For years, the stretch of road extending from the South Carolina State House was where senators mixed with shoppers and University of South Carolina students, where people from all over town came to dine and mingle. As people moved to the suburbs, buildings were shuttered.
But now, as Columbia residents reclaim downtown, the five blocks between Gervais and Blanding are back. Here, legislators and young professionals sip lattes and shop for holiday gifts side by side. Visit our top 10 spots along the now bustling street.
1. Uptown on Main
If you can monogram it, you can find it at this shop featuring linen handkerchiefs and baptism bonnets. In addition to personalized items, stock up on handwoven, palmetto-emblazoned bread baskets ($18) and Byrd’s Cheddar Biscuits ($14). 1204 Main Street; 803/661-7651
2. Drip on Main
Specializing in pour-over coffee ($2.25), this second location of the Columbia favorite is the perfect place to warm up before strolling to a film or to the nearby Columbia Museum of Art. Try the pancetta with hickory-smoked Cheddar on cinnamonraisin bread ($6.95), apricot butter French toast ($5.95), or a Whoopie Pie ($2.95). 1441 Main Street; 803/799-0067
3. Circa 1332
The younger, hipper offshoot of the Columbia menswear outfitters Granger-Owings, Circa 1332 carries a carefully curated selection of premium jeans (such as North Carolina-made Raleigh Denim), leather belts, and men’s grooming supplies. 1332 Main Street; 803/252-6714
4. The Oak Table
Opened last year across from the State House, this restaurant has an ever-changing menu including regional dishes such as the Grilled SC Barrelfish ($27) and Carolina Heritage Farms Pork Chop ($28). 1221 Main Street; 803/563-5066
5. The Nickelodeon
This Columbia staple, a nonprofit run by the Columbia Film Society and affectionately known as “The Nick,” opened a new 99-seat theater on Main in 2012. Sip on a South Carolina-brewed Westbrook White Thai or IPA ($4) while taking in the latest independent film (at least three screenings daily). 1607 Main Street; 803/254-8234
6. Wine Down on Main
Customers are encouraged to “picnic” in this hot spot’s comfy suede chairs—bring takeout to eat while sipping on a Cab at this wine bar. Finish off with some coffee or lemon truffles ($5 for two). 1520 Main Street; 803/673-4810
7. The Whig
This underground bar with a throwback feel is a longtime staple for Columbia’s arts community and college students. Try the Sriracha and Old Bay Bloody Mary ($4.50). 1200 Main Street; 803/931-8852
8. Equitable Arcade
This 1912 Renaissance Revival gallery is now home to dozens of local art studios. Watch painters and sculptors work, and pick up an original Columbiamemento. 1332 Main Street; 803/528-5655
Run by Columbia restaurateur Kristian Niemi, this new spot is in the renovated Brennen Building. Chef Gordon Langston (formerly of Charleston’s Fat Hen) cooks up Cajun and Creole dishes (think eggplant jambalaya) and serves every type of bourbon distributed in South Carolina. 1214 Main Street; 803/318-3647
10. Columbia Museum of Art
Check out Annie Leibovitz’s “Pilgrimage” exhibit at the museum now through January 5, one of only a few museums outside the Smithsonian to land the exhibit, which features 64 never-before-seen works by the legendary photographer. 1515 Main Street; 803/799-2810
Have any additions to our itinerary? Tell us your favorite spot on Columbia’s Main Street.