasted like French's. They have pulled and sliced pork, as well as ribs. If you want chicken, call ahead, since they don't believe in holding it on a steam table. Very good hash and excellent rice. Open Thurs-Sat. Not wood-cooked

      Big T 2520 Congaree Rd in Gadsden (not Gaston), about 20 miles SE of Columbia, and 7535-C Garner's Fy Rd. in East Columbia not far from I-77. Mustard-based Sauce that is OK. Pulled pork. I found it expensive and not worth the price. The hash that I have had there tasted like Castleberry's Brunswick Stew. Open all week. Doesn't taste like there's much, if any, wood involved

      Millender's 1076 Chris Circle, West Columbia, near the intersection of I-26 and US 378. It's a little hard to get to, although you can see it from I-26. Very good mustard-based sauce, pulled pork, small ribs, skins, but the chicken is held in a warming oven and steam table and tends to be over cooked and dried out. The hash is outstanding, being the only really traditional hash (you don't want to know what that means) that I have had recently in this area. All you can eat buffet, about $8.00. Thurs-Sat. No wood in evidence.

      Farm Boy's This is in Chapin, SC, 1250 Chapin Rd (US 76), between the 2 stoplights, on the right as you head toward Little Mountain. Mustard-based (very good) and vinegar/pepper-based (Good, but too hot for me) sauces. Pulled pork, ribs, chicken (the usual problems with bbq chicken held on a steam table), and fried chicken. Usual sides, but they put PINEAPPLE in the beans. The rice and hash are good. The ribs are outstanding most of the time, but sometimes they are a little rushed and don't quite get to the falling-off-the-bone-stage. Also, sometimes they put too much sauce on the ribs, and occasionally they experiment with a different approach to them. Also they will sometimes get a little ritzy with the desserts, substituting pineapple upsidedown cake (very good) for the God-ordained banana pudding. All you can eat buffet about $8.00. One of my favorite places. Open Thurs-Sat. No wood in evidence.

      John D. Hite & Son 240 Dreher Rd., West Columbia Excellent bbq by all accounts, although I haven't been there in a long time (Hey, I can only eat so much). No place to sit but on the sidewalk curb, but you can sit in the car and eat it or take it back to the hotel. Open Fri-Sat. Pit-cooked.

      Shealy's, on US 1 in Batesburg-Leesville, about 30+ miles from Columbia. This has been covered by another poster. I found their in-house bbq good, but not to rave over. Their catered barbecue seems much better, but I don't know why it should. Their bottled sauces are available commercially. The mustard-based is quite good, but their vinegar/pepper one is far too hot for me. I found their fried chicken (including livers and gizzards) to be outstanding. Be prepared for a long wait on the weekend, the line sometimes stretching out the door, around the parking lot, and down the street. Closed Wed and Sun. No wood in evidence.

      There is another bbq place on US 1, just before getting into Leesville. I have not been there, but a number of people have recommended it highly. I think it is another Hite, or a name close to that.

      The best bbq in the state (if not in the universe) is, of course, Sweatman's, near Eutawville/Vance/Holly Hill. This is about 60 miles from Columbia, but it's worth every mile. There have been numerous raving descriptions of Sweatman's on this board. Open only on Fri-Sat. All you can eat buffet. Wood.

      There are also a number of little operations in the Columbia area which vary from so-so to excellent. One that comes highly recommended for ribs is a Mr. Green, who has an operation out in the middle of a field somewhere off Farrow Rd. I've never been able to find it, but I understand that he is building a regular establishment that can be better identified from the road. Fine, if such success doesn't ruin the bbq.

      In all of the above, try mixing some bbq sauce into the cole slaw - it improves it no end. In NC you can get it that way, but in SC you have to mix your own.

      Hopes this helps, although i'm ready to duck the flames.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Sandy

        I wish more than anything I had found Chowhound BEFORE my trip to S.C. last spring. Stayed at a hotel in Columbia when my son graduated basic training at Ft.Jackson.
        When I asked the hotel manager where I could get good S.C. cuisine, fried chicken, BBQ, or anything else, she suggested I try Applebee's.

        1. re: Bobfrmia

          If you make it to Columbia again, a good place for "meat and three" is the local chain called "Lizard's Thicket". Good simple food like fried chicken, stew beef, macaroni and cheese for around $5-6 a plate. Always good.

          1. re: YourPalWill

            Will-thanks for the suggestion but I have to tell you that the two meals I've had at the LT's in Columbia have been disappointing. Heavy, starchy and bland.

            1. re: Bob Foster

              Bob, pardon the interruption for a quick request: we ask users not to frequently change subject titles. Doing so screws up the many chowhounds who read these boards via HotPosts (check it out, it's great, via link atop our home page), which are unthreaded.

              It's best for everyone if we keep the subject titles descriptive of the thread as a whole, and only change them if the discussion has substantially digressed.

              Thanks a lot!

          2. re: Bobfrmia

            Exactly! You see, by dining at Applebees, you would get an authentic taste of what 99.9% of the population here-abouts thinks is acceptable, if not good, dining. You want authentic don't you??

            As you see...I'm very bitter.

            Danna (local...that's why I can talk bad about us!)

            Oh, and my thanks to your son for his service.

            1. re: danna

              Or Sticky Fingers for BBQ and ribs.

            2. re: Bobfrmia

              There are a few decent places in the Vista area downtown -- for tapas I recommend Gervais & Vine... Meritage is okay but not nearly as good as the one in Charleston. Hannah Jane's used to be good but I think the food has declined A LOT over the past 5-6 years... I've heard some good things about Tombo Grille on Forest Dr., supposedly they have really good seared tuna. I've been wanting to check that one out..

            3. re: Sandy

              Thanks to all for the information. I've been to Piggy Park (and won't be back because of the so-so food AND the owner's politics). I liked Farm Boys in Chapin and (thanks to this board) Little Pigs. We did make the drive out to Millender's. I thought it was good but not worth the drive. The one not mentioned is Palmetto Pig near USC which I thought was very good. I'll try some of the others this trip and report back.

              1. re: Bob Foster

                Oops. Got the names wrong. I went to Millenders (just by the freeway but hard to get to) and thought it was good but not as good as Little Pigs or Farm Boy's. We did drive all they way out to Shealy's. That was the one I thought good (the fried chicken was better than the bbq) but not worth the long drive from Columbia.

            4. Hudson's Smoke House BBQ on 4952 Sunset blvd. Lexington
              if you're coming from downtown towards lexington, on the right hand side of the rd.
              Great ribs. Different spiciness each time.Can order by the pound.

              Millenders has been closed for thye last year.

              Bessinger - last time got a meal carryout for $10.00 -
              1 rib and 1 sandwich.

              1. New to the area is Boar's Nest between Irmo and White Rock. Wood. Buffet. I'm an avowed fan. I hear they've added a Sandhills location.

                I'll second Hudson's. Excellent! And Little Pigs on Alpine - which I'd have sworn served smoked meat.

                Palmetto Pig is where I go if I need roast pork in the downtown area. They kill no trees, but it suffices.

                I have had mixed success at Bo Pig on Knox Abbott Drive. No smoke. Recent visit found fat and gristle in the 'Q, and a noted lack of replenishing the buffet.

                1. There is also a Dukes BBQ out on Platt Springs Rd. back behind the Airport. Not sure of the road names, it's kind of hard to find. I think it is somehow related to all the other Dukes BBQ places in the state, but I'm not sure how.

                  The BBQ is good and they have fatback on the buffet. A personal weakness of mine.

                  1. In South Carolina, we recognize 3 different types of barbecue sauce. They are mustard, ketchup and pepper/vinegar. Most of the folks from the country prefer pepper/vinegar. The best place in the state for pepper/vinegar barbecue is;

                    Mc Cabes Bar-B-Que
                    480 N Brooks St
                    Manning, SC 29102
                    (803) 435-2833

                    I went to the hassle of registering just so I could tell you folks about this place. Now do yourselves a favor and go eat there.

                    1. Correction - Cromer's IS open to the public and you can still buy peanuts (boiled and/or roasted) and all the party supplies they had in their other store. It's just hard to find.

                      Also, add another excellent barbecue place to the Columbia list. This one is near Lake Murray on Hwy. 6 - Granny's Barbecue. It's in a small building that has been several other restaurants, but this one is here to stay. "Granny" is the woman who made Carolina Barbecue in New Ellenton (near Aiken) famous in those parts, and she shared all her recipes with her grandson. The atmosphere is bare minimal, but the food is mmm, mmm awesome!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: caroljaxon

                        Oh yum! I may have to try Granny's tomorrow - Thanks, caroljaxon! Still need to try McCabes and Dukes. Have heard other raves about them.

                        Cromers, for now, is situated in a warehouse behind the Gamecocks' stadium. They will soon relocate to a space in the big carpet store at Huger and Laurel.

                        1. re: Ellen of SC

                          Ellen, I'd like to hear more about Granny's and also get a better idea of wher it is located. Please post a report after your visit.

                          1. re: SweetPea

                            A quick search turned up:

                            Granny's Carolina Bar-B-Que Inc
                            2261 North Lake Drive, Columbia, SC 29212
                            (803) 781-1616

                      2. Ellen, I will have to try Granny's as well.

                        Me and my wife are from Greenville,NC and love to try the SC BBQ places. We really enjoyed Sweatman's and want to try Dukes when we are down in the Charleston area but which one is the best? I would have to say the smoked flavor at Sweatman's is hard to beat.

                        1. Sorry I can't share anything about Dukes barbeque as I haven't sampled any. As yet haven't made it over to Granny's. Will holler when I finally get there.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Ellen of SC

                            Thursday I am having BBQ over at Little Pigs. Definately let me know how Granny's works out. I think we will end up going to Sweatman's friday instead of Duke's but we still want to go there later on. Thanks. Going to B's barbeque in Greenville,NC on the 16th, can't wait for that. They are my favorite.

                            1. re: Ellen of SC

                              I called Granny's and they are open M,T,W 11-2 (just missed it) and Th, F, Sat 11-9. It's the old Jimmy's Place by Yacht Cove.

                              BTW, Stopped by Lamb's Bread on Hampton St. (312-9900) and peeked in the windows. Looks almost ready. Talked to the guy selling incense, oils, whatever and he said it should open around the first of the year; delays with inspections, etc. which sounded vague at best to me. He also said the place on N. Main was "still in the works and we/they planned on opening it as well". He used the "we" word and the 'they" word inconsistently. I'm not sure what his role in the whole thing is but that's the scoop.

                            2. I lived there for six years prior to moving out of South Carolina. The blandness of the town seems to extend to the population's choices of eating places.

                              For the most part, Columbia is a Ryans/chinese buffet/barbecue kind of town. Any place that serves anything other than all-u-can-eat for under ten dollars faces a challenge. Even at that, Hilltop Restaurant was a great place to eat buffet chow. Now, even that place has closed down.

                              1. Just finished having lunch at Little Pig off Percival Rd. I enjoyed it, it's not the best but it still was good. I did find Doc's which I hope to try in a week or so. My wife will like Little Pig's since they have gizzards on the buffet.

                                1. I'll be interested to hear what you think about Doc's. I didn't like it. The fried chicken was good, but not a reason to go there in my book. The BBQ was not to my liking. Not very fresh tasting and the sauce tasted like pure vinegar.

                                  I really like Little Pigs because of the BBQ Hams they put out on the pulling station behind the utensil stand. They also have the chicken livers and gizzards that I like as well.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: scbuzz

                                    Just got back from Doc's and was pleasently surprised. We got there early at 11:40 and the fried chicken was above average. The potatoe salad was really good and the blackeyed peas were very good also. The banana pudding and slaw was average. I am getting use to SC Mustard based BBQ and Doc's was pretty good. Little pigs had better. Doc's had ton's of space and no problem getting around to the buffet. The Tea was very good as well. I enjoyed the food enough to take my wife to this place.

                                  2. C'mon folks - don't be so hard on Maurice's (aka Bessingers, aka Piggie Park). The South WILL rise again! :) His is the quintessential mustard based sauce. It is heavy and sweet, but its "posed" to be. They DO cook with wood, but note that the cooking is done at the HQ in West Columbia (Knox Abbot Drive) and then trucked to the other locations (aka Pit Stops). So if you want the best tasting q, go to the HQ. The ribs there are very good, if you like them wet. Their beef is good as well, which I think was placed on the menu in deference to the Texans. The Combo-Q platter will get you pork, beef, ribs and chicken, with hash and rice, two hushpuppies and cole slaw. It's expensive -$16.95 last time I checked - but one person can't eat it all (even ME). Good plate to share. Their single meat plates and sandwich baskets are much more reasonably priced.

                                    However, I also like Little Pigs on Alpine Road. I think they're only open Thurs-Saturday, though. It's buffet, and very good. They have hash, though not as good as Maurice's in my view. You can pull your own, as noted, or select the "previously pulled". They also have it sauced or plain, so you can sauce it yourself. Actually, the fried catfish on Friday night is even better than the BBQ. It's all fillets, lightly breaded with cornmeal, hot and very fresh. They also have beer-battered onion rings and hush puppies on the buffet.

                                    Shealy's in Batesburg takes effort. I've tried going at different times, but it's ALWAYS crowded and there is usually a 45 minute or more wait. However, their fried chicken is fabulous. See if you can sweet talk one of the waitresses into bringing you some "pulley bones". They have to be hot, and sprinkle a little hot sauce (Texas Pete is on the table, of course) on them and it'll make you smack your grandma.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: fatboysinger

                                      I agree, fatboy, while I'm not a SC bbq fan (eastern NC gal at heart), Maurice's does a fine job for what it is. You get a lot of food for the price, and if you're craving that type of bbq, it doesn't disappoint.

                                      1. re: charlestonfoodiegal

                                        I like Maurices for a sandwich when I get the cravings as well and they have a good sandwich. I am not a hash person but I do love a good brunswick stew on a cold night.
                                        I've heard nothing but good things about Piggy Park, I will have to get out there and try it.

                                        1. re: Bigwill524

                                          Little Pigs on Alpine Rd.... STILL DOING IT RIGHT. The Q there is great, the sauce is minimal, which prevents "hiding" any meat, and the sides are plentiful. More bang for the buck, even after all these years.

                                          1. re: seymourglass

                                            The one of the best pit cooked bbq joints is Schuler's BBQ in Latta, SC. It's located off of I-95 near the NC border. They have a tomato/vinegar sauce, and great liver hash. They're fried corn on the cob is also a favorite. They're only open on Thursdays-Saturdays, 4:30pm-9:00pm. It's a buffet, although you can order takeout. I believe the price is under $10.00, but totally worth it.

                                            419 Hwy. 38 W.
                                            Latta SC 29565
                                            (843) 752-4700

                                    2. Bob, assuming you are not just looking for BBQ...
                                      For Chinese, you MUST go to Miyos on Bower Parkway, just off of Harbison Blvd. The food is always fresh and it is in no way the standard Moo Goo Gai Pan-Fried Rice-Fried Chicken Wings fare. At Miyos, try the Grilled Salmon (comes with a mesculin salad, choice of rice, and garlic green beans), or any of the sushi dishes.

                                      In NE Columbia (and part of the Mr. Friendly's family) there is Solstice Kitchen off Clemson and I-20 and one of my favs--Santorini Grill off of Clemson (turn right) on Hardscrabble Rd.

                                      In Downtown area, Motor Supply and Dianne's on Devine for a good meal.

                                      If you are looking for BBQ, Palmetto Pig and Big T's (only the one on Garner's Ferry) are good and there is/was a place in the Newberry County area called Wise's that was excellent, but I remember having to drive back in the woods somewhere. IMHO, I don't care for Shealy's...the meat is really bland.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Tastefulgirl

                                        I'm sorry, but I'd have to disagree about most of your choices and would hate for someone to visit and try them. Dianne's is completely overrated and terribly bland, ditto for Palmetto Pig and Miyos. Palmetto Pig is adequate, but the new Hudson's Express is just across the river and far tastier. Little Pig's has been great since before I was a kid, and well worth the drive out to Alpine. Chinese in Columbia? Well... I just wouldn't at all, (unless I was craving some sesame noodles, which ARE pretty decent at Miyos...) Who would eat anemic versions of chinese when you could partake in some lovely Korean? Due to Fort Jackson, there are far tastier choices in that department (Obok, Blue Cactus.. and that new one down the street from Obok -name? ).

                                        I also really enjoy the new taqueria Mi Pueblito II in WeCo. (It's similar to the one in Lexington.) Terra on State St. is also new and pretty darn tasty!

                                        1. re: rmskipper

                                          >and that new one down the street from Obok -name?

                                          Sin To Bul Ri, perhaps? In the former New Seoul location.

                                          Gotta agree with you about Dianne's. Have you tried JD Hite's on Dreher Rd. in WeCo? Stop by (Fri./Sat.) and pick up a lb. or 2 of "rib cut" Q. Specify "no loin meat" when you order it.

                                          You mentioned a new taqueria (Mi Pueblito). Where 'bouts in WeCo is it? I need to check it out.

                                          1. re: Cpt Wafer

                                            Yes, that must be the name... since New Seoul was there before. (Oh yeah, Hite's is good too, but requires good timing on my part.... rib cut you say?)

                                            Mi Pueblito is behind the Sonic, next to Calloways.

                                            It's a very simple taqueria where I like to stop for some quick tacos el pastor and a cold glass of horchata. My husband is addicted to the ceviche type tostadas. I've seen people savoring tortas and seafood stews, but I'm a (once small) pregnant lady and the portions are wasted on me. ha!

                                            1. re: rmskipper

                                              >rib cut you say?

                                              No doubt about it. It's right up there with the best BBQ I've ever eaten. If you plan on going you might want to call ahead and reserve some so you won't make a trip and be disappointed. It can go fast. And be sure to tell them you don't want any loin meat with it.

                                              I passed by Mi Pueblito the other day (didn't notice the name) and wondered about it. Sounds like I'm gonna like it. Thanks for the info. Congrats on your happy news! What's the date?

                                      2. I've just moved to Cola & the only meal I've truly enjoyed was at Terra. That was out of this world!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: foodfanatic207

                                          Having moved from Charleston to Columbia, we miss having a large number of great restaurants to choose from, but there are some good choices in Cola for other than barbecue. Hampton Street Vineyard is a great choice. Right downtown near the Marriott. Solstice Kitchen is one of our favorites, though it is out I-20 near Clemson Road-- about 20 minutes from downtown. They have prix-fixe specials on Monday and Tuesday nights, and a good wine list.