You get the feeling that Columbia, SC is hitting the ‘thriving metropolis’ threshold by the number of acclaimed chefs and restaurants popping up around town.
Case in point, Sarah Simmons of NYC's Birds & Bubbles and City Grit now has two Rise Bakeshop and Gourmet Goods locations. Soon after Sarah opened her first location in Columbia's Five Points neighborhood, Alton Brown paid a visit and promptly declared her biscuit the best he's ever had. With another location now open in the Olympia neighborhood, the word is that Sarah's just getting started.
Then there's Russell Jones. He's become nothing short of a culinary legend following stints at Le Parade, Vinoteca, Restaurant Eve and Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. Fueled by passion for Southern cuisine and a deep understanding of French cooking techniques, Jones returned home to open Tallulah last month. His menu is rooted in South Carolina's culinary high points, pulling from the preservation methods of Appalachia, the Lowcountry's abundance of seafood and the various meats and vegetables of the Sandhills and Piedmont regions.
For proof that visionaries have always staked claim in Columbia, look no further than Kevin Varner. After learning the art of craft beer in Seattle, he returned to open Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse. That was over 20 years ago. He's now restoring an old airplane hangar at Owen's Field into a second taproom. Once known for hosting the likes of Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Doolittle, the space will soon welcome locals and savvy visitors for a cold pint.
It's not just the migration of culinary talent that has us excited. Here are a few more reasons why 2017 is turning out to be a great year for Columbia:
Blue Flour Bakery on Main Street You know you're in the right place when the granola bars are every bit as good as the chocolate chip cookies. Given that city dwellers have long been flocking to the suburbs for Blue Flour's confections, it was only a matter of time before owner and pastry chef Teri Pringle opened a downtown location, too. Her newest shop just opened at the corner of Main and Gervais near the State House grounds.
Lula Drake Wine Parlour Steeped in history and character, Lula Drake is equal parts wine bar and memoir. When owners and brothers Tim, Jeff and Stan Gardner began building renovations, they uncovered the personal effects of Lula Drake, a female entrepreneur ahead of her time in the early 1900s. Inspired by her trailblazing ways, the trio named the bar in her honor. Sommeliers and distributers from the likes of Charleston and Asheville quickly took notice of the well-appointed wine list and delectable small bites, putting this spot on many 'must visit' lists.
Butcher Paper Dinner Series Technically not a restaurant, Farm to Table Co. hosts monthly Harvest Dinners and special events like the Smoke and Beer Festival, Cream of the Crop and Drink Pink! Rosé Festival at City Roots Farm. This year, they're adding a special Butcher Paper Dinner Series. The laid-back affairs will feature more casual fare (think Crawfish Boils) and affordable ticket prices while retaining an appreciation for the farmers and chefs.