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Highlighting some of the Columbia deals available during SC Restaurant Week

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The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association’s annual Restaurant Week is here and it’s packed with deals at local restaurants for almost any budget. In a changeup fitting these pandemic times, a handful of spots are offering specials for takeout, too.

The association’s 12th iteration of the event comes at a precarious time for the industry. COVID-19 has taken a considerable toll on the state’s restaurants and many are ailing.

With the pandemic stretching on and the vaccination timeline loking many months long, the industry still needs and will continue to need support to survive longer.

Free Times is highlighting a few of the specials available this year, but don’t let this list deter you from searching out others. As of Jan. 4, there were 41 restaurants offering specials and many of those had yet to detail their specials — including some of the most exciting eateries in town, like Bodhi Thai Dining in Lexington, Kristian Niemi’s Bourbon and Black Rooster, and Five Points upscale restaurant Saluda. More restaurants could still be added, too.

The event runs from Jan. 7 to 17. Find out more via restaurantweeksouthcarolina.com.

Treat Yourself

Perhaps it's a sign befitting the times or just a really dang good deal, but several upscale restaurants in the area are offering terrific prices on multi-course meals — if you’re comfortable dining on site and are OK spending a bit extra.

For instance, the recently reopened Hampton Street Vineyard is offering three courses at $35 a person. You could pair Pumpkin Veloute with a Pork Crepinette and finish it off with Creme Brulee or a Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bar. By my quick calculation, that’s roughly $14 cheaper than what you’d pay normally.

Don’t ignore the wine, either. While it isn’t on sale for the week, the restaurant is co-owned by three bonafide wine experts who can point you in the right direction for whatever budget.

Gervais and Vine is pitching a three-item-with-wine-pairings deal for $50. If you’ve never had the opportunity to pair a meal with tailored wines, it's a lovely experience and could easily exceed this cost. You’ll be buzzing about it the rest of the night and after.

Halls Chophouse’s Columbia location is perhaps the most pricy place in town. Its deal is $45 for three courses, including a soup or salad, a Filet Mignon or Blackened Scottish Salmon, and a featured dessert. Does $45 get the pricey joint to an accessible territory? Maybe not, but it’s worth considering when the cheapest Filet Mignon the steakhouse normally offers runs at $45 alone.

Breakfast Anyone?

The Trenholm Plaza location of the Original Pancake House is taking a narrow approach to its special. Instead of offering a unique menu of lower-priced goodies, it's offering its Apple Pancake half off for lunch or brunch dining in. That’s $4.45 for, as they describe it, a “monumental in size and taste” pancake. The deal shifts down to 30 percent off for takeout, since you won’t be sticking around to buy more.

In 2018, Free Times’ managing editor Jordan Lawrence made the case for the breakfast bastion as the best breakfast in town for the annual Best Of Columbia reader’s poll. “When I wake up in need of a really good breakfast, it’s The Original Pancake House that’s on my mind. ... There are fancier brunch experiences in town, but in the simple terms of really good breakfast food, OPH reigns.”

Deals on a Budget

The Village at Sandhill location of breakfast, brunch and lunch chain Le Peep is offering a budget-friendly $22 meal for two people. Each person picks two options from Monte Cristo Crepes, a Triple Decker sandwich or a Le Cobb Salad. You round that out with coffee, tea or soda and you have the option to add on a mimosa, bloody mary or bellini for $5. Brunch for $11 a person? That’s a deal.

Good barbecue isn’t cheap — for good reason. It takes considerable time and craft to get it right. Meat isn’t cheap either these days. Midwood Smokehouse is trying its best to give you something to consider with a three-courses-at-$25-per-person deal. The deal includes their Cola City Combo, which lets you pick two meats and one side, along with an appetizer and a dessert.

That meat deal includes the option for St. Louis ribs, pulled chicken, chopped pork, USDA prime brisket or jalapeno cheddar sausage links. Strap in.

Want more flavor? Head to Kao Thai Cuisine in the Vista, which is offering three courses for $25 to $35. This deal stretches to take out, too. If I was to pick today, I’d roll with Shrimp Shumai, Thai Style Braised Short Rib (a $35 option) and round it out with a Thai Ice Cream Sundae.

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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