When looking for the best casual restaurants in Columbia, it can be hard to sift through the options to find the perfect spot. Lucky for you, we are experts at this! We love trying restaurants in the capital city and deciding which rise above the rest for our personal ‘go-to’ list.
While we definitely enjoy a fancy night out in Columbia, casual restaurants are actually our true go-to spots. Especially the ones that either serve delicious burgers, come with a fun atmosphere or have upscale food in casual surroundings.
This list covers several categories of casual eateries in Columbia. You’ll find a few ‘upscale’ casual restaurants as well as ones that are great for kids. There are also plenty of options for simple fare like burgers and BBQ. And if you’re looking for a great casual pizza joint in Columbia we cover that too!
Map of the Best Casual Restaurants in Columbia, SC
This guide focuses on casual restaurants in Columbia and runs the gamut from very casual to upscale casual. If you are looking specifically for a nicer dining experience, check out our guide to fine dining in Columbia. And if you want something great for the whole family, we have a guide dedicated to kid-friendly restaurants.
Casual Restaurants In Columbia
Upscale-casual restaurant in Five Points
One of our favorite restaurants in Columbia for lunch and dinner, Mr. Friendly’s is a long-time staple in the Columbia food scene. The southern cuisine and casual atmosphere are right at home in Five Points.
Whether you try their shrimp and grits, Monday meatloaf special or one of the best burgers in Columbia, you won’t be disappointed.
Be sure to check out the specials on their website – they always have something cooking!
the North Main area
Charming pizza parlor in Cottontown
If you are looking for top-quality handmade pizzas, Il Focolare needs to be on your must-try list. They have been serving up pizzas baked in their wood-fired pizza oven since 2019.
Their pizzas are all 13″ and come with standard toppings in addition to some unique ones. Think brussels sprouts & chevre goat cheese pizza or potato & rosemary pizza.
Il Focolare is located on the Cottontown side of the North Main Street district on Sumter street. As a restaurant brought to you by James Beard semifinalist City Grit Hospitality Group and award-winning chef Sarah Simmons, the quality of the food does not disappoint. Accordingly, it is a very popular spot and there may be a bit of a wait for your pizza at peak times.
Delicious BBQ and cool atmosphere in Five Points
Charleston’s favorite BBQ joint has a location in the heart of Five Points in Columbia, SC.
Their large renovated restaurant is a great spot for friends and families to enjoy some delicious BBQ. They have high-top seating, tables and a bar with TVs throughout the restaurant. It’s a great place to catch a game!
We love getting ‘The Board’ platter served family style for a crowd. And if someone in your group isn’t a BBQ fan, they have outstanding burgers and tacos as well.
Italian restaurant and pizzeria on Devine Street
Il Giorgione is a cute neighborhood Italian restaurant and the perfect spot to enjoy a date night out. They have delicious pasta and pizzas and a huge wine selection to pair them with.
What’s so interesting about Il Girogione is that it has been around since 2012 but it’s still somehow a hidden gem! They have a loyal following and it is an ‘if you know, you know’ type of place. Well, now you know!
We love their rigatoni al dorato, spaghetti alla carbonara, their Caprese salad with house-made mozzarella and all of their desserts! We like to get their pizza for takeout. You can see their full menu here. What you’ll notice is that compared to other Italian restaurants around town their prices are pretty reasonable. Pizza is $12 and their pasta is in the $16 range.
Il Giorgione has a great patio area that makes for the perfect lunch spot on days when the weather is nice.
As far as parking goes, there is some in the back and you can also park along Devine Street. It’s right next to Backstreet Grill so you may need to walk a bit depending on the time of day.
the North Main area
Cool bar and eatery off North Main
The War Mouth is a unique Columbia restaurant with gourmet southern dishes and a laid back atmosphere. Their menu includes culinary treats like crawfish beignets, pork belly burnt ends, and smoked sorghum duck.
They are best known for their BBQ making some of the best wood-smoked whole hog BBQ available in Columbia. And while you’re enjoying the delicious cuisine, make sure you check out their cocktail list.
Located in the quaint Cottontown neighborhood just off North Main, The War Mouth is frequented regularly by neighbors near and far.
Casual burger joint with outdoor patio on Devine Street
Henry’s in Columbia is a favorite local neighborhood restaurant and bar. It’s an excellent place to eat with kids and is a go-to for burgers in Columbia. There are a few locations around town, including this one on Devine Street.
You’ll find excellent sandwiches and wraps on the menu, as well as some of Columbia’s best handmade burgers. Our kids especially love their chicken fingers.
Henry’s has a casual atmosphere that’s great for families or larger groups, whether you sit inside or outside on their covered porch. They also have a large bar with TVs making it a great spot to watch a game.
Cross Hill Market
BBQ restaurant with an outdoor patio
Lucky for us, Charlotte’s favorite BBQ Restaurant, Midwood Smokehouse also has a location in Columbia, SC.
Located in the Cross Hill Market (Whole Foods) shopping center, it’s the perfect spot for BBQ whether you eat in their casual dining room, on their patio or order takeout.
Midwood offers regional BBQ styles including Carolina pulled pork, Texas-style brisket, and St. Louis Style ribs. And for those who aren’t fans of low-and-slow BBQ, they have some of the best burgers in Columbia.
Go-to burger spot in Five Points
When you think about the quintessential college town burger joint Pawleys Front Porch is it! Located in the heart of Columbia’s Five Points neighborhood, Pawleys is a casual burger joint that serves huge handmade burgers stacked high with toppings.
Choose from one of their SC beach town themed signature burgers or build your own. Relax on their front porch with a burger, fries and a beer for a great Five Points experience.
The Hunter-Gatherer Brewery is Columbia’s oldest craft brewery. Established in 1995, it paved the way for all of Columbia’s best breweries to follow. They brew classic styles including IPAs, lagers, sours and more. They offer flights so that you have a chance to try a range of styles.
The warm cozy interior is a great spot to have a freshly brewed beer and a hearty meal.
Their food menu boasts delicious entrees including shrimp and grits, smoked brisket and their signature burger.
Tacos, queso and awesome quesadillas on Devine Street
Cantina 76 is a Mexican-inspired casual restaurant known for tacos, margaritas and great atmosphere. With 14 tacos on the menu ranging from smoked pork and chicken teriyaki to fish and shrimp tacos, there is something for every taste preference.
And if tacos aren’t your thing, we can highly recommend their other entrees, especially their roasted chicken quesadilla.
Cantina 76 is also a great place to kick back and have a margarita whether you sit at their large bar or on their outdoor patio. It’s a perfect spot for both lunch and dinner!
Mellow Mushroom is a locally owned regional pizza chain based in Atlanta, but it feels very local on Gervais Street! It is just across from the State House and is an excellent dining option if you are in The Vista.
We love the Kosmic Karma and the Wild in Havana pizzas. And their Greek Salad is amazing!
Pro tip: request an extra side of esperanza dressing to dip your pizza in! If you’re opting for takeout pizza you can always order Mellow Mushroom online.
Publico is a popular Five Points restaurant serving Latin-Asian inspired food. They also have a huge bar with quite a selection beer, wine, sake, mead and house cocktails on tap.
The atmosphere is always festive at Publico. They have large roll-up doors in the front of the restaurant and a great patio out back making it a great spot to go when the weather is nice.
They have a ton of sandwiches, tacos, burritos and ramen dishes on the menu making it perfect for lunch or dinner. They even have one of the best brunch menus in Columbia available on Sundays.
Pizza, pasta and outdoor seating on Devine Street
Za’s is one of our favorite spots to enjoy a delicious brick oven pizza. It is a full-service restaurant and bar with an upscale casual dining atmosphere.
Located in the quiet neighborhood commercial corridor of Devine Street, their outdoor seating on the patio is worth checking out when the weather is nice.
Za’s has a great community feel and is a favorite spot for friends and families to meet. It’s a great place to relax and have a glass of wine with delicious pizza and other Italian appetizers and entrees. And if you’re looking for takeout pizza, you can order ahead online! Make sure to check them out for their brunch offering on Saturdays and Sundays.
Stone-fired pizza + upscale pub on Carolina’s campus
Thirsty Fellow is a popular watering hole near the USC campus and Colonial Life Arena.
It’s a great spot to have a drink and enjoy a pizza, sandwich or burger. Whether you sit inside in the dark moody space or outside on their large porch it’s a great place to hang out.