Back-to-back upscale restaurant openings are taking Main Street to a new level

Two highly anticipated, high-end restaurants are opening within weeks of each other on Columbia’s Main Street.

The upscale additions could boost the district’s profile as a tourist destination, downtown leaders say.

Halls Chophouse, a name well known across South Carolina and beyond, will open the first week of December at the corner of Main and Gervais streets, although the opening day has not been set.

Halls will fill the footprint of the former Oak Table, another fine dining restaurant that closed earlier this year. With sister restaurants in Greenville and Charleston, Halls carries a reputation as one of the region’s finest steakhouses.

“We’ve been trying to come to Columbia for the last 10 years. Finally, it’s happening,” co-owner Tommy Hall said. “We want it to be a showcase for the people of Columbia to come and entertain.”

Menu items at the original restaurant on Charleston’s swanky King Street range from a $26 quail dish to a $115 36-ounce porterhouse steak. The Columbia restaurant will offer a similar menu selection with some local twists and lower prices compared to the King Street menu, Hall said.

Following right on Halls’ heels, Hendrix plans to open by New Year’s in the former Hennessy’s restaurant building at the corner of Main and Blanding streets.

It’ll feature rooftop dining and an array of locally sourced dishes prepared by head chef Javier Uriarte, who worked under chef Wes Fulmer at one of the city’s premier restaurants, Motor Supply Co.

“We’re going to give (Uriarte) free rein to be creative and make something he knows is great and maybe take some risks and put something out there that people haven’t seen yet,” co-owner Jon Sears said. “We want the food to be elevated but also want a laid-back atmosphere, not too stuffy.”

Together, the back-to-back restaurant openings will be a boost to Main Street’s fancy factor — and potentially to its tourism appeal, says Matt Kennell, president of the Main Street District and City Center Partnership.

“It’s like going to Charleston. You don’t just go there to see the Civil War artifacts; you go there for the food,” Kennell said. “And Columbia is getting that reputation, too.”

People have driven from across the Carolinas and Georgia to visit Halls’ other restaurants in Greenville and Charleston, Hall said. They’ll book their dining reservations before their hotel, he said. And he expects the Columbia restaurant could have a similar draw.

“If the food is good ... people are going to drive,” Hall said. “Dinner today and our restaurants today are our entertainment.”

Laying the groundwork for Halls’ and Hendrix’s arrival, downtown Columbia’s dining scene has seen a surge in upscale, chef-driven options over the past few years, including chef Kristian Niemi’s Bourbon on Main Street, chef Scott Hall’s Bone-In Barbeque at BullStreet and chef Russell Jones’ Tallulah, which closed this summer a year and a half after opening on Devine Street.

“It’s been an evolution,” Kennell said. “It’s the food, but it’s also the experience. ... There’s a personality attached to it, and I think that’s driving a lot of the business today.”

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Sarah Ellis has reported on Columbia and Richland County since 2014. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in journalism.