J's Corner gas pump

An old gas pump, now refurbished, serves as a reminder of the days when Jaco's was a gas station.

2018 went by really fast, but there were a lot of food and drink happenings going on in the Metro this year. Because remembering stuff that happened early in 2018 is hard, let’s go back through the archives to recall just a few highlights of the new things we had the chance to eat, drink, and enjoy this past year.

The Richland Library main branch on Assembly Street got a little tastier thanks to a cafe opening in the revamped entry into the library space, run by Sarah Simmons and Aaron Hoskins. The cafe features baked foods, snacks, sandwiches, and salads for eating on the go — and while reading, of course.

Lidl, the cool German grocery store that’s been rapidly expanding on the East Coast, opened its first Columbia-area store in Lexington in April. Its German efficiencies are able to keep the prices lower than traditional grocery stores — items are put out still in their boxes, people bag their own groceries, and shoppers bring reusable bags — or pay for paper ones.

The first ever Columbia Food and Wine Festival is a sign that the city is coming into its own, foodwise. In partnership with the Five Points Association, Free Times gathered more than 50 purveyors of local food and drink to celebrate the tastiest parts of life in Columbia in April. Though the venue changed at the last minute due to strong storms, the event was largely lauded as a success. Plans for an expanded 2019 version are underway.

Bone-In Barbeque opened as the first restaurant in the BullStreet complex in April, bringing Scott Hall’s coveted barbecue from the food truck window into permanent walls. In addition to smoked pulled pork and brisket, Bone-In became the hot spot for frosé this summer.

May brought us the opening of a new place on a very old site. J’s Corner opened where Jaco’s sat for a century, and even incorporated some of the old building and other nods to the past. The capacity of J’s is much larger than Jaco’s and is impressively furnished with a large outdoor seating area, and more outdoor space for cornhole and kids to run around. An American menu with bar-food staples, a large beer list, and of course, prime location, keeps this place busy especially during football season.

Lexington County got its first brewery, Angry Fish Brewing down Highway 1 near Lexington High School, in June. The tucked-away brewery began in a garage, where the two brewers churned out really great beers on high-end equipment before taking it to a commercial space. Their lake-themed beers include sessionable ales and funky variations like a key lime gose that are extremely appealing. They are cranking out seasonal and limited release beers on a frequent basis.

That junky old fire station at the corner of Park and Senate stood vacant for long enough and finally as of July, Kao Thai opened up in one of the street level spaces. The inventive, upscale Thai restaurant has modern furnishings, classic American Thai dishes, zesty cocktails, and coveted nearby parking. The other street level space is supposed to become a French restaurant in the near future, though signs of activity within were at a standstill recently.

Steel Hands Brewing, the largest brewery of its kind in the area, opened its doors in late November to a flourishing crowd, bringing people from all over flocking to the City of Cayce. It’s worth it to take the tour and see the soaring bright tanks and mash tuns that they’ve got tucked in the back to make the magic happen.

Yes, they’ve been busy — Sarah Simmons and Aaron Hoskins also opened smallSUGAR in the Vista in November. An all-day cafe that serves up coffee, pastries, hearty healthy breakfasts, and light-yet-filling lunches, smallSUGAR is the kind of place we want to go to every day. It’s located in the old Wired Goat location so it’s not visible from the street, giving it a secret-cool feel like you’ve found the hidden gem that it is.

The Mousetrap closed in May, and the Mousetrap opened again in November, bringing the longtime restaurant back to its original location with some new surprises like a very well-stocked bar and some inventive new dishes to go alongside old favorites like the Mousetrap burger. If you didn’t find where this Forest Acres favorite was before, it’s time to employ technology to plug 2711 Middleburg Drive into your GPS.

There was so much more. 929 Kitchen opened in the Vista, bringing Korean fusion food to a sleek, comfy space. Drip and Scoopy Doo began selling coffee and gelato from the Mystery Bus. The new Aristocrat opened, slinging cocktails and tasty food. Indah Coffee opened a downtown outpost. Citta del Cotone began selling pizza in Cottontown. And as the year drew to a close, Halls Chophouse opened in the former Oak Table spot across from the State House.

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