Ms. B’s Southern Kitchen – West Columbia, SC

This was a real unexpected find for us, but we are so thankful we stumbled upon it!

It was a pretty typical Sunday morning for us. We go to an early church service in Lexington, so we are usually driving around town looking for something new and exciting for lunch, but are not really even that hungry yet. Sometimes we will hit Walmart or a grocery to kill time till “lunchtime”… but last week we decided instead to enjoy the pretty day and just drive. We drove from Lexington, down 378 all the way into West Columbia and were honestly headed toward downtown, hoping to find something to eat, when we passed by the sign for Ms. B’s Southern Kitchen.
l The building was nothing special and we probably would have passed right by it, except for the sign, which has an image of an old mason jar on it, that caught our eye. Then we saw the term “southern kitchen” and really became intrigued. Being from Alabama, and living in the heart of Columbia, we LOVE real, honest-to-goodness southern food. There are a lot of restaurants around town that claim to be authentic but just serve meat and canned vegetables so they can call it southern, so we were skeptical. But then we saw the bottom of the sign where it said “the way it used to be”. My wife and I both grew up with down-home southern grandmothers (and aunts, and cousins, and friends) who knew their way around a kitchen so we know exactly what that phrase SHOULD mean, so we decided we at least had to try it out to see if they really meant it.

First thing we noticed when we came in was that the place was HUGE! Like the outside of the building, there was not a lot about the decor inside that made you think this was going to be the best food ever. Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.57.30 AM
*(it used was previously the longtime home of the Sunset Restaurant, as you can see from the still lingering impression on the roof shingles…) Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.58.16 AM
Several large dining rooms with lots of old tables and booths. (I say old tables, because the tables had ads printed directly on them. I sat down right where a large ad for a Pager company was printed… offering the latest in Motorola Pager technology and service!) It was fun though reading through the fun old ads while you ate, as well as enjoying their wonderful mix of 70s classics overhead. We got to introduce our kids to several new bands they were not familiar with in the process. like ABBA, The Commodores, and The Fortunes.

When we arrived (before noon on Sunday morning) it was not crowded at all, so we were a little bit concerned that this could just be a cool sign, hung on an old, mediocre restaurant. We were immediately greeted by a friendly, energetic host who told us about the food, specials, how to order (large chalkboard menu behind the counter) if we wanted or how to get the buffet. We looked at the wall a while and checked out the buffet (which looked great) but being that we were still not that hungry, we decided to order off the wall/menu.
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The Fried chicken was delicious.  Tender, juicy and flavorful, but without being greasy. The Fried catfish was a little under seasoned compared to all the other food but was fresh, and tasted great. Fried chicken sandwich and seasoned fries were big hits with both my kids. As good as the meats were, the sides were really the stars of the meal. Collards are very popular around South Carolina, so we had high expectations. These were easily some of the best (if not the very best) collard greens we have eaten. Tender sweet and seasoned perfectly. I added a bit of pepper sauce to mine out of habit before tasting them and it did not really even need it. My wife said hers were perfect as they came out, not needing one bit of salt or pepper or anything.  I got the baked potato casserole which is exactly what it sounds like… potato, cheese, bacon and more baked and mixed together. Simple, but tasted amazing. The sweet potato casserole my wife got was different but tasty.  We had never had one like it before with hints of orange in it, and loaded with raisins. Very sweet and seemed almost more of a dessert, than a vegetable.  The cornbread was not at all what we were used to either, but was really good. Just a touch of sweetness and a very smooth, almost cupcake like consistency, different than the grainier cornmeal consistency of most cornbread, made it also seem like a sweet treat to go with the meal rather than just a corn muffin on the side.  And of course the drinks were served in their signature mason jars (pulling the picture on the sign into the meal nicely)

We will definitely go back, and have already started telling our local friends about it.  But we will do things differently next time.  While it worked well for us to get meals off the menu (which you can see here: MENU) since we were not that hungry, next time we will for sure get the buffet.  Normally we do not go in for the all-you-can-eat buffet concept, but there are so many different meats and veggies alone that we want to try from their menu that we need the buffet, simply so that we can try a little of everything. Plus, the buffet comes with a salad bar and desert bar as well if you do not commit like I will to fill up on the delectable southern cuisine!

In a short conversation with the manager as we left, I found out that Ms. B’s has been there about 2 years, and is owned by the same folks who own Doc’s BBQ and also Pawley’s Front Porch, which is one of our FAVORITE local restaurants, so it was no surprise that the food was great!  Oh, and a to the lack of a crowd in the huge restaurant when we arrived early on that Sunday morning… by the time we were done, the rooms were filled with hungry customers and the line was forming at the door to get in, with people who obviously had been there before and knew well what they would be getting!   It is a little cheaper for lunch during the week than on Sunday or at dinner (which is only on Thursday and Friday nights) but worth it no matter when you come.  But alas, they are closed on Saturday.

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Visit them in person at 1213 Sunset Blvd, West Columbia, SC 29169
And be sure to “Like” them (and find out more) on Facebook
~jeff

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Blue Marlin – Columbia, SC

Wow. No surprise that once again, we had an amazing meal.  Like the history of this great restaurant (being located in Columbia’s old downtown train station) the food here has a long storied tradition of being fantastic.  Steaks, Seafood, Pasta and more, are all highly recommended at this classy restaurant in The Vista district.

Thankfully we were able to get a table on short notice with 6 people (thanks Open Table!). It is a bit loud in there at times when it is crowded, so it is not really ideal for an intimate quiet dinner, and even a business meeting could be tough on a crowded night, but the food is so good you will not be talking anyway!

For an appetizer we tried their Fried Green Tomatoes. They were perfect. Tart, but sweet, with a spicy sauce. (and it counts as a green vegetable!)
Fried Green Tomatoes

For dinner I usually get shrimp and grits (their speciality) or the salmon steak, but this time got Tilapia Charleston, which is pan seared and covered in a shrimp and crabmeat cream sauce, laid over a bed of amazing creamy Adluh grits with green beans. (my mouth is watering as I type… it was that tasty!)
Tilapia Charleston

My wife got Flounder which was also excellent, though was far too much food for her to eat, so she brought about half of it home.
Flounder Dinner

If you are interested in trying their world famous, award winning Shrimp & Grits, but do not want to commit to a meal, there is a small single size portion on the appetizer menu. That is a perfect way to experience it without too much risk. (but rest assured you will love it!)
Shrimp and Grits

I am always so happy to get to eat there and so far, it has never failed to be fantastic!

www.BlueMarlinColumbia.com

*Tip for first timers… if you want to try it without breaking the bank, LUNCH or even Sunday Brunch has the same exact food, at a much less expensive price. Try that then once you know you love it, come back for a night out!

Beacon Drive-In – Spartanburg, SC

When we first moved to Columbia, SC from the big city of Orlando, FL, I was disappointed the there were not as many big chain stores I was used to having nearby. Like the fact there is no Apple Store (Greenville or Charlotte are not close enough for me).  However we were thrilled that were SO MANY great local restaurants, because in Orlando all we really seemed to have were chains.

Watching a PBS special about great places to eat in South Carolina, they mentioned the Beacon Drive-In located in Spartanburg.  Then a few months later we met a women from Spartanburg who told stories of going there as a teenager with her husband (then her boyfriend) and made it sound SO GOOD!  So on our next trip toward Asheville, we stopped by!
Beacon Drive-In
The iconic sign still stands and directs you back in time. Then you go inside to order. It is like stepping back in time when you walk in. Opened in 1946, and the man at the front (J.C. Strobel) has been there helping call in the orders for all the customers since the very beginning!  In fact, they even say you gotta “CALL IT” when you step up.  Be ready and know what you are getting, otherwise they will move you out of the way so others can order!  The line moves FAST!  *(see what it is like on this video link).

That is him, standing off to the left of my kids….
When you get to the Beacon, you gotta "Call It"

We managed to order and get down the line only to find they do not take debit or credit cards (they will take checks which we were thankful for…) and get ready to chow down!|
YUMMY BURGERS AND FRIES AT BEACON
I got (and loved) the cheeseburger and I had to get it “a plenty”.  That is what they call their “meal” deal there and means it come with fries AND onion rings! It is something that started back in the days after the depression and when times were hard, but you could get a meal there for just a little money but the meal was “a plenty”.  *(if you get your meal “a plenty” just know you can share your fries and rings with a friend… no need for both of you to go “a plenty” or you will NEVER eat it all!   And in case you are like my daughter and you do not like burgers or hotdogs, do not worry. They have tons of other options!  She got chicken soup and ate every drop!

Check it out if you are ever anywhere near Spartanburg.  It is good old-fashion fun!
*(and be sure and get some ice cream too before you leave!)

www.BeaconDriveIn.com 

Metro Burger – Greenville, SC

Couple of weeks ago, Tina and I were in Greenville, SC and before we headed to a movie, we wanted to find a bite to eat.  We had resigned to the fact we would be eating typical chain, fast-food, but thankfully we stumbled upon a local place that sounded interesting instead.

Metro Burger is a locally owned gourmet burger shop at 1102 Woodruff Rd, in the old Jack In The Box location, right across from the movie theater.  On the Metro Burger website, they list it as a chain (and have info about franchise options) but this is currently the only location.  I would LOVE to get one of these in Columbia!  It is so much better than a Five Guys or any other burger joint I have been into a while.

They have lots of great signature burgers on the menu, but also have a build-it-yourself option too, so you can create almost any possible combination.   Tina built a wonderful turkey burger with lots of great toppings (regretfully I did not get a picture of it…).  I had one of their signature items called a Carolina Slawster Burger!  Angus beef burger, blue cheese slaw, tomato and one onion ring!  It was delicious! And I was pleasantly surprised to see they serve Duke’s mayo with it! (my favorite!)

The Carolina Slawster Burger!

If you are looking to save money, and get a cheap, super-quick burger that is ready the moment you order it, head to MickeyD’s or something… but if you have a few minutes to wait, and can spend a little more, this is the place to get a burger in Greenville.

www.MetroBurger.com

***(And I will promise to frequent the location if someone in Columbia wants to open one up!  Just let me know!  🙂