Saturday, January 12, 2013

Columbia, South Carolina

My job occasionally takes me to Columbia, South Carolina, which is a great food city -- so long as you're not a vegetarian.  Most of Columbia's best restaurants offer no more than one meat-free entree -- usually pasta -- and maybe a couple of salads or vegetable side dishes.  Following my own travel tips, however, I discovered before my last trip a Mediterranean wine and tapas bar with a wide variety of healthy options for vegetarians.

Gervais & Vine is no doubt your best bet for a first-class vegetarian meal in Columbia.  The menu had more items on it than I could order, and everything I sampled (including the reasonably priced wine selection) was quite good.  Some of the dishes I tried are pictured below.

Marinated Manchego cheese, spice almonds, and olives (half eaten, oops)

Hummus plate
Asparagus with romesco sauce

Sauteed spinach with garbanzo beans, lemon, and olive oil

Crispy fingerling potatoes with white truffle aioli and fresh herbs

Greek pizza with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives

If you do end up at one of the many restaurants that serves only pasta for vegetarians, I would recommend Blue Marlin, a popular steak and seafood place that also offers a few meat-free appetizers, salads, and side dishes.  The fried green tomatoes were delicious, and the ravioli, which was not too cheesy, was also very good.

Fried green tomatoes with chipotle cream sauce

Portabella mushroom ravioli with spinach and vine-ripe tomatoes, served in a mushroom broth

Finally, for a much more casual (i.e., BYOB) but unique experience, check out the Blue Cactus Cafe, a family-owned diner that serves very inexpensive vegan-friendly Korean food with a Latin American twist.

TIP:  As noted in my post about Birmingham, Alabama, vegetarians should be mindful that many vegetable dishes in the South are often prepared with animal products.  To be safe, always inquire before ordering. 

Gervais & Vine on Urbanspoon

Blue Marlin on Urbanspoon