For most people, the conversation around Columbia, South Carolina stops at the Midlands capital being a college town. In reality, this region is steeped in history–Black history, specifically– that can be found throughout the city and in its food scene. One thing you’ll never have to worry about in a city like Columbia is going to bed dissatisfied.

From breakfast classics to signature Southern dishes, support these Black-owned businesses in Columbia on your next visit.

The Toasty Hot Spot

Start the day with a hearty breakfast reminiscent of home from Columbia’s take-out favorite, The Toasty Hot Spot. Young entrepreneurs Sai Williams and her partner, Eli Wright, debuted this flavorful eatery nearly three years ago. Claiming some of the best grit bowls in Columbia, guests love the build-your-own concept where breakfast is customized to your liking.

The Toasty Hot Spot is also where to go when the craving for a good Southern biscuit calls. Try the traditional buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy or shrimp gravy. Omelets, shrimp and grits, and their sweet California grits with brown sugar, honey, and cinnamon turn first-timers into loyal fans. Find these along with equally decadent sandwiches, wraps, and salads for lunch at 1305 Lady Street in downtown Columbia. Try Columbia’s favorite breakfast Tuesdays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9:30 am to 2:00 p.m.

Railroad BBQ

The best of Carolina cuisine can be found at Railroad BBQ. Located on Hampton Street, the Black-owned restaurant sits adjacent to railroad tracks, a notorious marker of Columbia living. Here, you will find the best smoked meats and savory sides, like mac-n-cheese and vegan collard greens, to match. However, the photographs, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia will keep you enthralled for hours with tales of South Carolina’s history and its place in the civil rights movement.

Railroad BBQ’s owner, Kevin Alexander Gray, was an author and civil rights activist long before becoming a restauranteur. Gray’s legacy includes longtime involvement in South Carolina’s progressive politics, working alongside Rev. Jesse Jackson and other leaders. Although Gray passed away in 2023, Railroad BBQ remains a place where people can “bond over barbeque” in his honor. Prideful history lessons cover the walls and table designs of this casual yet delicious restaurant. Enjoy Railroad’s cookout classics at 2001 Hampton Street Wednesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

A Peace Of Soul Vegan Kitchen

Residents of the Midlands swear by the 100% plant-based cuisine at A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this southern comfort vegan eatery is loved by vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters, with customers visiting from near and far. The carryout and catering business, which also has a food truck, is famous for its fried chicken, an award-winning bacon cheeseburger and an extensive selection of desserts. Newer additions to the menu include a vegan crab cake and roasted blue grits but the spare ribs are also a must-try. A Peace of Soul’s sides deserve their own moment to shine, with collards, purple cabbage, and macaroni and cheese as a few options to accompany your main.

This month, owner and chef Folami Geter, celebrates the tenth anniversary of this phase of the business’s history. The restaurant was previously Lamb’s Bread Vegan Kitchen, her father’s creation and one of the first plant-based restaurants in the southeast. Today, residents know the establishment as A Peace of Soul, and one of the best places for healthy, flavorful twists on southern favorites. Experience the well-deserved hype of A Peace of Soul at 2338 Main Street on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. for lunch and dinner. Customers are asked to place their order online whether dining on the patio or picking up for take-out. The menu changes daily, so prepare for a meat-free, mouthwatering surprise of daily specials.

Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles

Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles, voted the best soul food in Columbia, gets its fair share of celebrity drop-ins. The restaurant has been visited by former First Lady Hillary Clinton, Dawn Staley, Sherri Shepherd, Chrisette Michele, and Deion Sanders, to name a few. Their signature dish, as the name alludes, is chicken and waffles. Four flavorful fried chicken wings are served on top of a warm Belgian waffle, with flavored waffles as an upgrade. Other comforting dishes like smothered pork chops, salmon patties, and the fried fish soul food plate are also worth trying at least once.

Owners Kitwanda “Kiki” and Tyrone Cyrus opened the restaurant in 2012. They now have two locations in the city to enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere, food, and live entertainment. Those looking for a southern fix can visit the northeast location at 7001 Parklane Road or the Harbison area location at 1260 Bower Parkway. Hours vary by location, however, both locations are open for lunch and dinner most weekdays and brunch on the weekends.

The Donut Guy

Crystal and Shaun Paulk, the wife-husband duo behind the brand, have been a staple in the Columbia area since 2011. The rich confections of their business, The Donut Guy, are well worth a trip to the Sandhills area. However, if time is limited, you can also catch them at Soda City on Saturdays, Columbia’s year-round weekly farmers market. These sweet treats will give any sweet tooth a run for its money.

The Donut Guy’s menu includes hot mini donuts with artisan toppings and “big boy donuts” which are topped and filled. Although flavors change each week, expect an assortment of options such as blue velvet cheesecake, oreo brownie, and pecan pie. You can also indulge in elephant ears, funnel cakes, fried Oreos, coffee, ice cream and milkshakes.

Visit the Sandhills location Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can also find them among Columbia’s thriving local community at Soda City from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.