SEC guide to South Carolina's home turf

We're headed to South Carolina's home in Columbia as our "Home Turf" series continues.

Past turfs checked out:

Columbia has always treated me well and I look forward to going back because there are a few eateries I've missed in the past. Luckily, the South Carolina faithful sent enough info to direct me and everyone else not familiar with Columbia in the right direction. There's no question that South Carolina fans came out in more force than anyone, so I apologize if I didn't get to yours:

Jeremy in Atlanta wrote: When you come to Columbia there is a little something for everyone whether you want a college experience or a nice night on the town. In regards to food, if you head on down to five points you can grab some great burgers at Pawley’s or Groucho’s for their signature sandwiches, or also Village Idiot for great pizza and happy hour on Friday!! For a great college nightlife, just check out the 20 plus bars with the great drink prices that college towns provide. For a more “out of college” experience, head over to the Vista where you can get some great drinks at multiple bars and restaurants such as the Blue Marlin, Liberty’s, and Carolina Ale House (rooftop bar). If you find yourself with a sweet tooth head up the street to Nonna’s, best desserts around! Lastly, make sure you have time to tailgate all day on game day in the Fairgrounds (make sure to check out the Cockaboosas, nothing else like them in the country!)and get ready to enjoy the best introduction in college football “2001” and the legendary “Sandstorm”! Enjoy your stay and welcome to the Cockpit! Go Cocks!

My thoughts: A little "taste" of everything. Well done, Jeremy.

Callie in Columbia writes: First and foremost, you MUST stop by the Horseshoe. The Horseshoe is the original USC campus so it has been around since 1801. It is an absolutely beautiful grassy area covered with huge oak trees and is a place of fun and/or solace for USC students and residents of Columbia alike. I recommend taking a walk around the Horseshoe and exploring the little alcoves-my personal favorite area is the rose garden where my husband proposed to me (ha, I might be a little biased about that area). If you have kids, check out Riverbanks Zoo. Their botanical gardens are pretty as well. If you like to be outdoors, go for a run or walk at Riverfront Park (at Columbia Canal), The Riverwalk (at Congaree River), or Harbison State Forest (at Broad River). You can also go to Lake Murray and run the dam or hang out by the docks. If you're going to be in town for an extra day and it is still warm out, I suggest tubing down the river-it is so much fun, but will take you a few hours.Have fun during your stay in sunny South Carolina, and enjoy watching my Gamecocks on their way to their first football national championship-it's sure to be a fun ride!

Jeremy writes: When it comes to the Columbia area, many will tell you that Lizards Thicket is the best in town for homestyle meat/veggies, but that's just ignorance rooted in the fact there are so many locations. The new SC State Farmers Market (moved to Charleston Highway in West Columbia to make room for expansion of Williams-Brice Stadium tailgating space) has its own restaurant, Judy's at the Market. The food is fresh, unbelievably good, and the desserts are can't miss (slice of layer cake 6 inches tall and 3 inches wide for under 5 bucks? Please and thank you!).

If you want to know SC's true BBQ style, you need Mustard-based Q from Maurice's Piggy Park. I'm certain you'll have heard of Pawley's Front Porch in 5 Points by the end of this, but yes, it is indeed the best spot for the best burger you've ever had. Guy Fieri said so himself on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. If Italian food is more your flare, the absolute best for over 60 years now comes from Villa Tronco on Blanding St. Oddly enough, many in town don't know about this gem, despite its extraordinary longevity. Upon first glance at the menu, it would be easy to think this is just another of the many boring Americanized Italian knock-offs, but it doesn't take long to realize how wrong that is. Hands down, the BEST, most authentic and flavorful Italian to be found in state. DO NOT MISS. Paco's Mobile Tacos is a tiny kitchen squeezed in between two bars on Harden Street in the middle of Five Points. Despite being all-natural, organic, and more fresh and flavorful than you'd believe, Paco's manages to stay on a shoestring budget by being simple, serving only tacos and burritos made to order. Open Tues-Sat 7PM-2AM, Paco's caters to the late night appetite, serving by delivery (order by phone or online), a to-go window on the street, or the serving window in Lucky's bar.

My thoughts: Another book, but worth it.

Elyse in Columbia writes: Columbia, SC is full of so many great local southern food restaurants that it is hard to choose just a couple. One of my favorites has to be Rockaways Athletic Club on Rosewood Drive. There is no advertising on the outside of the building so it is the kind of a place that is known by word of mouth. Their pimento cheeseburger was recently voted the best burger in Columbia, and it delivers! The burger is juicy with extremely creamy pimento cheese. Rockaways offers many different fried side items (we are in the south after all), but I tend to go for the pimento cheese overload and order pimento cheese fries with my pimento cheeseburger. It is great to go as a group and order a few different sides to share with your burger. Another favorite place of mine is Thristy Fellow which is located near our basketball arena. Thristy Fellow is a great place for happy hour and is a fusion of Italian and Southern food ranging from brick over pizzas to sandwich and hoagies. They also have a great brunch with one of my personal favorites, shrimp and grits.

Stiletto Spur in West Columbia writes: The Blue Marlin in the Vista has awesome seafood. Wet Willy's in the Vista has live bands and Jillian's in the Vista has bands and an outside deck. Longhorn's in the Vista has wonderful steaks. If you want to eat in 5 points I would suggest Mr. Friendly's for lunch or dinner. Great food and wines. The best authentic Mexican can be found at El Burrito in 5 points. If it's country cooking you're looking for Cracker Barrel is a must. Riverpark is beautiful and don't forget to visit Riverbanks Zoo. There's a great tour of Historic sites and homes if you're a history buff. The Chamber of Commerce can tell you the tour times and there's ALWAYS something/someone good at The Township. Have fun and Go Cocks!

Mark in Columbia writes: Back when Columbia was kind of boring, there was nothing to do. So everyone just ate a lot of good food. Now, Columbia has gotten cool and the food is still great. You've got two downtowns to go to, the Vista and Five points. If you're looking for atmosphere, go to the Vista, for a party, go to Five Points. Go to Pawley's for your burgers, Beezer's for your subs, and Hunter Gatherer for your beer. Columbia has also pioneered the all you can eat BBQ buffet. There are six within reasonable driving distance with everything from gizzards to all three kinds of pulled pork. The closest are Palmetto Pig and Doc's, but if you want a real eating experience, hit up Little Pig's on Alpine Road. Really, though, you can't go wrong in Columbia. Whether you're eating, walking around our pretty campus, or watching football, it's a good time to be a Gamecock.

Tim in Arlington, Va., writes: Sure you'll get a lot of recommendations for different barbecue places in Columbia, but I'm partial to Hudson's Smokehouse in Lexington; a little bit down I-20 West from the downtown area. Good barbecue, and an all you can eat barbecue buffet for a good price. A Friday night before the game will add Catfish and Shrimp and Grits to the buffet. For other types of food, there are a few smaller places to recommend. Blue Cactus Cafe is in the Five Points area, and has a strange but good menu mix of Southwestern and Korean. Pasta Fresca on Forest Drive is a good local Italian place, and new basketball coach Frank Martin seems to agree that you can get some good pizza from Village Idiot in Five Points as well.

Thom in Columbia writes: El Burrito is a great little fresh Tex-Mex place in 5 Points; locally owned, too. Papa Jazz is an awesome record store that's been in 5 Points for years and years. Lots of good stuff in there, and they do special orders too. Group Therapy is kind of a glorified hole in the wall of a bar, but it's been around close to 30 years and was kind of my second home in the '90s. Go to Art Bar and Kelly's in the Vista for a cool scene, often esp. late night. The Riverfront area is awesome too, and there's access on both sides of the river (check out the new baseball stadium too; second to none save for major league parks). There's more, too. Just wanted to send a few before I forgot, but I'll send more when I get a chance.

Timothy in North Augusta, S.C., writes: If you are looking for a little culture, coffee, food and beer in Cola town that is NOT located in 5-points, or the Vista, just walk about 40 yards off of the Horseshoe onto Main between College St. and Pendelton to find one of the best blocks in downtown Columbia. You could spend your entire life (or grad school career) at USC orbiting between two great coffeehouses: Cool Beans and Immaculate Consumption. Catch an independent film at the Nikoloden next door. Have dinner at Miyo's prior and after to concerts at the Koger Center and School of Music, and then finish up with a fantastic beer at the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery.

Michael in Atlanta writes: Welcome to Columbia! Home of the Horseshoe, the Cockaboose, and Carolina football! Here's my dish on the city:1) Lizard's Thicket--must eat! Great breakfasts and for lunch and dinner it's your traditional "meat and three" (one meat/three veggies) kind of place. So good!2) Sandy's located on Main St. Great hot dogs and milkshakes. Enough said.3) Yesterday's in Five Points. Great food and great late night drinks. Plus the owner is a donor to the school...worth spending my money there.Enjoy Cola, Cocktown, or as some call it Columbia. See you at Williams-Brice!