What’s good here?
As the name implies: Philly food; most specifically Philly cheesesteaks. When the Knowles family opened Very’s in 1988, there was only one place in town treating Columbians to the Northern delicacy, and that establishment has long since gone out of business.
Although Very’s now has a little more competition, the fact that the owners hail from Philadelphia and have consistently churned out authentic Philly cheesesteaks for 26 years solidifies their local reputation in that arena.
To make a “real” Philly cheesesteak, points out Russell Knowles, a top requirement is thinly sliced seasoned beef as well as an Amoroso roll – which is long and baked in a steam-injected oven to make it soft on the inside but crusty on the outside.
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These special rolls are shipped in from a bakery in Philadelphia. Besides Philly cheesesteaks, Very’s has enjoyed long-term success because of its freshly made pizzas and pasta dishes. Crust is made in-house, as is the sauce. The cheese is even grated by hand. A Saturday night pizza buffet from 6 to 9 p.m. has been a popular draw to Very’s for many years.
Very’s makes its own Italian ices, which come in a variety of flavors. Along the way, the family has also added a few chicken dishes, including Chicken Broccoli – a chicken breast baked with broccoli and topped with cheddar cheese and a creamy sauce – as well as Chicken Tarragon, which is baked with cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots in a cream sauce and served over rice.
Very’s also serves hand-pattied burgers, hoagies, hot sandwiches, salads, and it offers a salad bar. There is a limited beer and wine menu, and desserts include New York cheesecake, key lime pie and pecan pie.
How did Very’s get its start?
Bernard Knowles moved his family to South Carolina from Philadelphia because of his career in textile manufacturing. When the industry gradually left the United States for overseas production, the family decided to open a restaurant that would make and sell one of their favorite foods – Philly cheesesteaks.
A small strip shopping center near Columbia Mall along Two Notch Road was chosen for the location. According to Russell, his father set up the kitchen similar to an organized factory. About 10 years ago, Bernard and Dorothy began to hand over more responsibilities to their sons. Russell typically manages the business during the day, while Allen is on hand in the evenings. On Saturday nights, because of the popular pizza buffet, both brothers are present. Bernard and Dorothy still occasionally visit the restaurant to assist with recordkeeping and maintenance when necessary.
What does the restaurant look like?
Obscured by a building that Russell says was constructed – much to the chagrin of the Knowles family – soon after they opened in 1988, Very’s Great Philly Food sits off Two Notch Road in an unassuming row of businesses. The interior is dated, yet family friendly, with dining booth and tables. A distinguishing entryway element is a large mural of the city of Columbia.
Who eats here?
Russell Knowles says the demographics of Very’s customer base involves families and senior citizens for lunches and dinners. Many rely on Very’s as both a white collar and blue collar lunch spot, while teenagers and young adults congregate at Very’s many evenings.