If your idea of nightlife includes hitting a bar for drinks and socializing, then our Columbia guide is just what you want. Capitalizing on first-hand experience and extensive research, we've located the best bars in Columbia for hanging out and kicking back in. From long-lived mainstays like Hemingways to busy places like Salty Nut Cafe that get lots of 10Best reader approval, we present the top bars in town and offer details about them all. What's the energy like? How do the bartenders pour? Are most bars located in the Five Points area? No fear - we share all the facts!


The Vista

Art Bar has perhaps the most diverse clientele in Columbia. People love it for its original decor, local artwork, daily drink specials and frequent special events from poetry readings to comedy to CD release parties. Live music features regularly (reggae, jazz, alt rock, world... you name it), and the dance floor does not go unused!

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Cheap beer, good food, and fun atmosphere. What more could you want? The Whig is a fun hangout that draws students, starving artists and other frugal types who don't want to sacrifice good eating and drinking just because money is a little tight. The food is tasty, satisfying and definitely won't break the bank, and with specials like $.50 tacos on Tuesdays and $2 burgers on Mondays (drink specials to match – $2.50 tequila shots, $1 PBR), you can actually afford to become a regular.

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A traditional Irish pub, right down to the fish and chips, Delaney's attracts a wide demographic. Folks come for live music and trivia, great pub grub like shepherd's pie and burgers, and a good selection of beverages including 26 beers on tap and a full range of premium spirits. Super friendly and relaxed.

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The Vista

When you enter the door at Jillian's, you are struck by the sheer size of this place. Jillian's has two restaurants: the "Hibachi Grill" where your seven-course meal is cooked at the table, and the "Sports Café," where you can enjoy the game while dining on chili and pizza. Add all that along with billiards and a great bar scene, and it's not hard to see why this is a favorite place to meet, eat, and play!

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This bar is popular among the law school and graduate school types. The interior is simple and traditional, with a long bar, wooden booths, televisions, and greenery. Get there early to claim a seat, because it's standing room only on weekends. Known for great wings, a good selection of draft beer, and occasional live Irish music. A fun, convivial spot to meet up with friends or to strike up a conversation with a local.

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This friendly, casual eatery and bar serves up a variety of excellent sandwiches, salads, and soups. The convivial staff will help you decide what to try, and you'll need the help thanks to the broad array of options. Most regulars will tell you to go for the wings – known for being hot, flavorful, and juicy. Great for lunch and also popular with the after-work crowd. Not just a "lunch-only" place, they also feature karaoke on Monday nights and live music every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night.

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An integral player on the Five Points eats & drinks scene, The Salty Nut is a great place to hang with your best buds, especially on nights when it's nice to kick back on their deck. Aside from a terrific list of brews, this casual joint is also known for serving up some pretty fantastic noshables, ranging from corn dogs and burgers to boiled shrimp platters. Be sure you sample their legendary tater tots - they're a local delicacy!

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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.

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The Vista

Tsunami is a classy and welcome addition to The Vista. The decor is fashionably sleek and contemporary, with pendant lighting, original artwork, and lots of shiny surfaces. Sushi is a major draw, but there are plenty of options if you prefer cooked food, from teppan yaki steak, shrimp or chicken to tempura veggies to udon noodle bowls. Great drink specials and a lively atmosphere keep the place busy well into the early morning hours.

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Village Idiot may or may not actually have the best pizza in Columbia. But in the end it really doesn't matter because it's inexpensive, filling and hits the spot when paired with a few cheap beers and a good friend or two. The place gets packed most nights with USC students, who take advantage of ridiculously affordable happy hour prices and nightly drink specials. Tuesdays there's usually a band; Wednesday is trivia night.

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