By Liz Gunn || I had the pleasure last night of dining at one of my all-time favorite Columbia restaurants. Anytime someone asks for a restaurant recommendation in downtown Columbia, I always reply without hesitation – “Mr. Friendly’s.” It’s consistent, the menu is creative (while offering something for every palate) and the service is unparalleled.
They don’t take reservations, which annoys some people, but I actually like that about the place. You know you’re on equal footing with everyone else in line.
The bar is small, but the bartenders are friendly, efficient and well equipped to make good wine suggestions. One perk of Mr. Friendly’s location is that its sister restaurant “Cellar on Greene” is right next door. If the bar at Friendly’s is too crowded, we get our name on the list then head to Cellar while we wait. Last night was half-priced champagne night, so it suited me just fine to start my evening with a glass of ($5) bubbly. And the Ahi Tuna Nachos, naturally.
I regard Mr. Friendly’s as Columbia’s flagship restaurant. There are other good places to eat nearby like Garibaldi and Saluda’s, but neither has remained as consistent and up-to-date as Mr. Friendly’s. This isn’t a knock on the other guys as much as it is a nod to Friendly’s for staying to true to its vision while making necessary changes in order to stay relevant.
I’ve never had a bad meal at Garibaldi, but I do tire of feeling like I stepped onto the set of Miami Vice when I walk in. The décor hasn’t been updated since the first time I ate there twenty some odd years ago. However, we do occasionally pop in for dessert at the bar because that almond basket is hard to beat.
Saluda’s has changed hands a few times, and unlike Friendly’s the food has been somewhat hit or miss. I’ve had incredible meals there, but I’ve also had very average meals there. The balcony that overlooks Five Points is nice, but there is only a small window of time between seasons when you can enjoy dining al fresco in Columbia.
Some other great restaurants within the city limits to choose from are Motor Supply, Oak Table, Bourbon and Hampton Street Vineyard. Some relatively new and some have been around for quite some time. The food and service are particularly good at all of them. But in my humble opinion, none of them quite measure up to the overall dining experience I always have at Mr. Friendly’s.
I’m sure it’s not called Mr. Friendly’s for this reason, but when you dine there – you really do feel as if you’re among friends. If you live here or plan to visit, do yourself a favor and stop in for lunch or dinner. They serve sophisticated food, but a in an eclectic casual atmosphere.
They also offer great specials like half-priced wine at dinner when the Gamecocks are playing football at home, and on Monday Nights they offer “Meatloaf, Moonpies & Half-Priced Wine”.
Never allowing the menu to get stale, they create specials in accordance with the seasons, holidays or events happening around town. This week is “Tailgate Week.” They’re serving tailgate classics like nachos, hot dogs and burgers, but with a “Friendly” twist. (We had the blackened shrimp & crawfish nachos and they did NOT disappoint!)
Best of all you never know who you might run into. Last night, dining nearby were Tim Tebow, Jesse Palmer and Brent Musburger from ESPN!
Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, author, businesswoman, travel enthusiast, food snob, fashionista, lover of great wine and the No. 1 Gamecock football fan … ever. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.
You’re wise to do your review on a weeknight. Weekend dining in Five Points comes with a complimentary 9mm slug for dessert.
Funny you should mention that. At Mr. Friendly’s, law abiding citizens who carry with a valid CWP aren’t welcome. I guess they extend their friendliness to opportunistic violent criminals as well, which is why I will never give them one cent of my money. Their food isn’t that good.
Ricky Mollohan knows his client base are a bunch of scared of their own shadow Shandonites, he wouldn’t want to do anything to run them off.
Guess I won’t be eating there. I would like to throw a nice word about the Applebees on Augusta Rd in West Columbia, near Lowe’s, where they are not posted and apparently have no intention of posting. The service and food have always been great when I eat there, too. I am guessing that all Applebees are run like this, but can mainly speak of this location as it is the one I most often visit.
Just get a lean cuisine, throw a 10 spot out the window, and call it even
Oddly Solstice Kitchen on Sparkleberry in NE Columbia has the same ownership and shares many menu items with Mr. Friendly’s but is not posted against lawful carry. I guess it has to be a Shandon, Five Points, and Downtown Columbia thing. Very strange but didn’t Joe McCulloch send out threating letters to all the businesses in Five Points? I guess people really believe he or something.
Joe is another libturd that thinks taking thing laying down is the American way, what a jackass.
Thanks for the warning and the saved unnecessary trip!
unarmed victim zones ought to be so marked in large orange print. We ought to require drug testing of legislators too, but that’s a different thread
Liz, I agree, it is one of the best restaurants we have in Columbia..never had a bad meal, service is great and I even like ole Ricky despite his heavy Gamecock lean….
Sorry, I like the place but let there be no mistake, I’d not call it Columbia’s “flagship” restaurant. And seriously, the interior is pretty run down for a nice restaurant… just saying
Well I’m curious, what restaurant would you say that about?
Liz, I’m not sure Columbia even has a flagship restaurant. But if I were conducting a regional poll of Columbia restaurants, I’d dare say that restaurants like The Blue Marlin or The Oak Table would surpass the Mr. Friendly’s of the city. Again, I like Mr. F’s… I just don’t think of them as flagship material. Further, I’ve never thought of them seeking such an image.
The Blue Marlin is quite popular, and quite good – but it’s exactly the same as it always has been. No style points for that, but it’s good. Oak Table is very, very good- my only problem with recommending Oak Table is the very limited menu and the weak portion sizes on some things. I love it though – excellent choices.
Glad we can agree on something, Mr. Friendly’s is the bomb!
Dear Anita Zucker……….. (…yes you, little lady…)
It really pains me to no end to be the one to have to point out just how MAD and ticked you should be at this type of media offered by Mrs Liz Gunn..!!!
Anita, just think, with all the hoopla with Bobby Harrell forming a domestic violence commission and Liz has the ditzzi-ness to write a Mr. Friendly’s burger review…? I know it has to make you want to burn your bra on the battery…!!@!
Now, since your the most wealthy lady in our state and are somewhat smart, do you think that Mrs Liz would have the guts to ask Lindsey Graham if Mr. Friendly’s has a delivery service for Kurdish women suffering from OIL domestic policy violence by ISIS…!?!
Anita, unlike Wil Folks who obviously could care less about the plight of our state’s women and the future children they are going to bare to DIE For Oil ……..we hope you get in the face of some man SOON…!!! Obviously…….Liz is not gonna do it..!!!
you really need to go vent somewhere else.. This isn’t the NYT or Wash Post.. It’s a blog that isn’t tied to politics or the daily international issues .. Some of us rather read something more interesting and entertaining than fukn ISIS or Lindsey Graham and the republican nutchops..
Dear Deacon of Columbia Baptist Church……….( yes you, prayer boy…)
WOW…….get a load of this article. We know you read this website…!!! So….lets get down to some Mr. Friendlys food tax issues…..shall we..? LOOK AT ME…!! The next time you have a conference with that pastor of yours…..look at him dead in the eyes..!!! Ask that Pastor how much Mr. Friendly’s gets from Baptist faithful compared to the rising SEACOAST campus faithful…!?! Next, ask that pastor if he knows which congregation understands SLAVERY to an OIL Pharaoh..!?
I bold faced dare you too…!!!
Mr. DEACON……….is the stock market high..? …is the price of a barrell of oil on the slide…? ……..are the Kurds selling OIL to Israel at a cut rate price…..??
Mr. Deacon………how would you tell your flock to get out of “Jericho”..!?
Like there ain’t nothing in Columbia you won’t find in just about every other city in the U.S. with a population of 75,000+ as far as restaurants go. I haven’t eaten anything/anywhere in Columbia that I couldn’t find the same in Richmond,Va, Raiegh,NC or any other capital city in the south that happens to harbor a university to boot.
Be sure to dispatch some restaurant reviews the next time you’re in San Francisco, “Carolina Girl”
Columbia’s slogan should be: “We’re just 90 miles south of Charlotte on I-77 and a few hours drive from Atlanta”
I’ll do that – plan to be in San Fran next year. There are 130,000 people who live in Columbia, and we all (presumably) eat dinner. We also have a few visitors, being the state capital and home to a major University. Just putting this out there for people who are “forced” to eat a meal while in this city.
As I posted, Columbia is a city >75,000 population and is really no different than any other capitol city that also hosts a major university (if you consider the University of South Carolina a “major” university that is) with similar cultural,sports and cuisine offerings (especially southern state capitals that also host a major university). Except that Columbia is hotter than hell in the summer, cold and damp in the winter and the city’s skyline is pittiful.
I’ll give Columbia this though – the zoo is pretty nice (at least the last time we visited it which was about 10 years ago).
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco and the Bay Area a number of times on both business and pleasure. I believe that San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world and if you can’t find a good restaurant in San Francisco you better just quit.
There is no other city in the world like San Francisco. I’m sure you will enjoy the charms and the beauty of the “City by the Bay”. The first time you top one of the hills and look down on San Francisco Bay or walk out on the Golden Gate and see the sun set over the city you will NEVER forget it. I truly hope you get to do both.
A little word to the wise: Don’t say “San Fran” or “Frisco” if you’re speaking to a native San Franciscan – they hate that.
Do I seem like the kind of person that cares if people hate what I say?!? (I’m still here aren’t i?)
“(I’m still here aren’t i?) ”
Please do stay – your columns are fun and interesting and I enjoy your banter back and forth in the comments.
I’ve reviewed my replies to you and I can not find anything that remotely indicates that I hate what you say (or post for that matter).
Whether you are “here” or not is strictly your choice.
You were instructing me not to say San Fran bc the natives hate it…that’s what I was responding to.
It sunk in to what you are referring to.
I was just trying to give a little friendly advice.
But obviously what people from another part of the country prefer not to be called is not much of an interest to you.
That:s OK I get that. It seems to be a common trait in South Carolinia.
One of my favorite North Carolina “sayings”:
North Carolina = A valley of humility between two mountains of conceit (except that Virginia does not suffer from an inferiority complex).
Kinda like that old Furman bumper sticker:
Furman: “A Rose between Two Thorns”
My original response was meant to be taken tongue in cheek. Guess that’s my SC sense of humor shining through. It’s hard to convey tone via the internet at times.
My favorite NC saying is that it’s where a seven course dinner consists of a possum and a six pack. Also, the rose between two thorns bumper sticker has to be my all time favorite.
“I believe that San Francisco is the most beautiful city in the world and if you can’t find a good restaurant in San Francisco you better just quit.”
It definitely is! And some of the hole-in-the-wall neighborhood restaurants are fabulous! Can’t wait to go back.
“Don’t say “San Fran” or “Frisco” if you’re speaking to a native San Franciscan – they hate that.”
I had a friend who, when he met someone from a place he was unfamiliar with, would ask after some normal cordial initial banter, “What do ___ not like being called?” He would then of course use the term regularly.
The only one I remember is Slovenes don’t like being called “griners.” Similar would be “Snow Nazis” for Swedes.
LOL, when meet someone new and tell them I am from Columbia, they automatically think I’m talking about Colombia. Columbia is no Raleigh or Austin.
One of my fondest memories is taking my soon to be freshman at Carolina to orientation. We stayed at Claussen’s (?) and dined at Mr. Friendly’s. She was really impressed with both which made Dad feel cool. She has loved her time in Columbia but I worry about her safety all the time. Good article, I agree with you – on this one.
No Lawful Concealed Carry?. I will never spend a penny there. What idiot decided that this was a good idea??
Loved the article! Made me want to run right down and have dinner there! And a glass of wine!!!