A local couple has launched a business they think is a new concept for Columbia, and they hope to tempt those who love both history and food.
Brian and Kristin Cole launched Columbia Food Tours last month after enjoying similar tours while vacationing in other cities, and they say it’s off to a good start.
“Our biggest obstacle has been getting people to understand what it is,” Brian Cole said.
The concept is a tour of downtown Columbia including a taste of some locally owned restaurants. Guests get a guided tour of Main Street and some nearby spots, with stops at six or more restaurants, where they are served a specialty of the house. The number of stops depends on the date of the tour.
“There are so many great restaurants opening, especially with the Main Street renovation,” Brian Cole said. He usually guides the tour, and gives guests bits of local history along the way.
There are 14 slots available for each tour, and Saturday’s was full. The tour featured some local patrons, along with visitors from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Seattle. Two guests said they learned about Columbia Food Tours on Tripadvisor.com, where the brand-new business has earned five positive reviews.
They gathered at the State House to start the tour and began with a local specialty as an appetizer.
“You can’t say you’ve been to South Carolina if you’ve never tried a boiled peanut,” Brian Cole told the group as he passed around a bag bought that morning at the Soda City Market.
Guests learned a bit of State House history as they took a short walk to the first tour stop of the day, Bourbon. Owner Kristian Niemi greeted visitors with a whiskey smash and some homemade pimento cheese with crackers as he told them about the new restaurant and the historic building where it makes its home.
Tour guest Mona Green sipped the drink and commented that it was strong, to which Niemi laughingly replied, “We don’t make any weak drinks here!”
Green said she’s not usually a whiskey drinker but appreciated the chance to try it.
“That’s the good thing about this, you can try something and if you don’t like it, you have all the other restaurants coming,” she said.
After the Bourbon stop, Brian led guests to Cantina 76, where tacos awaited. On the way, he told them the story of how Lady Street was named, something not even the locals among the group knew.
Each restaurant stop features a chat with an owner or chef about what the place has to offer, along with the sample dish.
Kristin Cole is a South Carolina native. Brian, who has lived here since high school, considers himself an adopted son of the Palmetto State. Both have owned businesses before.
“This is our first venture into food, other than being foodies ourselves,” Brian Cole said.
Tours are offered once a week, alternating Fridays and Saturdays. More information is available and reservations can be made at the Columbia Food Tours website.