Please don’t be amazed, or perhaps, disgusted, by the above title. It’s not meant to boast..or scare, for that matter. But to tell the truth – that South Carolina is not only the birthplace of mustard-style barbecue (mmm…so good…), but also of that timeless jig they call “The Shag.” Sort of a combo of waltzing and swing dancing, the Shag is a true artform practiced for days on end by native South Carolinians. Geez, my body would be tired if I shagged multiple times for multiple days straight.
So where does the bar/restaurant/spirits/cocktail come into play here? Don’t worry, I’ll get to it. I must say, I enjoyed myself in Columbia, that’s right, Columbia, South Carolina. Who says all the trendy bars, restaurants, people, etc. are in Charleston? Columbia has it’s own scene, highlighted by the the “Congaree Vista” section, a conglomerate (when I say conglomerate, in this case it’s VERY scaled down – think small-town southern US) of new condos, restaurants, bars, art galleries, and small pastry shops. Barbecue rules, and to my enjoyment, South Carolina’s specialty is that of the mustard-based barbecue.
The Blue Marlin Restaurant is situated in the heart of the Vista, in an old Railroad Station. Supposedly some of the best seafood in the south is served there. I’d have to agree.
The Liberty Tap Room had a superb pulled pork sandwich, and from the looks of things, a nice looking beer selection. The bar had to be close to 50 seats long – perhaps a bit excessive for such a small town (hey, I’m a New Yorker – the town was small!). Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if by 5pm, the entire working-class members of the city came down for a nice cold beer or spiked sweet tea cocktail.
SakiTumi, a sushi place, has a nifty name, so that’s why I’m mentioning it.
My wife and I stayed at the brand spankin’ new Hilton Columbia, with it’s terrificly relaxing and warm outdoor pool. This sure was pool weather, and laying out in the SC sun, sipping drinks made by the friendly bartenders at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (yes, this is the Hilton’s restaurant – not owned by Hilton – separate from Hilton, as we were informed of several times), made the trip a memorable one.
You, too, can plan your weekend trip to Columbia, SC. It really is convenient – Jet Blue flies to Charlotte, North Carolina (a mere 1.5 hr. flight). You can then rent a car, and it’s a short 1.5 hour drive down to Columbia. That’s what we did. Feel free to make your own travel arrangements. I’ll warn you though – there weren’t any direct flights from the NYC area to Columbia, SC. The only direct flights we could find were to Charlotte, NC.
Check out these fun photos from the trip below (I’ve also included a recipe way down below, for a nice sweet tea cocktail to enjoy on a hot summer’s day):
Even the street corners in Columbia are purrty.
You still get that old timey feel here.
We took a nice ride on this little guy along Lake Murray, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world!
Columbia’s pre-civil war State Capitol building was always looming in the distance, from wherever you stood.
Congaree Sweet Tea
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/4 oz. Cherry Liqueur
3 oz. Fresh housemade Sweet Tea**
Directions: Shake all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass.
Garnish: 3 marinated cherries
**To make a pitcher of sweet tea:
6 tea bags (Lipton or Luzianne)
1/8 tsp. baking soda
8 cups boiling water
1.5 cups demerara sugar (or sugar in the raw)
Directions: Pour the boiling water over the tea bags and baking soda and steep for around 10 mins. Then stir in the sugar until well-dissolved. Chill well.