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Mar 2, 2008 07:23 PM

Columbia SC best burger - Hunter Gatherer

Since the closing of Blue Dog and Eddie's, I have decided that HG's burger is the best in town. (MUCH better than Rockaway's.)

They provide choices for toppings - I love the blue cheese. Served with crispy hash browns. Yum! Wash it down with their ESB home brew. Add their unique atmosphere and you've got a real winner. Service is fine, too.

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  1. Jeez, that was my grad-school trifecta.... Rupert's, Eddie's, and Hunter Gatherer. Though good to hear Hunter Gatherer is still open, I guess. Eddie's burger with the sauteed onions was one of the best things in town.

    And oh, Egg Roll Station... which wasn't always that great, but defniitely unique. Can't forget Lizard's Thicket for breakfast. And Piggy Park for Columbia-only mustard BBQ.

    6 Replies
    1. re: jlw2000

      Oh man, jlw, your post brought back some memories. I hadn't thought of the Egg Roll Station in ages...we always used to get the Samurai Shrimp. They used to give you a TON of food, too.

      I know Piggy Park is a Columbia institution, but I've never been able to wrap my mind around that mustard BBQ. :-(

      1. re: Suzy Q

        @ jlw2000: Is Egg Roll station still around?
        @ Suzy Q: I don't know why Piggy Park is an institution, since Mustard BBQ is definitely inferior to Vinegar-Pepper BBQ...! But seriously, do you have any recommendations for V-P BBQ in Cola? I like Ray's in Mount Pleasant, SC, but it's a bit of a drive.

        1. re: proclusian

          Well, I know you didn't ask me, but since I'm a native, I hope you don't mind my input...
          (1) Egg Roll Station --- Everyone I know still calls it "Egg Roll Station", but they changed the name to "Egg Roll Chen" about 10 years ago. Still open - it's right by the K-Mart where Devine St. becomes Garners Ferry. Same ownership - supposedly they changed the name because there was (and still is) an unrelated place called "Egg Roll Station" in West Columbia.

          They tore down the old Hardee's bldg. a couple of years ago and rebuilt, but it hasn't changed. Same menu, same speedy service and the owner is still always there - he's definitely made the restaurant the success it has become. Pretty much every order is out of the kitchen in less than 4 mins. Lots of employees in and out of the kitchen, waiting on lots of customers. I think the new place even has a drive-thru. The food is run-of-the-mill American Chinese restaurant fare - not anything exceptional - but the it is quick, consistent in quality and tasty. I recommend the unusual egg rolls and the steamed dumplings...

          (2) I enjoy mustard BBQ. I grew up going to Piggy Park, but I don't go there anymore for the same reasons many others avoid it.

          But, mustard BBQ inferior to V&P? That's sacrilege! Shhh... Don't tell anybody, but I definitely prefer V&P too. And, so do my parents, who are also Columbia natives....

          Seriously though, I gotta tell ya - there is NO good V&P BBQ in Columbia. My recommendation would be to definitely take the drive to Brown's BBQ in Kingstree, in Williamsburg County! In the Pee Dee area; it's about 1hr 30 min away from Columbia via 378 (to Sumter) and then a SC highway road... That's the home of vinegar-and-pepper barbecue in SC and I've found no comparison within the state. There is "Momma Brown's" in Mt. Pleasant and it is owned by a member of the "Brown's BBQ" family from Kingstree... Momma Brown's and Ray's are pretty decent, but they do not compare to what you can find in Kingstree! There is also a good V&P BBQ in Hemingway (also in Williamsburg Co.) which I've heard is good as well.

          1. re: deibu

            Thanks deibu! Btw, to post a link I posted over on the BBQ question, there is a South carolina BBQ competition once yearly, called Q Cup. I went last year when it was held in Lexington. Next march, it is on Hilton Head. The link is: http://www.carolinaqcup.com/

            1. re: deibu

              Browns!!!!!! You got that right. Best ribs around, too. I've been to Memphis a couple of times, and althought intrigued by their dry rub. It was NOT THE SAME. Browns has the best ribs. BTW, that ketchup stuff they serve in Memphis? Blecht!

        2. re: jlw2000

          If you're only looking for lunch, the Palmetto Cafe (or whatever its called) across from the YMCA on Sumter has a rocking Pimento Burger for 4 bucks.

        3. Rockaway's has lost it completely since the fire and re-building a few years ago. I used to have good luck for burgers at the Mouse Trap (the bar in the office bldg off of Forest) and Keg O' Nails. Both places would cook a nice medium-rare burger for me. I haven't been to the Mouse Trap in a few years (not exactly a destination). Keg O' Nails is a few blocks from me, but it closed down recently...

          I've known a few chefs, bartenders and waitresses from H-G... Never tried the burger though, in 12 yrs! Need to try that next time! Usually I stick to the great beers, the gyro or the black-bean dip.

          8 Replies
          1. re: deibu

            I've never tried the H-G burger either (only been here 2 years), but their food generally pleases me, especially that curry catsup that accompanies the brat. it's the closest thing to curry sauce that I can find when not in Germany, though the caw-caw creek bratwurst are coarse and not fine, but very tasty though (I don't mean coarse as an insult but as a translation of "grob," vs. "fein"). As are many of the salads. One could only wish that they would be open for lunch, even with a limited menu!

            Good burgers in my limited Cola experience are the burger at Goatfeathers when it's done medium-rare (emphasis on rare), the burger at the Salty Nut (that one I'll order medium), and, if chains are allowed to get a mention, then of course 5 Guys, which has been in Cola about 1 year, makes a very good burger.

            I usually just get grilled onions and cheese on any one of those, so it's more about a classic cheeseburger for me. Never tried Rockaway's.

            1. re: proclusian

              I was in Columbia for the first time this past summer (drove over from a wedding in Augusta). I ate at Groucho's and Rockaway’s in the short time that I was there. One of the college kids told me about Groucho’s and the guys at Britton’s told me about Rockaway’s. I had the pimento cheeseburger and pimento cheese fries at Rockaway’s. I was disappointed with Rockaway’s atmosphere and the food was just ok. I loved the atmosphere in Groucho’s and thought the Apollo and the formula “45” were great.
              I will be back in Columbia for the AR vs. USC game Nov. 8. I wanted some suggestions for food and activities at all hours. We get into town Friday afternoon, leave for Charleston Sunday afternoon and fly back to Arkansas Tuesday.
              Thanks in advance.

              1. re: hawgs

                Food Suggestions:
                +Try the Hunter-Gatherer on Main Street south of the capitol building for dinner. They open at 4 and usually fill up on a Friday pretty quickly, but you should be able to get a table if you arrive by 6 or, if you like to eat late, come after 8--I think the kitchen is open until 10 if I'm not mistaken. According to some who've posted above, their hamburger is good. I've never tried it. I like the Brat with Curry Sauce (really a sort of Catsup commonly put on Brats in parts of Germany), all the salads are winners, and if they have a cheese plate on the specials board it's usually something interesting. I think they are closed on Sundays, but open all other days.
                +If you want to spend a bit more than at H-G, Mr. Friendly's is almost always a good bet. I like the pork with blackberry catsup and the grits there are the best restaurant grits I've ever had in Columbia (northerner who ate his first grits less than 3 years ago speaking here so take that with a grain of salt). But if you like grits, there are several menu options (either the catfish, the blackened chicken, or the shrimp), and they all come with grits.
                +Two doors down from Mr. Friendly's there is a new place, The Cellar on Greene which is apparently a project of the same people who own Friendly's. I've only been there once (on the first night they were open to the public) but it's a nice place. I wouldn't try to get a full meal there, but it's a great place to go if you want to sit and try some wines and their food menu has little 'amuse bouche'-sized plates which you order from a menu. Little tiny plates with just a few bites of, say, tuna tartar, or a tiny offering of fois gras, or roast pork. Just little things to nosh on while you're trying some different wines. I'm not saying the food is bad, because it's really good--it's just that the wine is taking center stage there.
                +If you prefer beer to wine I would test the taps either at the Flying Saucer or over on Rosewood Street try the taps at The Cock and Bull. The latter is a soccer pub, but they've got about 20 taps and they're all pretty interesting. The food I can't speak to except for the steak salad, which I found to be pretty tasty.
                +Down in Five Points there are two weekend brunch places, I suppose... Columbians don't really seem to brunch in earnest, at least not like folks in some cities do, but try Adrianna's for a very capable bacon/eggs/hashbrowns/toast platter (as long as the chef can control his black-pepper use on the hashbrowns), or I like the Bagel/Smoked Salmon platter over at The Gourmet Shop. But watch out for the GS's "fresh-squeezed" OJ... it's not, really, and they should stop calling it that.
                +Hard to say, unless we know what you normally like to do...?

                1. re: proclusian

                  Thanks for the advice. It looks like we will be arriving in Columbia a little later than expected (11:00, thanks northwest air for the flight change). The football game go moved to 1:30 so we will be up early for bloody marys and breakfast then off to tailgate.
                  Postgame activites will include a trip to HG. I just spoke with them and they are open late. Then it will be out on the town.
                  We will probably check out Adrianna's for brunch before we head to Charleston sunday morning.
                  Thanks for the color proclusian it has been a big help.

              2. re: proclusian

                Rockaways has been serving Burgers for twenty plus years plus other neighborhood
                pub food. They have classic cheese burgers etc...but you need to taste their club sandwich and their wings. Unbelieveable! Great Oyster bar, too and shrimp! The burgers are not fancy, just juicy BIG and tasty!

              3. re: deibu

                you can't go wrong with Rockaway's and as for beers they have more imports than anywhere else! Great Oyster bar, too! Great Shrimp Po boy sandwich! As a matter of fact they even have a extensive wine list and I have never found 25 year old scotch anywhere else in Clumbia!

                1. re: onalark

                  I will look into it when i am there. I understand that it has lost some of the character since the fire.

                  1. re: hawgs

                    It's definitely not the same as it used to be, but the burgers are still pretty good.

              4. I was surprised - shocked really - at how good the burgers are at the Dam Bar and Grill on Highway 6 in Lexington, near the Lake Murray, uh, Dam. It's kind of a baby-boomers-pretending-to-be-Hell's-Angels kind of place, and I can't recommend anything other than the burger, but it was excellent. It's better than Hunter-Gatherer (which is a much cooler scene), Rockaway's, Salty Nut, and even 5 Guys. I haven't been to Goatfeather's in years, so I can't speak to that one. Rockaway's burgers don't really belong on the list anymore., but the other places are solid.

                1. Hunter Gatherer is a great spot but I am shocked that no one has mentioned Pawley's front porch yet! This truly is the best burger in Columbia..maybe one of the best burgers I've had. The burgers are a little off the wall and designed with a region in mind. For example the Fripp Island burger is topped with southern salsa, boursin cheese, and a fried green tomato. A big plus is the 8oz burgers are ground and pattied in house. A must for any great burger joint. Try the fried oysters, pickles, and fish tacos if your not in the mood for a burger. I could (and did for a while) eat at this tasty culinary destination a few times a week.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: foodnbeer24

                    Don't be shocked, foodnbeer24. Nearly all of the posts on this thread are from 2008. Pawley's Front Porch just opened up, what, half a year ago? Here is a more recent thread on burgers in Columbia: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705459

                    1. re: north2south

                      Pawley's Front Porch - they have very interesting burgers, but not necessarily great burgers. It's a fun place to go, but don't expect to have the best burger of your life at Pawley's.