A Memorable Year

The 2017 Best of Columbia winners share reflections

By Natalie Meggs and Abigail Thielke

Jeff Amberg

Each year, it is our great privilege to conduct the Best of Columbia contest honoring the wonderful businesses that together help our city thrive. The local businesspeople of the Midlands make this community a special place to live and work, and out of all of the high-quality options available, our readers have selected the following as the best of the best.


This year, we asked the question, “What is your favorite memory from 2016?” Please read on to find out the winner of each category, as well as their favorite reflection on this past year. Congratulations to all of our 2017 winners!



Best Appetizer

Bonefish Grill 


Best Barbecue

Little Pigs Barbecue

My favorite memory of 2016 is celebrating the first birthday of my seventh grandchild, who happens to be my first granddaughter, with tons of friends at the restaurant in our banquet facility. — Champ McGee


Best Chicken Salad

The Gourmet Shop 


Best French Fries

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Best Hamburger 

Pawleys Front Porch


Best Fried Chicken



Best Hot Dog

Sandy’s Famous Hot Dogs


Best Sandwich

Groucho’s Deli


Best Pizza

Marco’s Pizza


Best Ribs

Hudson’s Smokehouse



Best Shrimp and Grits

Blue Marlin

I remember the call advising me that Blue Marlin was selected once again for Best Shrimp and Grits — but, there is no question that my favorite memory from 2016 is the day I became a grandparent for the first time. — Bill Dukes


Best Steak

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

The rewards of watching the city of Columbia band together and recover from the historic floods of fall 2015 is our favorite memory from 2016. We are so proud to have witnessed the spirit of our capital city and our residents. Celebrating The River City!


Best Biscuits

Eggs Up Grill


Best Iced Tea



Best Wings

D’s Wings

Best Bakery

Silver Spoon Bake Shop

Our favorite memory of 2016 was winning “Top Chef” at the Palmetto Palate dining competition. Having our desserts go up against some of Columbia’s best chefs (and winning!) was quite an honor! — Erin Nobles


Best Cookies

Tiffany’s Bakery and Eatery


Best Cupcake Store

Cupcake DownSouth

I would say our favorite memory of 2016 is Valentine’s Day — our busiest day of the year, and we prepare for it for days ahead of time. Our bakers tag-team, and our whole staff has specific tasks to get us through the day. It’s crazy and fun and a great team effort to make our customers happy.


Best Dessert 


Our favorite memory is the expansion of our savory kitchen, which has added a new dimension to our restaurant.

Best Frozen Yogurt 

32° A Yogurt Bar


Best Milkshake

Grill Marks

Our favorite memory from 2016 is winning several “Best Of” awards around Columbia in our first year of business!


Best Ice Cream 

Marble Slab Creamery


Best Organic Food Store

Whole Foods Market


Best Supermarket

Publix Super Markets



Best Restaurant in Columbia

Motor Supply Co. Bistro

Chef Wes Fulmer and his culinary team, as well as head barman, Josh Streetman, had several memorable wins in 2016, including media shout-outs from national publications like Travel + Leisure and Thrillist, and they also participated in regional food festivals like Euphoria Greenville and Asheville Wine & Food. Our 2016 was fun!


Best Restaurant in Irmo

Alodia’s Cucina Italiana


Best Restaurant in Lexington

Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar


Best Restaurant in Northeast 

Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar


Best Restaurant in West Columbia/Cayce

116 Espresso & Wine Bar


Best NEW Restaurant

The War Mouth

Professionally, we opened just before Christmas 2015, so our favorite memory from 2016 would have to be seeing The War Mouth packed out for the first time. Personally, my favorite memory was seeing my little girl hit her stride socially and academically. — Porter Barron 


Best Happy Hour

Rosso Trattoria Italia


Best Brewery

River Rat Brewery

In 2016 one of our best memories is that we were honored with several awards, the most prestigious being the World Beer Cup Bronze Medal for our Bohemian Pilsner. The World Beer Cup is like the Olympics of beer competition. — Mike Tourville


Best Wine List

Cellar on Greene


Best Coffee House



Best Bang for your Buck

Cantina 76


Best Business Lunch

Mr. Friendly’s


Best Family Restaurant

Lizard’s Thicket

Our family and staff’s favorite memory of 2016 is opening the doors to several of our restaurants to candidates passing through our state this past primary season!


Best Romantic Dinner

Al’s Upstairs Italian Restaurant


Best Fine Dining

Ristorante Divino


Best Outdoor Dining

Liberty Tap Room on the Lake


Best Sunday Brunch

Cafe Strudel

Probably the most memorable moment of 2016 had nothing to do with business and was the birth of another grandbaby, Jack, to my son Kyle and his wife, Karyn. My wife and I are now blessed with eight grandchildren from newborn to 27! Life is good! — Walter Turbyfill


Best Seafood

Blue Marlin


Best Healthy Restaurant

Zoës Kitchen


Best Food Truck

2 Fat 2 Fly


Best Wait Staff

Motor Supply Co. Bistro


Best Wine Shop

Morganelli’s Party Store

Because we are a small family business, the best memory for us is looking over and seeing everyone in our family during the busy holiday season working together to keep the business running. “It takes a village.” The great American dream is still possible when your father, mother, two daughters, son-in-law, brother-in-law and even your grandchildren know the importance of family ties and family business. And we cannot say enough about our employees. They are family too! 

— Brenda Morganelli


Best Fast Food Restaurant



Best Chinese



Best Greek

Devine Foods


Best Italian

il Giorgione Pizzeria & Wine Bar

This was a great year for il Giorgione! We have traveled many times to Italy, but in 2016 we traveled there for the first time as restaurant owners. We enjoyed the food, wine and culture with a whole new perspective. We returned refreshed and inspired. Looking forward to a wonderful 2017! 

— Monica and George Kessler


Best Japanese



Best Mexican

Cantina 76


Best Sushi Restaurant

Inakaya Watanabe


Best Thai

Mai Thai Cuisine



Best Women’s Clothing

Copper Penny


Best Women’s Evening Wear

Monkee’s of Columbia


Best Women’s Shoes



Best Men’s Clothing

BP Skinner Clothiers

One of our favorite memories for 2016 is when the CEO of a major clothing company came in from Italy to visit the store. He walked in and said, “Wow, this store could be in any city in the United States and be among the best!” This encourages us to continue providing our customers with the finest clothing and service.  — Marlo Skinner


Best Men’s Formal Wear


Our favorite memory from 2016 took place at one of our Brittons weddings. After being hired to dress the wedding party, we worked very closely with the mother of the groom to create a bow tie bar to surprise the wedding party and all of their guests. All bow ties were custom made and selected before the wedding. We tied 75 custom-made bow ties during this wedding and helped create an amazing memory for the family!


Best Men’s Shoes



Best Children’s Clothing

Little Lambs & Ivy 


Best Children’s Shoes

Tootsies Children’s Shoes

Best Bridal Wear

London and Lace


Best Bridal Registry 



Best Weekend Wear

Mainstream Boutique of Columbia

The highlight of 2016 was our second year anniversary celebration this past October. It was heartwarming to commemorate this milestone with our customers, many of whom have supported us from the beginning. We are grateful for the opportunity to help the women of Columbia look and feel their best. 

— Elliott Bridgers


Best Jewelry Store


At Sylvan’s, we have so many wonderful memories from 2016. Our entire business is about helping clients celebrate the special moments in their lives, whether it’s an engagement, the birth of a child, a birthday or anniversary. It’s difficult to single out just one because they are all very meaningful to us. — Tracy N. Garner


Best Accessories

Just the Thing

In 2016, I was nominated and voted in as the new president of the Devine Street Association. I am humbled and honored to serve this awesome street that Just the Thing has been on for 14 years. It takes a village, and I’m thrilled to be surrounded by such great neighbors! — Tracy Wright


Best Gift Store



Best Vision Wear

Eye on Gervais

Our favorite memory from 2016 is being voted the Best of Columbia. Our patients and customers are truly the best.


Best Clothing Consignment Store


My favorite memory of 2016 was finding out that I am pregnant and that we will have two new shop babies in March! — Heather Burns


Best Toy Store

Be Beep


Best Antique Store

Old Mill Antique Mall


Best Frame Shop

The Picture Place

My favorite memory of 2016 is my daughter having a daughter after being told that she could not have children. Little Eleanor defied all odds and, of course, is the cutest baby ever. — Sheree Smith


Best Art Supply Store

City Art


Best Pet Boutique

Dalespets Grooming Salon


Best Pet Grooming 

Carolina Paws Dog Grooming 

The best memory of 2016 is just how important our customers are to us. I had several health issues and then both of my dogs became disabled in the same day. I cannot express how valuable my customers are when it came to prayers and support for a complete recovery. They made a difficult time so much easier. — Kimberly Power


Best Pet Supply Store

Mill Creek Pet Food and Grooming Center


Best Hunting/Fishing Store

Barron’s Outfitters


Best Outdoor Store

Half-Moon Outfitters


Best Running Specialty Store

Strictly Running 

Our best memories of 2016 center around the wonderful events that we are honored to work with each week. The events are for such great causes, but what excites us is seeing the look of accomplishment on the participants’ faces when they reach the finish line and meet their goal!


Best Bicycle Specialty Store

Outspokin’ Bicycles


Best Gamecock Store

Garnet and Black Traditions


Best Mattress Store

Best Mattress

My favorite memory of 2016 is listening to a wonderful 82-year-old lady call in with emotion in her voice and offer to purchase and donate mattress sets for a flood ravaged, needy family she had only seen on TV. The community came together for those in need. — Buddy Delaney


Best Office Furnishings

Corporate Concepts of S.C.

The year anniversary of how well the community came together after the historic flood to help our neighbors is my favorite memory of 2016. — Rutledge Davies


Best Office Supply Store

Lorick Office Products


Best Shopping Venue

Trenholm Plaza



Best NEW Home Community

Saluda River Club


Best Apartment Complex

5000 Forest Apartment Homes

5000’s favorite memories of 2016 include our fabulous residents, neighbors and community events. Paint and pour nights, food truck visits and movie nights being enjoyed by those who call 5000 Forest home are special to Estates & Companies. Thank you for a great 2016!

— Katy Holmes

Best Retirement Community

Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community


Best Assisted Living

Lutheran Homes of South Carolina


Best Home Builder

Mungo Homes


Best Home Remodeler

Palmetto Construction and Renovations

A good memory I will take away from 2016 is how so many neighborhoods have been able to rebuild and overcome all of the devastation following the floods of 2015. I realize there is still work to be done, but I am proud of what has been accomplished and how the people of Columbia and South Carolina have been able to persevere! 

— Jim Evatt


Best General Contractor

Palmetto Construction and Renovations


Best Home Furnishings

Ethan Allen

Our best memory for 2016 is the exciting news we received about working with Disney and to be able to provide our clients the opportunity to “bring the Disney magic home.” It’s for adults, kids and even babies. It smiles by the gallon! It is designed, made and curated only at Ethan Allen. 

— Mitch Kiser


Best Outdoor Furniture Store

Casual Living

Each year, as we change our patio store into a holiday shop, we host an open house to begin the holiday season. This is always one of our favorite things as we have a chance to visit with long-time customers as well as meet new ones. The store is festive, and everyone is happy and looking forward to a happy holiday season. 

— Dottie Reynolds


Best Furniture Consignment Store

Main Street Home


Best Custom Furniture 

Strobler Home Furnishings


Best Furniture Refinisher 

Alan Kinder Custom Woodwork


Best Appliance Store

Jeffers McGill Appliance and Furniture

Best Glass Store

Ace Glass


Best Flooring

Flooring by Cogdill 


Best Roofing Company

The Red Shirt Guys Roofing

One thing that will always stand out is the privilege we’ve had working with Homes For Our Troops, which provides specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans and their families. Most recently we participated with HFOT in the building of a home for Sgt. Robert Barber and his family in Chapin. The Red Shirt Guys love and support our military! — Annie Fowler


Best Wallpaper/Wall Covering Store

Wallpaper Additions

Thanking Columbia for all of the business they have given us over the past 25 years. We appreciate all of your support. 

— Pamela Smith


Best Home Specialty Store

Gateway Supply Co. 

As a South Carolinian, my memories of the state coming together this year to help others in need after the flood of October 2015 are first and foremost. But personally, my favorite memory is the grand re-opening of Gateway Supply Company’s newly renovated bath and kitchen showroom. We are excited to see what the future holds, and I am truly blessed to be part of this company and to call Columbia, South Carolina home.

— Sam Williams, Jr.


Best Gardening Store

Woodley’s Garden Center

Our favorite memory from 2016 was when we discovered a handwritten note in the garden center that read, “I’ve been so depressed, then I came here and it went away! Praise God.” We are so overjoyed to know that our staff and our passion can make such a positive impact on others’ lives. 


Best Fence Company

Brabham Fence

The memory we have of the past year isn’t a favorite, but a memory of teamwork, support, community service and good-hearted employees. Our entire company stepped in this past October when we were flooded. Everyone came to our house and helped get everything out and started to tear out our sheet rock walls so we could move quickly with remediation. We are so thankful for each and every one of our employees and subs. 

— Carole Brabham


Best Swimming Pool Company

Jack Oliver’s Pool, Spa and Patio

Our favorite memory of 2016 is having seen the Midlands come together to recover and rebuild after the October floods. The resilience and sense of community was unprecedented and reassuring. I’m honored to have the opportunity to do business with the people in our area. — Jack Oliver

Best Solar Company

Vision Solar Palmetto State

From the beginning of 2016 until now, we’ve seen an 85 percent increase in homeowners who are choosing to go solar with Vision Solar. That’s enough proof to me that Columbia residents care deeply about this great city and preserving it for future generations by switching to clean, renewable, solar energy. — Jake Meggs


Best Tile Store

Palmetto Tile Distributors, Inc.

Our fondest memory of 2016 is the end of election season! 



Best Farmers Market

Soda City

FitnessFest was a new and fresh addition to the Saturday market, and one that speaks to the often overlooked growth of our city! Local gyms hosted class demonstrations in Boyd Plaza to raise money for CampMATES. The upbeat vibe of the event and the energy of attendees was unmatched. 


Best Festival

Greek Festival


Best Wine and Paint Studio

Wine & Design Columbia


Best Golf Course

Spring Valley Country Club


Best Exercise Facility


My favorite memory from 2016 was a recent event — my twin girls’ first birthday party! I survived the chaos of three girls, owning barre3 Columbia, and then I opened my second studio on Aug. 29. I feel really proud of all that I have accomplished in 2016, and it has all made me stronger and more appreciative of all that I have in my life.

— Lauren Truslow


Best Lodging

Inn at USC Wyndham Garden

For us, 2016 was the year for winning awards for the Inn at USC Wyndham Garden. We are honored to say this is our fourth year in a row winning Best of Columbia. Our general manager, Andrew Lucas, was awarded Lodging Manager of the Year by South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, and we were awarded Trip Advisor’s Hall of Fame, Expedia’s Insider Select and Booking.com Reviewer Choice.



Best Facial

Endless Vitality 


Best Massage


Our favorite memory in 2016 has truly been the loyal customers who make PURA what it is today. We love exceeding our clients’ needs and providing them with the results they deserve! It has been our ultimate pleasure to wake up each day, ready to serve the Midlands community.


Best Nail Salon

Eva’s Skin Care


Best Hair Salon

Metropolis Salon & Dry Bar

Our favorite memory in 2016 is having the opportunity work an elegant wedding in New York City — during the record-breaking blizzard — that was featured in The New York Times.


Best Spa

OCCO Luxury Spa + Salon


Best Medical Spa

Healing Waters

Our favorite memory of 2016 is and always will be our patients and guests. Having the honor to share transformational change with the community and impact lives for the better is the driving force behind our team and our  passion for this field. We are very excited about new services launching in the new year! We are extending our menu, and will be offering some of the latest fillers, lasers and treatments in the medical industry. 

— Cory King


Best Florist

Blossom Shop


Best Caterer

Southern Way Catering


Best Event Planner

Meagan Warren Weddings

All of our weddings hold a special memory for us. It’s seeing the love between two people and their joy for life — those make the best memories of all! — Meagan Warren

Best Wedding Planner

Cricket Newman Designs

My favorite memory from 2016 was seeing a bride walk down the aisle with a rainbow in the background after we moved her entire wedding to avoid Hurricane Matthew. We hired new vendors, rerouted logistics and secured new lodgings. In short, a wedding that had been in the planning process for a year was totally re-planned in two days.  

— Cricket Newman


Best Bridal Photographer

Clark Berry Photography


Best Wedding Venue

701 Whaley


Best Pet Boarding

Dog Daze 

Our favorite memory from 2016 is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dog Daze being open.


Best Vet

Four Paws Animal Clinic

The best memories of 2016 are how supportive and caring our clients continue to be as we work toward returning to Forest Acres. — Nori Warren


Best Chiropractor

Chiropractic Wellness Center

My favorite memory of 2016 is the Gervais Street Bridge Dinner! It was such a beautiful and typical South Carolina fall day — warm in the afternoon and cool at night. The entire event exceeded my expectations and was lovely from beginning to end. The food and drinks were delicious, and the roller skating waitstaff and the music made for a special memory. I’m already planning for 2017’s event! — Dr. Shelly Jones


Best Dry Cleaner

Tripp’s Fine Cleaners

The highlight of 2016 for our company was getting our 1339 Broad River Road location back up and running after being closed for 11 months, one week and one day because of a fire. Personally (while still a business memory) the highlight would be seeing my 12-year-old daughter work her first “official” day at Tripp’s this past year. That marks four generations of the Penninger family who have served our customers. I know my grandparents looked down from heaven with a smile too! — Tripp Penninger

Best Carpet Cleaner

Stanley Steemer


Best Chimney Sweep

Top Hat Sweepers

My business has grown and become successful in large part because I chose years ago to become involved with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Association and by supporting the tremendous arts community. To celebrate my upcoming 35th year of Top Hat Sweepers, as well as to honor a 2016 centennial birthday, my family hosted a trip to Belize where we celebrated success, friendship and family. 

— Ron Rust


Best Heating/Air Service

2nd Wind Heating & Air Conditioning


Best Pest Control

Clark’s Termite & Pest Control


Best Mosquito Company

Mosquito Joe


Best Hardscape Company

Hay Hill Services, Inc.

A long time commercial customer allowed Hay Hill the opportunity of installing all of the landscaping on their new home on Lake Murray. This particular project, installing custom stone walls, cobble stone parking area, exposed aggregate driveway, lighting and irrigation was the largest residential job our company had ever tackled and our favorite memory of 2016.


Best Landscaping Company

Hay Hill Services, Inc.


Best Lawn Maintenance Company

Blue Moon Landscaping

My favorite memory of 2016 has to be of Molly, my wife, joining the management team. Blue Moon is our family business, but Molly’s presence and involvement have given “family business” a fresh meaning. 

— Trent Hutchinson


Best Tree Service

Sox & Freeman Tree Expert Co.

On the morning that Hurricane Matthew hit Columbia, I received a phone call from a customer of ours in Forest Acres. He asked if Sox & Freeman could remove a total of 10 trees from around and on top of a home whose young owners were on their honeymoon and were completely oblivious to the state of their house. We started on Sunday morning and completed the removals and cleanup by the time they returned. Although this was a tragedy for them, I felt great that Sox & Freeman was there to help them. 

— Chris Freeman


Best Plumbing Company

Superior Plumbing & Gas


Best Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives


Best Interior Designer (Commercial)

Steven Ford Interiors, Inc.

Our favorite memory from 2016 is meeting with an Atlanta based, global architectural firm to participate in the initial stages of design for a major project that will be an important part of the community in years to come.


Best Interior Designer (Residential)

Ford Bailey, Verve Interiors


Best Moving Company

Two Men and a Truck


Best Car Dealership

Jim Hudson Lexus Columbia

Our favorite memory of 2016 was teaming up with Harvest Hope Food Bank to provide 1 million meals to the less fortunate. Jim Hudson believes giving people experiences they’ll never forget doesn’t simply pertain to an eventful day at the dealership. It applies to everyday life and all of the little moments in-between.


Best Used Car Dealership

Jim Hudson Lexus Columbia


Best Car Rental Agency

Enterprise Rent-A-Car


Best Auto Repair Company

Andrews Auto Service


Best Tire Store

Frank’s Discount Tire


Best Boat Dealer/Marina

Lake Murray Boat Club

As the owner of Lake Murray Boat Club, my favorite memory from 2016 is celebrating our 10 year anniversary. With more than 20,000 boat outings over these past 10 years, our members have enjoyed a unique opportunity in today’s hectic world to spend quality time with family and friends — to make memories that will last a lifetime. — Jon Dukes


Best Insurance Agent

Larry Lucas Agency, State Farm

My favorite memory of 2016 is seeing our community come together yet another time of disaster. Being in the business of planning for the unexpected makes us very aware of what can happen, and how to prepare. Watching South Carolina step up and help their neighbors makes our company trademark “Like a Good Neighbor®” ring true. 

— Larry Lucas, ChFC, CASL, AIC


Best Mortgage Bank

Guild Mortgage Company

Our favorite part

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