I love a good weekday lunch date alllllmost as much as I love a weekend brunch, especially after working from home the last few years. The more my business grows, the more I am finding myself either downtown looking for a quick bite after a meeting or a nice place to meet friends or clients for lunch. I put together this list of some of the best local restaurants for lunch in Columbia based on my experiences. I would love to hear from you where we should try next.
- Spotted Salamander (Downtown Historic District) $ | Patio- A local favorite for every foodie in town. Led by SC Ambassador Chef, Jessica Shillato, you can expect unique daily specials, gourmet salads, sandwiches, deviled eggs, and decadent desserts. Pro tip: follow her Instagram for daily specials & don’t miss fried chicken Tuesday and burger Thursdays.
- Gourmet Shop (Five Points) $ | Patio- One of the best bang for your buck lunches you can get and my favorite soup and salad combo in Columbia. Their red pepper tomato bisque is so good and I love to enjoy lunch on their patio on a nice day. Don’t forget to check out the shop and buy something local to South Carolina while you’re here.
- smallSugar (The Vista) $ | Patio- This bakery and cafe not only has delicious lattes and treats all day, but a wonderful lunch menu. From health conscious bowls and tartines to a delicious turkey melt, plus a seat on their patio makes for the perfect day date.
- DiPratos Deli (Downtown-ish) $- Some say DiPratos has the best pimento cheese in Columbia, and I can confirm that it is pretty dang good. No matter how you like it, they certainly have the most variety of pimento cheeses along with a full cafe menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches.
- Cafe Strudel (West Columbia) $ | Patio- Southern eats with breakfast & brunch options all week long. You won’t find a better egg scramble in town than their hangover hash browns, but they have healthy options too.
- Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli (Devine Street) $ | Patio – If you’re the kind of person that always wants something sweet at the end of your meal, you will love CRD. Every entrée comes with a mini cinnamon roll, but don’t let that detour you from ordering one of their jumbo specialties.
Fast & Casual Lunch in Columbia
Counter Serve Quick Eats
- Drakes Duck-In (Main Street District) $ – Rumor has it that the duck in has the best fried chicken sandwich EVER… we agree, but another show stopper on the menu is the fried wings. OMG I dream about them. Drake’s is one of the oldest restaurants in Columbia and it is a little bit of a dive, but their construction plans this year are really going to make it shine.
- Noma Bistro (North Main) $ | Patio- If I had to choose a favorite Mediterranean spot in town, it would probably be here. I love their gyros and they low key have incredible personal pizzas.
- Boca Grande Burritos (Forest Acres) $ | Patio- A cute counter-serve spot for jumbo burritos that are packed full of flavor. You can build your own or make a bowl or salad for a lighter option as well.
- Fusion Cocina Latina (Decker) $- I love trying new places out and wanted to try Fusion for the longest time. Their birria tacos and empanadas were SO good, we will be back to try more.
- Family Fresh Mex (Main Street District) $ – I truly miss little hole in the wall taco stands like this in Texas. From breakfast tacos to tortas, enchiladas, and street foods, this casual dive is a must visit for a quick bite downtown.
- Freshe Poke (Forest Acres) $- A “chipotle style” build your own poke bowl so you can get just what you like. I love a tuna and salmon bowl with avocado, rice, greens, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.
- Dukes Pad Thai (Cayce) $- Attainable Thai street food like soups, curry, dumplings, tacos, and the best Pad Thai in town. Expect large portions with choose your own protein and spice levels. Personally I like the red curry, basil noodles, Pad Thai, chicken tacos, ok a lot of things, just no cilantro for me!
- No Name Deli (Downtown) $ – Yes that’s really its name! This local gem is full of flavorful sandwiches, salads, and specials for low prices.
Full Service Casual Eats
- Village Idiot Pizza (Forest Acres or Whaley) $ | Patio- a jumbo pizza slice and a Greek salad for lunch? Yes please. That is the ultimate balance for me, or just grab a whole pie and take some home for later. I mean, who doesn’t love leftover pizza?
- Cantina76 (Main Street District) $ | Patio- A great Mexican spot on Main Street to people watch and have a sit-down but casual lunch. And a few margaritas never hurt.
- Crave Artisan Market (Millwood) $- I have only been here once, but it is always packed and a neighborhood favorite for no frills salads and sandwiches.
- Mediterranean Tea Room (Divine Street) $- Another great Greek option for lunch that is loved by locals. Delicious kebabs and yellow rice, but their hummus and Greek salad did nothing for me.
- Midwood Smokehouse (Cross Hill) $- BBQ can be a little heavy for lunch, but Midwood has delicious salads. Their mac & cheese is so cheesy that I can hardly resist ordering it when we go.
Business Lunch in Columbia
- Tazza Kitchen (Forest Acres) $$ | Reservations | Patio- One of my favorite brunches in town that also has a great wood fired lunch & dinner menu. Plus if you’re celebrating, their cocktails are always on point.
- Halls Chophouse (Main Street District) $$$ | Reservations | Patio- One of Columbia’s finest restaurants with a wide range of options from southern fare to steaks and salads.
- Hampton Street Vineyard (Main Street District) $$ | Reservations | Patio- A dreamy spot downtown for French fare and impeccable service.
- Tiffany’s Meeting Place (Two Notch) $ | Patio- This bakery is not just a stop for sweet treats, but also indulgent savory lunches like hot pressed sandwiches and stacked burgers that will melt in your mouth.
- Blue Marlin (The Vista) $$ | Reservations | Patio- A popular seafood legend in the community with award winning shrimp & grits, fried seafood, salads, sandwiches and fresh catches.
- California Dreaming (Downtown-ish) $$ | Reservations– A long time lunch favorite set in a historic train station known for their salads and buttery croissants.
- Market on Main (Main Street District) $$ | Reservations | Patio- Airy cafe and market with a massive patio and unique sandwich options.
- Motor Supply (The Vista) $$ | Reservations | Patio- Farm to table daily chef selections with an upscale feel.
You might also like: Best Brunch Restaurants in Columbia, SC
I also realized making this list that I don’t have but one BBQ recommendation, which in the South is almost sinful. Where is your favorite BBQ spot in town? Other places on my list to try for lunch in Columbia: Little Duck Tree House, Pitas, Main Course, Momma Rabbits, Sandwich Depot, The Strudel Shop, Smoked, Henrys, 1801 Grille.
All opinions are my own.