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Looking for good eats in Columbia SC

I am in search of the best of the best in Columbia! I am interested in small, family run restaurants that are serving really good, interesting food (doesn't have to be only american - I am willing to try other things!). I am NOT interested in chains or restaurants that have more than one location. I want fresh, made from scratch food in a fun, interesting atmosphere.

Does Columbia have any restaurants like this???

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  1. I've seen you post similar queries about other locales. Are you working on a book or article or other project on this topic? I have to say it is not the way I normally go about thinking about food. I may think to myself, "I'm in the mood for Thai food tonight." But I never think to myself, "I'm in the mood for small, family-run-restaurant-produced food tonight." I don't think I know enough about the ownership and management structures of the restaurants I frequent to know whether they are family-run. How important to you is the family-run aspect (and why is it important)? or is what's most important to you merely that the restaurant is literally "one-of-a-kind" (i.e., non-chain)? If so, there are plenty of non-chain restaurants in Columbia, and some of them serve good food. Your message suggests that the "best-of-the best" restaurants are going to be "family-run" but I don't see why we should think that is true.

    Anyway, in thinking about your question, two places popped into my head as possibly family run (and some quick internet searching confirmed this): Yesterday's and Andy's Deli. Neither of these places serve "really good, interesting food" though. Let's see, what else comes to mind? OK, here are two others. The first is Ela's Market, a polish place. I've eaten their sandwiches and thought they were pretty good. The second is not a restaurant, but a bakery: Heather's Artisan Bakery. Her shop is just a converted house out in West Columbia, but her bread is great, and I believe her husband and her kids help her out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: north2south

      Just a heads-up; Ela's has closed due to illness.

        1. re: Cpt Wafer

          Thanks for the heads-up, Captain.

          Blue Cactus is a good choice. I wonder why Hunter-Gatherer didn't fit their profile, as it seems like it would. What else is there? What about Touch of India? It is family run, and it is very good. Love the dosas!

          1. re: north2south

            Blue Cactus - there's a place that defines a husband-and-wife joint!

            Touch of India is a good family-run joint as well.

            Also, I was sorry to hear about Ela's having to close - besides the good food, they had tons of Eastern European deli items and groceries you can't find anywhere else.

            Thanks Cpt Wafer for the Free Times link about DD&D! I can see Hunter-Gatherer not quite fitting their profile, unfortunately - just because it doesn't quite fit in one of the "DD&D" niches. The food is awesome, the beer rocks, the crowd is just right - has been for 15 yrs! But it doesn't fit as a true "dive" or upgraded "former dive" I guess - seems to be the criteria for the show. I remember when Swensen's Ice Cream was there when I was a kid (circa '82)! ..

            1. re: deibu

              deibu, that Swenson's was our Friday-after-football-games hangout when I was in high school. It was Muldoon's when I was at Carolina.

      1. DJ House
        1807 Decker Blvd.

        Family run Korean Restaurant. Order kimchi jjigae. Enjoy.

        1. It is a shame your requirements are so restrictive because several of Columbia's great restaurants have multiple locations even though they are locally owned family joints.

          1. I would go with Motor Supply Co. Good food and the menu changes daily. As you might have guessed, its in an old Motor Supply Co building. Also, Gervais & Vine has good fun wine and tapas. Hope you enjoy!

            1. Also Mr. Friendly's Southern Cafe in 5 pts has a very interesting and varied menu. Mediterranean Tea Room on Devine St. has fresh, consistent entrees. Hummus, salads, grilled fish or chicken etc.

              1. Baan Sawaan is the place to go for thai. Blue Cactus fits your description perfectly, also. Pierre's and Edna's fit the bill, too.

                1. Real Mexican also fits your description perfectly, and has the most authentic mexican food in Columbia - and that is saying a lot because Columbia is awash in mexican restaurants big and small, gringo and authentic - chains, franchises, and mom and pops.

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: Cpt Wafer

                      Never mind. Found it myself. The name is Real Mexico and it's located on Bush River Rd. close to the I-20 interchange in the former Steak Out location. Gonna check it out soon.

                      1. re: Cpt Wafer

                        I apologize regarding the name. You're right regarding the location.

                  1. Rockaways Athletic Club - awesome burgers and the best fried eggplant on earth. They have a pretty varied menu - not just your standard bar food joint. Here are a couple sites I've found - Rockaways is truely a "local' joint. No signs, never advertising - you have to know where it is.


                    This guy hated the place - http://www.thesmokingmullet.com/news....

                    Another good local joint: Cafe Strudel


                    Food is great, and very nice local atmosphere in the restaurant. Hangover Hashbrowns are dang good.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: atousc

                      I like Rockaways too...great local joint. Also, Edna's is good, Al Amir is family run, and Paul's Philadelphia Eatery-the newer place in the Vista w/the yankee food is good and definately family run...the kids were in there working last time we went. Nonnah's is owned and run by a sweet older couple...and Macdougall's and Blue Marlin are also family run. Off the beaten path about 25 miles is Delamater's in Newberry....awesome food.