5 Hidden Restaurant Gems in Columbia


5 Hidden Restaurant Gems in Columbia - Columbia SC Moms BlogI have loved living in Columbia the past four and a half years. There is so much to do and so many places I have yet to explore. But I have to admit that one of my favorite things to do in Columbia is eat. Yep, I said eat.

You see, I just love food. I mean, who doesn’t, really? I’m a huge foodie! I love trying new types of foods and restaurants. Fortunately, Columbia is full of fabulous eateries! And what I’ve discovered is that the best places are hidden. Small out of the way restaurants my family has found purely by accident or because someone has told us about them. These are what I call hidden gems. So here is my list of hidden gems you must check out if you love food as much as I do!

La Isla Bonita 

Ever since my husband and I took a trip to Puerto Rico a few years back, I have been in love with Puerto Rican food. Everywhere we go I hunt down the most authentic Puerto Rican restaurant I can find. And, my friends, I have found one here in Columbia. La Isla Bonita looks like a tiny little house off the beaten path, but don’t let appearances fool you, my friends. This restaurant serves authentic homemade Puerto Rican food. I’m talking, tastes just like a meal I ate at someone’s house in Puerto Rico, authentic. A must for all Puerto Rican food lovers!

Real Mexico

Let’s travel from the little island of Puerto Rico to the sunny shores of Mexico. Real Mexico is a small hole in the wall place on Bush River Rd. You could easily drive by it and not give it a second look. However, drive by on a weeknight or Sunday afternoon and you’ll see the parking lot is overflowing. Real Mexico has a welcoming atmosphere filled with Mexican music and décor. Here you’ll find the most mouth-watering tacos, burritos, tamales, tostadas, Mexican Shrimp cocktail, and more. And the shells for all of these … homemade and absolutely scrumptious! They also have some fabulous drinks! You’ll want to try their Agua Frescas for sure.

Blue Cactus Café

Blue Cactus Cafe, located in Five Points, has a delicious array of both Korean and Tex Mex foods. Here you can find Korean dumplings, Kim-Chi, Stir Fry, Rice and Beans, Quesadillas, sandwiches, and veggie options as well. It seems like a strange combination at first glance, but once you taste the food you’ll want to go back for more. 

Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant

In case you haven’t noticed by now, the restaurants on this list are all international cuisine. Mmmm … so yummy! This next one is no exception! Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant, located in Five Points, is a brightly colored looking “house” that you could easily pass by and not think twice about. But don’t do that, friends, or you will be missing out on some amazing food! Harambe boasts extremely flavorful and authentic Ethiopian food. They use traditional Ethiopian spices and flavors in all of their dishes. If you’re a fan of sharing dishes with others, try one of Harambe’s sampler platters. Lots of food to share with your entire party!

Cantina 76

I had heard about Cantina 76 from a friend. She kept posting pictures of the most delicious looking foods from there on Instagram. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided I needed to check Cantina 76 out for myself. I’m so glad I did because I was not disappointed! They offer traditional Mexican fare like chips with salsa and guacamole, a variety of delectable tacos (I highly recommend the shrimp tacos!), enchiladas, chimichangas, quesadillas, taco salad, soup, and more. Oh, and we can’t forget the absolutely scrummy desserts! Fried Ice Cream. Need I say more? 

Cantina 76
Cantina 76 2
Cantina 76 3

What are your favorite hidden gems in Columbia?



  1. How did Cantina 76 make this list? Don’t get me wrong I love the place but it is definitely not a “hidden” gem. It’s located clearly on Devine street and Main Street! Good article though! Great food!

    • Hi Jess! I contemplated whether or not to add Cantina 76 to the list. I know it is downtown, however, I’ve gone downtown many times and never noticed it until I was told it was there. I also added it to the list because it’s not a restaurant I’ve regularly heard people talking about. I wanted to give our readers who haven’t heard of it yet a chance to discover it. Thanks for reading and for your comment!


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