In Columbia, there are two climates: outdoor-dining weather and indoor-dining weather. The Midlands is littered with stellar bars and restaurants with options for dining alfresco whenever you start to crave FODO (food on dishes outside). Here’s a roundup of our favorite spots where you can enjoy the weather with a side of wings, a cocktail or just endless hours of people watching.
Terra: This patio is more of an enclosed courtyard, but that just adds to its unique appeal. Located behind a wrought-iron gate, it’s an ideal setting for a dinner date or to enjoy the company of close friends. Stop and smell the fragrant hanging plants and let a soothing fountain lull you into a midsummer night’s dream. Known for his use of local, seasonal produce, Terra’s chef Michael Davis creates a new menu daily.
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Publico Kitchen & Tap: This Lat-Asian fusion restaurant is where you need to be for a number of reasons. While the wood-adorned dining area features large retractable windows to fool you into thinking you’re sitting outside even when you’re not, there’s an actual patio in the back, too. With games to be played and good times to be had, Publico even has a special menu just for dogs, called puppy plates, making its patio one of the best in show.
Salty Nut: A bar can’t go around saying it has the biggest deck and the saltiest nuts if it can’t back it up. Luckily, Salty Nut’s big talk holds up enough to land itself a spot on our list. Late nights on the bar’s elevated outdoor seating area are, essentially, a rite-of-passage if you went to USC or have visited Five Points more than twice. Is it the best view of Five Points? Nope. Does that mean you’re going to take fewer pictures with your peeps? Absolutely not. So come dressed to stay a while.
Saluda’s Restaurant: If you want to people-watch on the down-low from up on high, Saluda’s patio is your spot. Located above the busiest intersection in Five Points and a Starbucks, you might as well RSVP “BRB” to the rest of your day. Yes, all the reviews are accurate: It’s pricey, but worth every penny. The meals and memories you’ll create here could be enjoyed in the restaurant’s white table-cloth clad dining room, but why? Skip the stuffy atmosphere, and take in Five Points’ best view with an even better meal.
Arkos: If you haven’t been to this gem of a craft cocktail bar in the Shoppes at Flight Deck, don’t worry: You will soon. Just beyond its quaint indoor space is a rooftop patio with a vibe that will make you want to turn up and chill out all at the same time. With a living wall of plants behind the bar, chic lounge furniture and strings of lights to add to ambiance, you might just think you’re in Miami ... especially after a few of those avocadotinis!
Moonshiners Patio Bar and Grill: Named for its large covered patio where you can enjoy in either moonlight or sunshine, Moonshiners is located just 10 minutes from downtown Lexington. Breathe in the fresh air and forget where (or who) you are for as long as you need. Don’t leave without trying the ribs, which come slathered in the housemade Moonshiners Gold BBQ Sauce. A patio meal at Moonshiners is almost like one on your grandmother’s porch. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful day (or night).
Liberty on the Lake: Talk about a view! Frankly, Liberty on the Lake’s is probably the best in the bunch. With a multilevel deck facing Lake Murray, it’s worth the 30 minute drive from downtown Columbia. Or skip the car and take a boat, because there’s a number of slips for docking right outside the eatery. Liberty on the Lake has a menu of frozen drinks and American cuisine with unique flair, and for beer lovers, it even has 48 on tap, including its own line of microbrews.
Carolina Ale House: There are a few locations around town, but none with a better view or patio than this one in the Vista. Popular year round, it really hits its stride during football season. Besides having enough TVs to make a Best Buy warehouse jealous, it has a projector screen for watching games outside to give you that stadium feel. It might not be located on the main strip of the Vista, but who cares when you have a second-story outdoor patio? The menu is classified as “American pub fare” which means it’s not fancy, and there’s bound to be something you already know you’re going to love, like their award-winning wings.
Hickory Tavern: Yet another example of a patio bar that’s not on the beaten path, Hickory Tavern’s two-story outdoor seating is spacious, modern and semi-private. Is that the alfresco trifecta? We think it is, especially if you’re into a lively sports bar vibe with a menu that runs the gamut from traditional to signature American pub grub.
Motor Supply Co. Bistro: Instead of words, there should just be emojis for this description. Like two hand claps, all of the drinks, the plate of food and the drooling face. You want award-winning food and drinks? Check. Ambiance from the door to the patio? Yup. Seamless seating from indoors to the enclosed outdoor dining space? Duh. Some people view this location as a special occasion restaurant and for others, it’s just dinner. We say carpe diem (which loosely translates to “go with someone who’ll split the check”).
920 Gervais St.; (803) 256-6687, www.motorsupplycobistro.com. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5:30-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sunday 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5:30-9 p.m. Closed on Monday
Thirsty Fellow: Ranked as one of the best local pizza joints in town, you can have your stone-fired pizza and eat it too … all on a very popular patio. On Thirsty Fellow’s patio, you can choose to sit with friends or set yourself up on one of the many bar stools lining the covered deck, just for those who want a view with their pie. Is it a perfect view? Meh. But does it even matter when you’ve got good weather and great pizza? You’re shaking your head no, which is a solid choice.