St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, temps have warmed up, flowers are in bloom, and pollen is in the air. Spring has returned to the South.
That also means that it’s time to move everything – including meals – outside. So we’ve put together a sampling of five great Columbia-area places to dine outdoors.
Carolina Ale House
For a view to go with your grub, it’s hard to beat the one of downtown Columbia atop Carolina Ale House in the Vista. While the Carolina-spiced chicken wings (baked with special dry seasonings and tossed in a tangy Carolina-style barbecue sauce) are always a popular menu selection, other lunch-on-the-rooftop spring favorites include some lighter fare like the seared ahi tuna Asian salad with edamame, cucumbers, carrots, red papers, almonds, mandarin oranges and crispy wontons topped with a sesame ginger vinaigrette.
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708 Lady St. in the Vista. (803) 227-7150, www.carolinaalehouse.com/our-restaurants/vista-columbia-sc/
The Gourmet Shop
If people-watching in Five Points is your thing, sitting at one of The Gourmet Shop’s outdoor tables along Saluda Avenue is sure to please. Although it might be the energy of Five Points that draws you in, lunch items such as the melted brie and hot bacon sandwich on a fresh croissant may be what bring you back. The fresh, whipped goat cheese and housemade basil pesto with a sliced tomato sandwich is another favorite, but for those with their own creative sandwich-building skills, there are the build-your-own sandwiches with a choice of eight different types of bread, nine condiments and a variety of meats and housemade salads. You can get Sunday brunch here, too.
724 Saluda Ave. in Five Points. (803) 799-3705, www.thegourmetshop.net
The Oak Table
For al fresco dining at its best, head to The Oak Table on Main Street and get an up-close view of the State House while enjoying lunch or dinner. Midday, consider the Bulgarian feta salad with Freshly Grown Farms lettuce, roasted red peppers, crumbled walnuts, pickled red onions and a sorghum-lime vinaigrette. For dinner, bite the bullet and order the whole, fried Maine lobster for a meal you won’t soon forget.
1221 Main St., downtown Columbia. (803) 563-5066, www.theoaktablesc.com
Once you find Private Property tucked in a historic house on Main Street in Lexington (you’ll have to go by the address since there is no glaring sign out front), keep wandering to the restaurant’s back doors, which lead to a brick patio tucked beneath crepe myrtles and lit with string lights. With a Cajun- and Lowcountry-themed menu, Private Property uses cast-iron skillets to blacken pork chops and its 21-day-aged prime ribeye steaks. Not in the mood for steak? Consider the seafood jambalaya, made with Andouille sausage and Tasso ham straight from New Orleans, or the shrimp and grits made with locally grown Adluh stone-ground white grits and topped with a Tasso cream sauce with jumbo shrimp. But try to save room for dessert. Bread pudding made from French bread soaked overnight in a rich custard, baked until golden brown and topped with a homemade whiskey sauce, is even better under the stars.
220 W. Main St., Lexington. (803) 399-8085, www.privatepropertysc.com
Folks on the way to or from Lake Murray make it a point to stop in for a meal on the deck at D.L. McLaughlin’s. While there are burgers, wings, hot dogs and subs, the Philly steak sandwiches are by far the most popular menu item. Choose the traditional cheesesteak, or go with the pizza steak, pepper steak or steak special with onions, peppers, mushrooms and cheese. Want the flavor without the red meat? Sub chicken for the steak.
10400 Broad River Road, Irmo. (803) 732-4109