Generally considered one of the best restaurants in Columbia  and certainly the most romantic,
Gervais & Vine (620A Gervais St., 803/799-8463, www.gervine.com , Mon.–Sat. 4:30 p.m.–close, $8–10) specializes in Spanish-style tapas. An extensive, vibrant menu of both hot and cold tapas awaits, like the Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cucumber-Melon Salsa and Lavender Honey and the Marinated Manchego Cheese with Thyme and Garlic.
The hot tapas tend to cluster around $8, the cold tapas about five bucks a pop. Don’t overlook the stone-oven pizza, each under $10, offered in several tasty varieties from the Margherita to the Greek (or you can design your own). Keep in mind there are no reservations accepted.
The wine list, as you’d expect, is quite impressive, with over 40 varieties offered by the glass. Each year on the third Thursday in November, Gervais & Vine celebrates the release of the newest Beaujolais with a huge party.
If you’ve got a hankering for a lamb kebob, go straight to Al-Amir (2930 Devine St., 803/771-6292, Mon.–Fri. 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m.; Sat.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., $5–15) in Five Points. Other specialties include hummus, falafel, and shawarma.
Columbia ’s premier Italian restaurant is Ristorante Divino (803 Gervais St., 803/799-4550, www.ristorantedivino.com , Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., $20–30), which concentrates on northern Italian cuisine and specializes in an extensive wine list. While it doesn’t stack up to even a middle-of-the-road Italian place in New York or Boston, Ristorante Divino will do just fine for the deep South.
If you’re in Five Points and have a hankering for a pizza and a pitcher, try the Village Idiot (2009 Devine St., 803/252-8646, www.villageidiotpizza.com , Mon. 4 p.m.–midnight, Tues.–Fri. 4 p.m.–2 a.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.–midnight, $10–15). They have an awe-inspiring menu of specialty pizzas (available half-and-half), including the “Rucker” (ranch sauce topped with chicken and bacon) in honor of Hootie & the Blowfish lead singer Darius Rucker. Or you can just build your own pie or slice.