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May 3, 2010 05:54 AM

Best Burger, Columbia SC, 2010 and beyond

There's an old best burger thread for Columbia but it is time for an update. If you have some recent discoveries please post them.

I recently visited Pawley's Front Porch on Hardin Street in Five Points. It is certainly a contender for best burger in the area. Apparently they grind the meat there, and so you can order your burger as rare as you'd like. They feature about 10 different burgers with creative combinations of toppings (the Beaufort Burger has fried onion rings, a fried egg, smoked ham, and cheddar; the Wadmalaw Burger has chipotle sauce, bacon, fried pickles, and cheddar; the Edisto burger has goat cheese and caramelized onions, etc. -- see menu pics here: . The burgers are meaty with a slight external char and come with a steak knife stabbed into the top of it, holding the burger and toppings together in a way a mere toothpick would fail to. It's also convenient for slicing your burger in half to make it more manageable to eat and check to see if its cooked properly. Really quite good, with good, homemade fries, too.

I also had a great burger at Cock n' Bull once, but I haven't been back and apparently they are closed and moving to a new location. I hope their burger returns.

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    Actually, that "old" post has plenty of current responses. Pawley's is okay, and a fun place to go, but the truth is that their burgers are good, not great.

    6 Replies
    1. re: UrDaddy

      Here is another one:

      You may get the idea that I am a Pawley's hater. Not so. It's just not that good.

      I haven't tried the Cock n' Bull burger, but I will give that one a go when they re-open in their brand-new location on Rosewood Drive.

      My Columbia-area burger quest has taken me to some new spots lately. Here are some surprise spots for truly great burgers nearby, but definitely off the beaten path:

      This is a nearly perfect burger, and for my money, it's the best in the Columbia area. If they would properly season the burger, and grind their beef in-house, Murray's would be nearly impossible to beat. It's in Cayce, just off of I-26, and not far from I-77. Maybe 10 minutes from downtown Columbia.

      It's a bar. In Lexington. Near the Lake Murray Dam. The food in general is not great. In fact, most of it isn't even good. Baby boomer bikers descend on it every weekend like it's a Deep South Sturgis, but never mind all of that. The burgers are truly outstanding, and the beer is *cold*.

      Okay, so this one is way, way off the beaten path. In fact, the path is barely even a path - but it's still only 15 min. from downtown Columbia in a safe residential area. I tried this place for the first time today, and I am very glad that I did. Packed with folks who had driven from downtown, this little spot is a revelation. Really excellent burgers. Steamed kaiser buns. Homemade ice cream, to boot.

      1. re: UrDaddy

        Thanks for these recommendations! I look forward to checking them out.

        1. re: UrDaddy

          I had lunch at Murray's today. The appearance of this unassuming restaurant, located in a strip mall anchored by a Bi-Lo, says "mediocre." Once you enter the restaurant, it takes your eyes a while to adjust to the darkness. As they do, you might see a sign letting you know that the restaurant regularly holds concealed weapon permit classes -- just in case the food and ambience aren't enough to draw you in.

          How about the food? I was tempted by the fried chicken special, which is offered five days a week -- so while it may not be special, at least it must be popular. But I couldn't deviate from the plan to try their burger, as it was so enthusiastically suggested by UrDaddy.

          And? The burger is good folks. Very good. First, they cook it right: I asked for medium rare, and it came out medium rare. Second, it is generously sized. Third, it is juicy with a good meaty flavor.

          Like UrDaddy, I found the burger somewhat underseasoned. I also thought the toppings could be improved. For example, the cheeseburger comes with what looks like an unwrapped kraft single of American cheese on it. Apart from pimento cheese (which I did not try), there are no other cheese options. The french fries are factory-freezer fries: boring!

          Does Murray's make a better burger than Pawley's? I'll have to go back to Pawley's to check. What Pawley's has going for it, though, in addition to having good burgers, is quite a bit of interesting, high-quality toppings. Plus, their fries are great.

          All told, I was very glad to make my way to Murray's and I see myself returning. Kudos to UrDaddy for the recommendation. Discovering this out-of-the way, nondescript, restaurant is truly living up to the Chowhound ideal.

          1. re: north2south

            Hilarious faint praise for Murray's, there, north2south. I am a fan.

          2. re: UrDaddy

            At long last I made it to the Backyard Cafe for lunch. It is a charming, clean, and well-kept little restaurant with very friendly service. It is a bit far away. Too bad they don't have a branch in Five Points. I ordered the Backyard Burger. To order it medium rare (as I did), I had to sign a form saying I would not hold them responsible for any ills that befell me as a result of my failure to order an overcooked burger. Really. (Fortunately, you only have to sign this form once, and you are good to go on all subsequent visits.)

            The burger was delicious! Thank you, UrDaddy, for the recommendation. The full meaty and really juicy flavorfulness of a Murray's burger, if not better, but with quality toppings: real cheddar, both grilled and raw onions, sauteed mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, a little mayo. It was so juicy that to put ketchup on it would have been a gross abuse. Fries are good but not great. Homemade ice cream is a rarity in the Columbia area, so it was a treat to try some. I liked the banana pudding ice cream and thought the coconut creme ice cream was very good. I look forward to trying their sweet potato crunch ice cream on a subsequent visit.

            So where does this leave things? I think Backyard Cafe beats Murray's and poses a strong challenge to my current burger favorite, C'n'B. The place is definitely worth the drive from downtown.

            1. re: north2south

              I tried C'n'B about two Saturdays ago: very good burgers. I like having great beer on tap to accompany my burger, too. Footie on the television; friendly neighborhood joint. What's not to like? To be honest, I was not a fan of the fries, but that's, um ... small potatoes.

        2. So I finally made it into Davis', the restaurant that took over the space from the old Cock n' Bull (on Rosewood), and tried their burger, which they call the "Stuffed Chuckwagon." It is so called because the cheese is on the inside of the burger. I don't think putting the cheese on the inside does much for the burger, frankly. It is not bad, but it doesn't add anything. Overall, the burger was pretty good. It was cooked as I asked--medium rare--and topped with bacon, greens, fried onions, and tomato. It was juicy. The flavor of the burger was good but could be meatier tasting, and it was a bit overwhelmed by the char on the bun. I appreciate that they buttered and grilled the bun, but they overdid something, making its flavor too assertive. Overall, I'd say this burger is worth trying, but needs some refinements. It comes with pretty good homemade fries, and they have a good selection of beers on tap.

          The only place I could find the menu online is at Facebook, here:

          By the way, there is a rumor going around that Cock n' Bull is finally open in its new location (about 1/2 a mile down the road from its old one). True?

          1. Folks, I believe we may have a winner for best burger in Columbia. Not all of the votes are in, and not all of the burgers have been sampled*, but it is going to be hard to beat Cock n' Bull. They serve a generously sized burger, meaty and juicy, topped with melted cheese, greens, bacon, chopped red onions, a slice of tomato, and some mustard, cooked to order. Delicious.

            The restaurant recently re-opened at its new location at the corner of S.Edisto and Rosewood. They may just be open for lunch at this point. They are still doing some work on it, it isn't much to look at, I had to send back my first burger for being overcooked, and it doesn't look like they have the full bar up and running yet. But the main event is the menu: high quality versions of pub fare, with nods to those who don't eat at pubs. They have a few vegetarian items that look good, for example, and a shrimp burger I will try out next time, along with wings, cheesesteaks, po'boys, salads, grits, and other goodies.

            In my judgment I think CnB's burger is better than both Murray's and Pawley's. And while the folks at CnB don't go in for exotic toppings like Pawley's, they certainly outdo the mediocre banality of what Murray's puts on their burgers. That was some very good bacon on my CnB burger, thank you very much, and some very green greens. It was great.

            Unfortunately I can't comment on the fries. There are a variety of available sides there, and I opted for the bowl of cheesy, creamy, delicious grits.

            You can see why I won't be needing dinner.

            *I am especially interested in an up-to-date report on Hunter Gatherer's burger offering, and I have to check out UrDaddy's other recommendations.

            6 Replies
            1. re: north2south

              I'm new here in Columbia and dearly LOVE a good burger. Have tried Pawley's and found them to be wonderful. However, I just stumbled across this web site last night and would like to share. Would like to know what the real locals on this board have to say about these folks' picks


              1. re: Proud2BWLVRebel

                Welcome to Columbia and thanks for sharing that website -- it looks like a useful resource. Of the places mentioned on that cheeseburger crawl post, I've only been to Rush's and Rockaway. The former is just "eh," -- slightly better than your standard fast food burger but not as good as a place like Five Guys. The latter had a great reputation but I was disappointed. I'd like to try the Mousetrap Restaurant (despite its name) and Edna's.

                1. re: north2south

                  Edna's is an experience. It is a perfect ramshackle hot dog stand, with good reports regarding the burgers. I would suppose that the burgers are similar to what you might find at What-a-Burger in West Columbia, or even at Rush's.

                  1. re: north2south

                    Tried the Edna's burger last week. It's really quite good, but it pales in comparison to the utter perfection that is the Edna's hot dog.

                    1. re: UrDaddy

                      Even though the Mousetrap is only a few blocks from me, I haven't tried it yet, but will do so sometime this week. In the meantime I've also been looking for the best hot dog in the city. LOL I love comfort food. Tried a place out on Two Notch that I think is called Jimmy's Market? It's a gas station/convenience type store that sells dogs and even has a small sitting area. The chili dogs were good, but they were boiled/steamed. However at $1.88 a piece they were still pretty good. Even better were Lulu's, which is on Devine. Their dogs were grilled, and were very good. I've seen ads for Sandy's and will probably try them next. Any other suggestions? Oh and as I said I just moved here from Alabama and it is SO refreshing not to live in a "chain city" In Montgomery you've got your basic BK, MCD, Wendy's, Taco Bell, etc., on every corner, and for more "high class" dining there is also a Ruby Tuesday's on every corner, literally. I am so enjoying the huge choice of locally owned establishments, or small Carolina chains previously unknown to me.

                      1. re: Proud2BWLVRebel

                        Jimmy's is pretty great. Hot dogs and catfish stew!

                        Lulu's is ok. Sandy's is good, too. I worked for Sandy's when I was a teenager, and they are clean, efficient, and serve good hot dogs. The Sandersons are nice folks who are deserving of your patronage.

                        Edna's is the perfect old fashioned hot dog stand, but the neighborhood gives some folks the willies. I go there all the time, and I've never had a problem. It's maybe 5 minutes from downtown, too. Edna's is without a doubt my favorite. Burgers are pretty good too. They'll put a fired egg on your burger if you ask.

                        Another really cool option for hot dogs is the ancient country store Dooley's Grocery on Two Notch Rd. in Lexington. Super nice folks who run a tiny (and I mean tiny) lunch counter. On the menu: hot dogs and also bologna sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, served on wax paper. Love it.

              2. I walked by Hunter Gatherer today. One of their lunch specials was a beef and pork burger topped with ESB cheese and duck confit! (Pork by Caw Caw Creek, of course.)

                I am sad to report that I failed in my Chowhoundly duties and was unable to try it out. I hope to have it another day.

                3 Replies
                1. re: north2south

                  H.G. has very good burgers but I go there for the ESB they brew in-house.

                  Pawley's burgers make me happy - try the onion rings!

                  Edna's is to be experienced. Looks sketchy but quite safe. They're known for hot dogs; burgers are good old-fashioned sloppy sandwiches. Fries are fine. Fried chicken, only time I ordered it, was strangely sweet - I do not recommend yard bird here.

                  Along the same line is Zesto's - N. Main St. or in the W. Columbia Triangle. Similar food as Edna's, but the chicken is YUM.

                  Salty Nut has good hamburgers. My husband loves Rush's - eh, ok. Rockaway's is a fun sort of place with cold beer and lots of bar-food choices, but def. not my favorite burger.

                  I haven't tried Cock and Bull's hamburgers yet, but it's a nice little place with good selection of cold beer and fun atmosphere.

                  Thirsty Fellow, fairly new on the scene, does a pretty good hamburger with an excellent bar and good service.

                  Salty Nut Cafe
                  2000 Greene St, Columbia, SC 29205

                  2620 College St, Newberry, SC 29108

                    1. re: SweetPea

                      Extra Special/Strong Bitter. It's a beer. H.G. Burgers are good. They generally go the extra yard where they can (toast the bun, better cheese, quality meat, etc.) which I like a lot and appreciate.

                      You CAN get a burger at Edna's, but you must always get a hot dog first.

                  1. I went to Henry''s after seeing they got a nod in Southern Living magazine's article on best burgers. I got the Henry’s Signature burger with imported red dragon cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and onions, with lettuce and tomato. Indeed juicy, on a knot roll (no? then what is it?... sorry) that held together through the last bite, which is quite an accomplishment. It was a good burger but I think what I'm missing is the 'grilled over charcoal" flavor. I would have had the sugar omitted from my sweet potato fries had I known that was coming. Tthe service was good and the decor is nice, open, lends itself to televised sports events - looked like a big screen projector mounted on the ceiling. And the menu you can judge for yourself at the website. Nice little neighborhood space.