Lunch

Going out to eat isn't always about cravings. Often enough, mealtimes dictate our choices, limiting restaurant possibilities. When circumstances narrow the options, let 10Best help. We'll direct you to the best Lunch restaurants in Columbia and save you the hassle of calling around for business hours. 10Best readers find much to enjoy at Doc's Barbeque & Southern Buffet thanks to its all-around good offerings. It's also hard to beat Di Prato's, which serves just what you're looking for when you're in the market for a great Lunch.

10 Garden Bistro
A relaxing indoor patio has made this place a favorite with the lunch crowd, as has a menu full of tasty gourmet sandwiches, salads and daily specials. Choose a wrap — such as the "Sinbad" with hummus, feta, black olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and romaine in a tomato tortilla — or a sandwich "smashed" on the grill (three cheese with tomato is fab). If traditional is more your style, the piled high "Dagwood" is a triple-decker delight, and the BLT with guacamole is a great twist on an old favorite. (803-933-9085)

9 The Gourmet Shop
An elegant shop that brings out the gourmand in everyone! You'll find shelves stocked with fine wines, aged cheeses, specialty coffees, gourmet items, made-in-the-South foods, cigars and kitchen accessories. The store also boasts a wonderful little café where you can fill up on creative sandwiches such as a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto panini, or Black Forest ham on French bread with Nicoise olives, cornichons, Dijon, lettuce and tomato (served with a side like dill potato salad, deviled egg, pasta salad or cole slaw). Not in the mood for a sandwich? Opt for a salad or a cheese and pâté plate. Finish with a house-baked cookie or brownie. (803-799-3705, 803-799-9463)

8 Villa Tronco
In the restaurant biz, longevity is usually an indication of reliability. Villa Tronco has been around for 60+ years and continues to be popular — lunch is a little less busy, so if you're looking for a substantial midday meal this is a great choice. The crab cakes, drizzled with roasted red pepper sauce, are fantastic (for a light meal, try a crab cake atop a spinach salad). Burgers get a fresh, Italian-style spin (topped with spinach, romano and fontina, or with prosciutto and mozzarella), or you can opt for a traditional main course such as chicken piccata, veal marsala, or lasagna. (803-256-7677)

7 Mellow Mushroom
Brightly colored, lively and punctuated with giant smiling mushrooms, this Southeastern chain welcomes everyone, from students to families. Stone-baked pizzas come in three sizes, and you can even score individual slices at lunch. Fashion your own from a list of toppings, or go with their standards, which include Jerk Chicken, the Gourmet White, Chicken Cordon Bleu, the Mighty Meaty and the House Pesto. Hoagies, calzones and salads round out the offerings, along with draft microbrews and plenty of bottled beers. (803-933-9201)

6 Blue Cactus Café
Blue Cactus takes a two-pronged approach to cooking, providing a unique combination of Korean and Southwestern dishes created at the whim of the chef. Thus, you could start with kim chee or spicy potato wedges, and follow up with bul go gee or a ropa vieja burrito. Blue Cactus has a collection of hot sauces that will make any tongue-torcher swoon, with something like 200 bottles from around the world. See one that intrigues you? Give it a try! Loads of vegetarian options, too. (803-929-0782)

5 Travinia Italian Kitchen
With a warm Tuscan color palette, Travinia artfully achieves a place as one of Columbia's most appealing, unpretentious restaurants. Efficient servers accommodate guests, who relax to top-quality food and conversation as Rat Pack vocalists croon in the background. Traditional dishes include saltimbocca, scallops and shrimp pancetta, seafood pescatora and chicken piccata; grilled steaks and beautifully composed salads also find a place. Cap everything with a classic cannoli or a serving of tiramisu. (803-419-9313)

4 Touch of India Express
Tired of the usual lunch triumvirate (sandwiches, soups, salads)? Downtown Columbia folks are lucky enough to have a fabulous spot for quick eats, Indian-style. Touch of India Express specializes in Southern Indian cuisine, although Northern Indian dishes make an appearance as well. For variety try the buffet, with curries both meaty and vegetarian; if you know exactly what you want, you can order from the à la carte menu, too. The original location on Diamond Lane (an off-the-beaten-track favorite for years) has both lunch and dinner buffets plus a full à la carte menu. (803-771-4647)

3 Doc's Barbeque & Southern Buffet
Heading to Doc's for lunch? Bring your appetite, because this is one big, hearty buffet. Along with barbecue, fried catfish and fried chicken, this place is loaded with an abundance of down-home sides like collards, mac and cheese, rice, baked beans, green beans, slaw and potato salad. Plus banana pudding and a cobbler for dessert. No way you're leaving hungry. Also open on Gamecock football Saturdays. (803-799-1532)

2 Rush's
A small, family-owned fast food chain with roots back to the 1940s, Rush's is where you go when you want a quick, inexpensive meal that doesn't involve a clown, a crown or dancing cows. Options are basic but good: burgers, chili dogs, BBQ sandwiches, fried chicken, fries, cole slaw, and soft-serve ice cream for dessert. (803-781-1277)

1 Di Prato's
Another enterprise from the owners of Dianne's on Devine, this gourmet sandwich shop is a step above customary lunch fare. It's a bit off the usual tourist's radar, which is a good thing because the line-ups at lunch are above average (although they do move quickly). The signature sandwiches are downright fantastic: a triple-decker reuben, an oyster po' boy, grilled portabella with fresh spinach and pesto mayo, Italian hoagies, and more. Or design your own from a vast list of ingredients. You could eat here every day for weeks and not have the same sandwich twice. (803-779-0606)


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Maps and Directions

1
Garden Bistro 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Catering, Family Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
COST: $
2
The Gourmet Shop 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Deli
Dining Options: Catering, Family Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Neighborhood: Five Points
COST: $
3
Villa Tronco 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Family Friendly, Group Friendly, Non-Smoking, Take Out
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Downtown
COST: $$
4
Mellow Mushroom 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Pizza
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Bar Dining, Family Friendly
Neighborhood: THE VISTA
COST: $
5
Blue Cactus Café 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Asian, Korean, Southwestern
Dining Options: Family Friendly
Neighborhood: Five Points
COST: $
6
Travinia Italian Kitchen 10Best List Arrow
Dining Options: Bar / Lounge, Family Friendly
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: Columbia Northeast
COST: $$
7
Touch of India Express 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Indian
Neighborhood: Downtown
COST: $
8
Doc's Barbeque & Southern Buffet 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Barbecue, Southern
Dining Options: Catering, Delivery, Take Out
Neighborhood: OLYMPIA
COST: $
9
Rush's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Family Friendly, Take Out
Neighborhood: Irmo / St Andrews
COST: $
10
Di Prato's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Deli
Neighborhood: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
COST: $