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Aug 7, 2003 02:13 PM

good(and cheap) eats in Columbia, SC

  • d

Hi there, out on another business trip away from the sun soaked beaches of Florida. I need to know where to eat in Columbia, SC. I just came back from a wedding trip to Nashville and it was an eating extravaganza. Hog Heaven on West End was great. Rippy's(downtown) was another place I will visit again. Cooker Bar and grill had a cesear salad that was out of this world.

So, I'm looking for some great BBQ joints, seafood, chop houses and anything off the beaten path that is good eats. Please let me know where your favorite places are. Not into anything overly expensive or where I have to part with my beach attire. Thanks.


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  1. Have never eaten there but have heard only good things about Sikes Barbecue south of Columbia on Hwy 376(about 15/20 miles), Sandy's Hotdogs is a local chain that has good, uh, hotdogs (imagine that!), Rush's is another local chain for good burgers, and Maurice Bessinger's Piggy Park Barbecue near Cayce is a Columbia landmark (though controversial in recent years) and is pretty good. Nothing gourmet on this list but good food at reasonable prices.

    1. For fast food, Rush's can't be beat - it's WAY better than the giant corporations. Their milkshakes are awesome and so are their cheeseburgers. All made to order and the real deal.

      Anyway, Lizard's Thicket is excellent for a meat & 3 place & sweet tea- great value, many locations, anyone can tell you where one is. Good Southern food and in my college days, excellent hangover lunch.

      A friend of mine owns a restaurant called 'Birds on a Wire' near 5 points on Devine St. It's very good rotisserie-type food that is pretty cheap.(not just plugging it because he's my friend- it is good)
      Sikes' BBQ isn't anything special in my opinion- and it's a LONG drive. Piggy Park in West Cola. is known for their mustard-based sauces, and it's pretty good BBQ, although there is a lot of controversy about Maurice Bessinger, which I won't get into here. Nothing to do with his food, just his views towards his fellow man.

      Seafood? Don't know about that in Cola. The Vista area on the river has a lot of places where you should be able to find what you're looking for, but might be a little pricey.
      Columbia is kinda devoid of stand-out restaurants in my opinion, but I'm from Charleston and live in Atlanta now, so I'm spoiled.
      Good luck!

      7 Replies
      1. re: mbmusgrove

        Agrre on nearly all points. Rush's is a local burger chain that excells in flat grilled old fashioned burgers with fresh toppings.

        Birds on a Wire is a good simple rotisserie chicken place with fine scenery due to its proximity to the University.

        I like Sikes. I think that their hash rocks. Others have stated that they like the fact that they can getv sliced pork there.

        Years ago there was a place called Dixie Seafood in the Vista that did really good fried seafood, PoBoys, ect.

        I keep hearing good reports about a new Barbeque Place located behind Todd & Moore Sports on Huger Street. The name is escaping me...maybe Palmetto Pig?

        1. re: YourPalWill

          Palmetto Pig It is. Here's a link to a review and site that may be helpful to you.


          1. re: YourPalWill

            Will, what is the name of the brew pub near the State House? Vista? or Harvest? anyway, I remember pretty decent brews & good "pub grub" there. I will throw a third vote in for Birds on a Wire. Too bad the Capitol Cafe is no longer. It would be ideal ":^)
            Stop by Cromer's for the "guaranteed worst peanuts in town". Roasted peanuts just for a snack but not dining.

            1. re: Lan4Dawg

              I believe its Harvet, Lan. Ive never eaten there.

              1. re: Lan4Dawg

                Vista Brewing Co., at the corner of Gervais and Park, two blocks west of the Capitol. Should you find yourself there, cross Gervais St. (going north) and check out the Art Bar. High energy club, unique ambience, great people watching. Cranks up around midnight.

                1. re: Lan4Dawg

                  Where is Cromer's now? I stopped there when I first moved to SC and understand that they had to close the downtown location. I don't get to Columbia often, but would like to pick up some more of the worst peanuts to take back to my family.

                  1. re: debopeep

                    Cromer's has moved out to 1055 Berea Rd. Go out Assembly St., right onto George Rogers Blvd., left onto Bluff Rd, turn left onto Berea Rd. (past Williams-Bryce Stadium and approx. opposite the National Guard Armory), and it will be on your right.

            2. Unlike others, I've found Sikes' not worth slowing down for, much less making a special trip for. Piggy Park is pretty standard central SC mustard-sauced barbecue. It's good and the service is fast and friendly. Much better in my estimation is Hite's. I think it's take out only (it's been a while since my last visit) and it is open only on Friday and Saturday. Awesome pork and hash. Rush's rules the roost for fast food in the Columbia area.

              1. Most of the bbq in central SC is not wood cooked and smoked, but rather gas or electric cooked. For BBQ (not in order of preference):

                Little Pig's, NE Columbia on Alpine Rd, just off Percival; good pulled pork; they bring out the carcass of half the hog in the evening for one to tear off hunks of meat, bone, and skin as preferred; Senior discount; Thurs.-Sat.; around $7 AYCE.

                Maurice's Piggy Park; various places around Columbia; mediocre bbq with a cloying sloppy-sweet sauce; expensive; does cook with wood at W. Columbia location, where all the bbq is cooked for the other locations; not AYCE; breaks the eleventh commandmant - Thou shalt not serve bbq except on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

                Millender's; old frontage road off US 378 at I26 in W. Columbia; hard to get to, now that the frontage road has been "improved" (and ruined their location); good pulled pork bbq, excellent (traditional) hash, small cut up baby ribs, good sides, good fried chicken, bbq chicken suffers from being held in a warmer oven; AYCE around $7-8; Thurs-Sat.; will be sold (and probably closed up altogether) as soon as a buyer is found.

                Big T; shopping center on Garner's Ferry Rd. and on Congaree Rd. near Gadsden. OK bbq, but expensive, hash tastes like canned Castleberry's Brunswick stew; never had the sides; Thur-Sat; not AYCE.

                Sike's; 20 miles east of town on Garner's Ferry Rd; you have other opinions, but I like their sliced pork, since it isn't slopped up with sauce, which is the practice here in the midlands; non-taditional hash, but good; No sides but cole slaw (very good), best-cooked rice in the area; Thur-Sat; single plate or go back for more; $ reasonable; since we lived near there for a while, my now 13-year old cut her teeth at 16 months on hash, rice, and bbq there.

                Palmetto Pig; sucks; tastes canned; breaks the 11th commandment; caters to the lunch crowd of university and state workers. $8.

                John D Hite & Son; Dreher Rd. in W. Columbia; Haven't been there in years (no good excuse) but when I did eat it, the bbq was quite good; take-out only; Fri-Sat only.

                Porky D's; Lexington County at intersection of Old Two Notch Rd (there's a new Two Notch in Richland Cty.) and Emanuel Church Rd. out past W.Columbia; terrible name, but excellent hickory cooked chopped pork bbq, excellent hash, OK ribs, excellent bbq chicken; take-out only, but there are a couple of concrete tables in case one is fainting from hunger; worth the trip; Thu-Sat.

                Oak Grove; Oak Grove Dr right around the Barnyard Flea Market in W. Columbia off US 1; recently reopened (keeps burning down); I've not been to the reopened one, but has really mixed reviews; Thur-Sat.

                Shealy's; US 1 in Leesburg, abt 30 miles W. from Columbia; excellent fried chicken (esp. livers), pulled pork bbq in-house never seems quite as good as their catered bbq; very crowded; breaks the 11th commandment; on Fri and Sat be prepared to stand in line out the door, around the parking lot, and down the street; can't remember the price.

                Jackie Hite's; a couple of blocks on US 1 before you get to Leesville; better bet than Shealy's (no lines); haven't been, but comes highly recommended.

                Farm Boy's; US 76 in Chapin, SC, between the stoplights, on the right just past the old carwash; pulled pork bbq of both mustard-based and vinegar-pepper-a little tomato sauce, very good pulled pork; very good ribs, good sides, except that he puts pineapple in his bbqed baked beans, a form of sacrilege; $8 AYCE; Thur-Sat; well worth the 20 mile trip up I26 from Columbia; one of my 3 favorites, the others being Porky D's, and Little Pig's.

                Caution: all midlands bbq places mix the sauce into the meat.

                There are numerous other bbq places in the midlands, especially in the Gaston-Swansea area (if you are brave enough to go there), but the flagship in the state (some will say the country) is Sweatman's, SC 453 just north of Holly Hill, abt 60 miles SE of Columbia. Unfortunately, Mr Sweatman recently lost his wife and is (as I understand) seriously ill himself. The place is closed until toward the end of August.

                Non bbq: there is a meat-and-3 place called the Lakeside Family Restaurant on SC 6 beyond Irmo - concrete block, grill parallel to the counter on the left, table seating on the right, unisex bathroom in the back, can usually get most of the lunch menu at supper as well, real laid back, pretty good comfort food.

                Hope this helps.

                16 Replies
                1. re: Sandy

                  Sandy: that was a superb report. I have no doubt that many cue-loving hounds will print it out and keep it in the glove box.

                  Question for you: A few years ago me and Mrs. W. had some fine AYCE barbecue at Moree's over near Andrews (birthplace of Chubby Checker). They serve the whole hog: skin, hash, ribs, meat.

                  What do you think of this place? Based on the family of raccoons that was strolling towards the back as we were leaving, I'd say it has a very good local reputation 8>D

                  1. re: Bob W.

                    Bob, what in the world were you doing out in that area? Moree's is still in business, as far as I know, out on Morrisville Rd., north of Andrews. I haven't been there in a donkey's age and don't even remember what kind of sauce they had - perhaps the vinegar-pepper that they use in Kingstree, since it seems to me it's the same county, Williamsburg.

                    BTW, there is supposed to be a new bbq place opening in Lexington out on US 1 across from the high school - supposedly take-out only. It hasn't opened yet, but I'll let you know when it does. Most of the people from Lexington that I know seem to head to Porky D's.

                    1. re: Sandy

                      Sandy: we were in Myrtle Beach and I thought that driving an hour to Moree's was a better use of time than waiting in line at some Calabash-style "Crab legs on buffet" trough. God, do I hate the very thought of those places.

                      Moree's is actually in a tiny hamlet called Bloomingdale. Non-local hounds are almost guaranteed to get lost trying to find it.

                      I seem to recall the chopped pork coming with two different sauces, one mild and one very hot.

                      1. re: Bob W.

                        Bob - Yes, the Myrtle Beach area is pretty much a horrid collection of overfried or overprettied slop, isn't it. Unfortunately, it seems that the Charleston area is heading that way, too. Too many restaurants trying to outdo each other in flash and change, and the really good ones getting squeezed out. I keep reading how, for instance, that hominy grill thing is a great place where the "locals" (how do you identify one?) all go, but I (related to half the city - you know, "Throw a brick and hit a cousin") can't find anyone who has gone there more than once, and didn't think much of it then. Columbia is also tending that way, as you know, and you often have to go out into the surrounding small towns to find anything interesting. A great pity, but there it is.

                        You're one up on me - I only knew Moree's as being "toward Morrisville." I just drove out the Morrisville Rd. till I found it.

                        BTW the second (hot) sauce was probably the typical Kingstree area sauce. Too hot for me.

                        1. re: Sandy

                          Sorry to hear that the Charleston dining scene (at least on the higher end) is showing disturbing trends -- small cities like Charleston, Savannah, Providence, and Portland, Maine, have had some of the most interesting food on the East Coast for a good while now.

                          But your comments about identifying "locals" in Charleston was perfect. On my last visit I was wandering around down near the Battery when someone driving past asked me for directions. I couldn't even tell them what the next street was. If I looked like a local than I would hate to look like a tourist!

                          As for MB, I think it says it all when these AYCE joints think that frozen crab legs from the other side of the country is what their customers want to eat.

                          An old friend of mine who lives in Columbia has always touted Millinder's as being the best in town so I'm sure he is broken-hearted at their impending demise.

                          1. re: Bob W.

                            I talked some to Mrs. Millender on Friday evening, and she said that they wouldn't close until they have a buyer. She also said that she hopes they can find someone who will continue it as a bbq place. If so, she says that she plans to stay and help them until they become established.

                            Unfortunately, it's now on a dead end, with nothing beyond at all. A small Sheraton or some such is next door and is need of parking space, so I'm not very optimistic.

                        2. re: Bob W.

                          Now I've read several things that surprised me on this board, but this takes the cake! Moree's! Talk about obscure and hard to find. I've been there 3 or 4 times and I doubt I could find my way back right now if I had to. And to do it from Myrtle Beach.... How did you go, back to Andrews and then across the Black River to Warsaw? Folks, this place is an hour and change often on 2 lane roads from any place most people would start from, be it Myrtle, Columbia, I95, Charleston... And if any non local Hounds are thinking about trying it, I'd do it when you have alot of daylight 'cause if you get lost at night you might have to wait until morning to find your way out. I always liked their hot by the way...

                          1. re: EP

                            LOL I will take that as a real compliment to my chowhounding instinct. Mrs. W. would vouch for that.

                            IIRC we drove down US 17 to Georgetown, then headed east on another US highway to Andrews, went through Andrews to some railroad tracks, and turned right. Now that you mention it, I do think we crossed that river at least once.

                            However, I must confess that while Moree's may be obscure, I have to give kudos to the Sterns for including it in the 1992 edition of Roadfood, although their inadequate directions didn't prevent us from getting somewhat lost. We had to ask some locals where it was. Without getting into specifics, let's just say that I don't think they ate there much.

                            Anyway, your advice about going when there's plenty of daylight is very good. Those raccoons we saw heading for Moree's back door didn't seem too worried about getting run over out there.

                            1. re: Bob W.

                              I meant to ask how you heard about it, don't think I'm familiar with Stern's. My wife is from Andrews, so it is sort of the 'house' BBQ at her folks place, that is when they didn't get some from 'T-Bone', or Uncle TD when they did a pig. I usually had some in my freezer until I started doing my own. Never thought of recommending the place when people asked 'cause who in the heck would go all the way over there,, that and the fact that I would have no idea how to give directions to the place. Have you (or anyone else) been to Big-D's over in Hemmingway? They also have a place over by Waccamaw Pottery but everything is cooked in Hemmingway.

                              1. re: EP

                                Jane and Michael Stern are a couple from Connecticut who write a column called Roadfood for one of the food magazines and every few years put out a book called Roadfood that is a state-by-state guide to places they like.

                                Moree's appears to be one of their more obscure finds.

                                Now that we have, you know who in the heck would try to find this place -- or at least one such nut!

                    2. re: Sandy

                      Great post Sandy.

                      Aside from Piggy Park and Hite & Son, which spots cook with wood ? Sikes uses charcoal and wood, if I'm not mistaken. I'll have to try the sliced pork. Their chopped doesen't do it for me. Thanks.

                      1. re: Jim

                        Sikes uses gas and possibly charcoal.

                        Porky D's uses only hickory logs burnt down to coals. Chopped pork, mustard-based, carry out only - my favorite in the midlands for pork bbq, although I'd rather have pulled pork. They also serve ribs and chicken. I've not had the chicken, although others say it is really good. The ribs are OK, but not great.

                        Oak grove has reopened - not sure what they use as I haven't been, due to poor recommendations.

                        I went once to Mr Green's on Farrow Rd. He uses charcoal. I ordered the ribs and hash & rice for two. They reached in the refrigerator, took out some ribs, stuck them in the microwave to warm, put them in a cardboard bucket, poured some semi-warm sauce on them, and gave me a container with about a cup and a half of hash and rice. The sauce smelled old. Never, never again.

                        1. re: Sandy

                          Thanks for the reply, Sandy. I wasn't aware that Sikes' is now a gasser. Special thanks for the heads up regarding Mr. Green's !

                          Do you know if Myer's Barbecue at I-77 and US 21 is still operating?


                          1. re: Jim

                            Still listed in the phone book at 10324 Wilson Blvd (which I think is US 21)in Blythewood. Haven't caught that one yet as it's a pretty good distance from home. I'll try it soon and let the bbq hounds know.

                            1. re: Sandy

                              The word from a source that lives in the Blythwood area: Myer's bbq is run by a couple who opened it after he retired. It is apparently akin to the eastern NC bbq or NE SC bbq, although chopped rather than pulled, and a very vinegary, somewhat hot sauce. My source didn't care for it (personal preference due to the vinegar) but felt that it seemed pretty good bbq for those who like that kind.

                      2. re: Sandy

                        Is the Little Pigs BBQ you mention part of the former chain? I've eaten at a couple of those over the years and their version of barbecue was hardly recommendable. Maybe this is an independent place that just has the same name?

                      3. Thanks for all the replies. It sounds like I have a lot of ground to cover for some good eats. That's okay by me. If you're looking for some good eats in Tampa, drop me a line and I hope that I can help. Once again, thanks for everyone's input.

                        Dan in Tampa