Best Restaurants

Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Columbia dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Columbia Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.

10 Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar
Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar is ideal for a business dinner or a date -- when you want to impress, this is a fantastic choice. The menu has a little something for everyone, with starters, small plates, and full-size main courses. Standouts have included pan-seared scallops in preserved lemon-sage brown butter with spinach-walnut ravioli, a petit filet mignon with fried green tomato, goat cheese and bacon-tomato confit, whiskey-brined double pork chop, and lobster risotto. The wine list is extensive, and has earned the restaurant a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Numerous by-the-glass options. (803-788-6966)

9 Hennessy's Restaurant and Lounge
For some 20 years, Hennessy's has been the de facto fine dining establishment in town. Although the elegant setting is ideal for special occasions, it's popular for business dinners and "just because" meals as well. The expertly prepared American Continental cuisine includes a few Southern-style options -- you might start with oysters Rockefeller, escargot en croute or she crab soup, and move on to prosciutto and goat cheese-stuffed veal chops, grouper Hennessy (crusted with almonds and herbs), shrimp Creole or seared scallops with pumpkin risotto. (803-799-8280)

8 Saluda's
Housed in a carefully renovated historic VFW officers club, augmented with an 1800s mahogany bar and a gorgeous 1915 Schomacker grand piano, Saluda's is elegant and sophisticated. The chefs focus on Southern and Continental dishes, frequently tweaking favorites for a more modern presentation. Try oysters Rockefeller bruschetta, fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and a balsamic reduction, seared scallops with tomato-saffron sauce and white truffle risotto, or blackened chicken with SC peach and honey marmalade. Perfect for a swanky Sunday brunch, too. (803-799-9500)

7 Motor Supply Company Bistro
Motor Supply was the first restaurant to open in the revamped Vista district -- a couple of decades in the business has only strengthened its reputation as a great place for a casually upscale meal. Menus change twice daily but usually include a grilled steak or two plus dishes such as house-brined pork chops, Dijon-fried eggplant over spinach and artichoke hearts, steamed mussels, and sautéed shrimp with ham and grits. Their wine list has garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and their Sunday brunch is among the best in town. (803-256-6687)

6 Mr. Friendly's New Southern Café
Southern cooking has a few trademark dishes, and Mr. Friendly's, under the same ownership as Solstice and Gervais & Vine, excels with a more upscale, occasionally innovative version of the classics. Crab cakes are pecan-crusted and served with fried dill pickles and sherry-cayenne mayo, a grilled filet mignon is wrapped in bacon and topped with pimiento cheese, and blackened chicken comes with either tasso ham sauce or Creole andouille sauce. Waits attest to the popularity of the place, but never fear -- a microbrew or glass of wine from the award-winning list will help pass the time. (803-254-7828)

5 Dianne's on Devine
Long considered one of Columbia's top tables, Dianne's admirably maintains its contemporary, upscale ambience and varied menu, making it a popular destination for local deal-makers. Start with an antipasto platter for two, and then enjoy linguine with clam sauce, fettuccine Alfredo, or eggplant parmesan. Try trout picatta, chicken cacciatore or crab-stuffed filet mignon as your main course. Movers and shakers gather in the lounge (which features live music nightly) to see and be seen. (803-254-3535)

4 Ruth's Chris Steak House
The signature Ruth's Chris sizzle is in full evidence at this respected chain's Columbia outpost. Notable for prime steaks, upscale decor, elegant but relaxed ambience, first-rate service, and an impressive wine list, the restaurant is ideal for business dinners and special occasions. You truly can't go wrong with anything on the menu, from shrimp cocktail and crab-stuffed mushrooms to broiled rib-eyes or chocolate sin cake. An exceptional meal from start to finish. (803-212-6666, 800-544-0808)

3 Gervais & Vine
Gervais & Vine is a trendy spot offering dozens of by-the-glass wines, a broad array of beers, and a fine selection of single malts and other liquors. Satiate hunger with a few of the 30 or so hot and cold tapas, such as seared scallops, petite filet mignon with feta and balsamic reduction, grilled sausage, Spanish asparagus, bruschetta, spiced almonds, marinated manchego, olives, or smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and capers. Or try a stone-baked gourmet pizza instead. (803-799-8463)

2 Terra
Upscale and stylish, with exposed brick and a warm color palette, Terra has developed a following among local foodies who appreciate the cooking and the setting. Chef Mike Davis takes a seasonal approach to New Southern cooking, creating notable dishes such as roasted South Carolina quail stuffed with apple and foie gras, crawfish orecchiette, shrimp remoulade, seared scallops with succotash, BBQ lamb-stuffed mac and cheese gratin, plus a handful of gorgeous and unusual little wood-fired pizzas. Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence. (803-91-3443)

1 Garibaldi's of Columbia
Five Points might not come immediately to mind for old-school fine dining, but that's exactly what you'll find at Garibaldi's. Expect classic Italian dishes, careful service, and an elegant Art Deco setting complete with jazzy background music -- it's ideal for business dinners or dates. The regular menu includes tasty and traditional pastas, seafood, beef and chicken, but the daily specials are usually a step up and worth exploring. Great wine list, too. (803-771-8888)

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Maps and Directions

Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Wine Cellar
Neighborhood: Columbia Northeast
COST: $$
Hennessy's Restaurant and Lounge 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Cigar Friendly, Group Friendly, Parties / Private Rooms, Smoking (bar only)
Neighborhood: Downtown
COST: $$
Saluda's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Group Friendly, Live Music, Parties / Private Rooms, Smoking (outdoor area)
Neighborhood: Five Points
COST: $$
Motor Supply Company Bistro 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Smoking (bar only)
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
COST: $$
Mr. Friendly's New Southern Café 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Creole, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Non-Smoking
Neighborhood: Five Points
COST: $$
Dianne's on Devine 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, European, Italian
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Group Friendly, Live Music, Parties / Private Rooms, Take Out
Neighborhood: Devine Street
COST: $$
Ruth's Chris Steak House 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Steakhouse
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
COST: $$$
Gervais & Vine 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge
Cuisine: European, Greek, Italian, Mediterranean, Spanish
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
Terra 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Southern
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge
Neighborhood: Cayce / West Columbia
COST: $$
Garibaldi's of Columbia 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Five Points
COST: $$