Cuisine Noir Magazine. March 2021.
Columbia is a small town with a big heart. South Carolina’s capital is a southern hotspot with a rich history, outdoor adventures, chef-driven restaurants, and a diverse cultural scene. From state-of-the-art museums to one of the most unique national parks in the world, there is something for every kind of traveler in Soda City.
Nestled in the heart of Main Street District, Hotel Trundle is an eclectic boutique hotel that meshes southern hospitality with modern art-deco. The owners – Marcus and Rita – refurbished the historic building to create a loft-style hotel, tastefully decorated with bold colors, classic photos and local art.
Most attractions center within walking distance from Hotel Trundle, making it a convenient yet stimulating place to stay in downtown Columbia.
African American History
Columbia was the center of many important movements in history, including transforming Jim Crow laws, the Reconstruction Era and charting the path for the Civil Rights Movement. The local non-profit, Historic Columbia offers walking tours that orient visitors to the historic gardens, homes and buildings, the African American History Monument, and the South Carolina State House.
The historians share interesting stories of the city’s predominantly enslaved population that rose to become some of its most enterprising residents.
The South Carolina State Museum features a diverse and exciting history of the state through fascinating displays on dinosaurs, pre-historic fossils, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, African American history, historic telescopes, and a lot more.
Families can spend an entire weekend learning at the museum’s Stringer Discovery Center, 4-D theater, observatory and planetarium.
Take a drive down Harden Street to the Carver Theatre built in 1941 exclusively for African Americans during the days of Jim Crow segregation. Entertainment seekers enjoyed movies, talent shows, and more at the theatre that remains an important part of Columbia’s history.
Located on the confluence of the Saluda and the Broad River (merging to form the Congaree River), Columbia offers a variety of forests, swamps and riverfront landscapes. Many residents flock to the nearby 50,000-acre reservoir – Lake Murray, to hike, swim, kayak and spend time on the beach.
Popular Columbia media personality for radio and television Curtis Wilsonenjoys running the 3.4 miles stretch along the Lake Murray Dam Walkway. “For peace and quiet near the city, my best-kept secret is Sesquicentennial State Park (also known as Sesqui). There are walking, biking and camping spots in the heart of the Sandhills region only minutes from the hustle and bustle,” says Wilson.
Nearby, Congaree National Park offers a chance to stroll through a wooded boardwalk into one of the largest intact old-growth bottomland hardwood forests in the southeastern United States.
Visitors can enjoy 25 miles of hiking, canoeing and kayaking along Cedar Creek and see a fascinating firefly synchronization phenomenon that occurs from late May to early June.
Even though Columbia has traditional Southern roots, you can find much more than grits, BBQ, and gumbo here. Witness the melting pot of cultures at the year-round Saturday morning Soda City Market.
Displaying approximately 150 vendors each week, the pedestrian street becomes a sort of a farmers market, art gallery and a food court. This is possibly the best place to learn about the local life and taste a variety of cuisines, including Thai curries, Brazilian breads and Jamaican patties.
Columbia claims the oldest published pimento cheese recipe from a fundraising cookbook in 1912 and has its own pimento cheese passport.
When not devouring her own famous fried chicken wings and red velvet waffles, local celebrity chef and restaurateur Kiki Cyrus (of Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles) loves a classic fried chicken sandwich with pimento cheese at Spotted Salamander. “We have so many good restaurants here in Columbia. The burgers at Pawleys Front Porch are to die for, and Mr. Seafood’s crab legs with melted garlic butter are so good!” she claims.
Both Cyrus and Wilson swear by the great atmosphere and flavors of the USDA Prime beef and lobster smoked bacon mac ‘n cheese at Halls Chophouse. “They have a steak hot dog for lunch which is so light and delicious,” Wilson suggests.
Also based in Columbia is vegan home cook Gloria Clay who has clenched several cooking competition titles in the city since changing to a plant-based lifestyle due to health issues. Eateries at the top of her list include Good Life Café that serves simple dishes made with accessible ingredients.
For the taste of the soul food classics with a plant-based twist, she also suggests stopping by A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen owned by Folami Geter whose father opened Columbia’s only vegan restaurant for many years, Lamb’s Bread, in 2005.
With plenty of sunshine and friendly people, Columbia is becoming a popular vacation destination in the Palmetto state. Whether you like to step back in history, stroll through pristine gardens, or enjoy some good local food, you will be delighted with a trip to this city.
Note: Some attractions may be closed or limiting entrance due to COVID-19. It is best to call ahead and make reservations at restaurants and tours. It is also mandatory to wear a mask and socially distance in public places.
To plan your trip to Columbia, visit https://www.experiencecolumbiasc.com. You can also follow the city on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for any updates relating to tourism and COVID-19 safety protocols.
~ Written for and published by Cuisine Noir Magazine. All rights reserved.