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Feb 20, 2003 09:31 PM

No Chowhounds in Columbia, SC????

  • b

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.