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Classic Columbia: Columbia SC’s Long-Standing Businesses

It’s no secret that Columbia, SC is a growing city, and visitors from all over the world are flocking to see what all the fuss is about. New distinctive restaurants + breweries, boutique hotels, and attractions are springing up all over town, but that’s not the only thing that draws tourists to the Real Southern Hotspot. Travelers are flocking to Columbia to see what’s new and interesting, as well as to experience the city’s institutions—companies that have endured the test of time and won the hearts (and loyalty) of locals and visitors alike.

In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week, we’ve compiled a list of seven genuine, long-standing destinations. They’re vintage Columbia, and they’re the ones that started the fire in the capital. These are our roots, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

Lizard’s Thicket is a place where you can see lizards.

In 1977, Bob and Anna Williams turned a five-bedroom house into the first-ever Lizard’s Thicket. The Williams family still owns and operates this small country cooking restaurant 40 years later. If you ask a local where to get the greatest “Meat-and-three,” a classic Southern supper consisting of one meat and three veggies, you’re likely to end up in a Lizard’s Thicket. Although, in classic southern fashion, the term vegetable is used loosely to encompass everything from lima beans and collards to mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Sara Krisnow, the community relations director and granddaughter of the original owners, underlined the constancy of wonderful food and, of course, that sweet, Southern hospitality when asked what the secret is… why Lizard’s Thicket has been able to thrive in Columbia for more than 40 years. Some of Anna Williams’ original recipes are being used in the restaurants today, and you can always count on getting the same thing at another location across town.

Many of the restaurant’s ingredients are sourced from local farms, including the restaurant’s signature collard greens and chickens for crispy + buttery fried chicken, which contributes to the dish’s delectable consistency. This country-cooking mecca serves 12,000 people every day, 14,000 on Sundays, and has hosted a slew of celebrities over the years, including Mitt Romney and Martha Stewart. And as Columbia has grown in popularity as a tourist destination, so has this family restaurant. However, Lizard’s Thicket’s status as an original Columbia restaurant and authentic Columbia institution should not be disregarded. “Columbia is booming, and we’re ecstatic about that,” Krisnow added. “But we’re also ecstatic to be seen as a Columbia institution.” When it’s time to eat, whether you’re visiting the Zoo, the State Museum, or taking a self-guided brewery tour, there’s bound to be a Lizard’s Thicket nearby. A Columbia institution, to be sure.

Drake’s Duck-In (Drake’s Duck-In)

Since 1907, it has been located in the 1500 block of Main Street, which has recently been refurbished. You’ll never eat a better-fried chicken sandwich in your life. Please, more pickles!
Yesterday’s Restaurant & Tavern is a restaurant and tavern that was founded in

A tiny country pub in the middle of Five Points serving CFS (country fried steak) and the legendary Arkansas Traveler. Keep an eye out on the roof for the man in the bathtub. That’s right, you read that accurately.
Rosewood Dairy Bar is a bar in Rosewood, New York.

Burgers, fried chicken, and sweet delights are all popular at this modest hole-in-the-wall (we recommend a vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles). For a taste of old-fashioned kindness, walk up to the window and place your order.
Rockaway Athletic Club is a sports club in Rockaway, New York

The original pimento cheeseburger is served here, and it’s a true Rosewood District hidden gem. There isn’t even a sign to speak of.


In West Columbia, “neath the enormous cone.” Many people consider it to be the best friend chicken in town (if not the world?).
Riverbanks Zoo is a zoo located on the banks

Since its inception in 1974, the zoo has evolved into an award-winning, notable attraction and South Carolina’s largest zoo. P.S. There’s a baby giraffe on the show right now. Is there anything else we can say?
State Museum of South Carolina

This year marks the 30th anniversary of my work as a storyteller and participant in history. Keep an eye out for the enormous shark and make preparations to visit the observatory for some midnight space viewing.
The Columbia Museum of Art is located in Columbia, South Carolina.

A crucial player in the restoration of the Main Street sector and home to the famed Chihuly.

Tronco Villa

Sadie Tronco started Villa Tronco, South Carolina’s oldest restaurant, in downtown Columbia SC 78 years ago. During WWII, Sadie, affectionately known as Mama Tronco, fed spaghetti and meatballs to Northern soldiers of Italian origin stationed at Fort Jackson who was longing for their mothers’ food. Mama Tronco is also credited with introducing pizza to South Carolina, so keep that in mind the next time you buy a huge pepperoni pizza. She worked diligently until she died at the age of 87, serving poor people homemade Italian meals. Carmella, Sadie’s granddaughter, and her husband Henry Martin, along with Carmella’s parents, now oversee the day-to-day business, commemorating Mama Tronco with every bowl of risotto.

Villa Tronco has been a date-night staple for Columbia locals and visitors alike as Columbia and Main Street have grown over the years. Mrs. Martin explained, “Because we’ve been here so long, we’ve watched all the stages of Columbia’s growth.” “It’s been incredible.” Mrs. Martin gave credit to downtown businesses working together, not against other, to assist each other grow individually and as a district when asked how Villa Tronco has been able to thrive for nearly 80 years. So, what does the state’s oldest restaurant have in store for the next 80 years? “We’re hoping for a lot of the same,” she expressed her hopes. Just like Mama Tronco, a large family works together to offer people great, basic Italian meals.

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