Hotel & Restaurant Spotlight: Motor Supply Company Bistro, Columbia, SC

Katie McElveen
| January 29, 2024 | 1 Minute Read
Exterior neon sign that reads Motor Supply Co. Behind the sign is a beautiful sunset. Jonathan Sharpe

If you find yourself having a bit of trouble locating the AAA Three Diamond Motor Supply Company Bistro (above) on Gervais Street in Columbia, here’s a tip: Keep looking. That’s because this tiny bistro, which is tucked into a wide alley fronted by an art gallery, is well worth finding.

It starts with the food (below), a seasonal collection of Southern ingredients that, in the hands of Chef Wesley Fulmer, are enhanced but not hidden by a globe’s worth of flavors and techniques. Pan-seared red snapper, for instance, is brightened by gremolata and a lemon fennel salad studded with blue crab; seared scallops arrive with toothsome farro.

There’s always a vegetarian choice, usually a cauliflower or eggplant “steak.” Omnivore regulars look forward to Chef Fulmer’s nightly duck duo—breast and confit, with a varying sauce—and the bone-in pork chop, a tomahawk like cut that arrives crusty and moist but with different accompaniments each night. Fulmer knows just how to do the shrimp and grits, which swim in a light sauce flavored with smoky bacon and roasted tomatoes. It’s the only constant on the menu, which changes every day at both lunch and dinner.

Overhead view of entrees and drinks displayed on a circular wood tray Forrest Clonts

Eddie Wales, who purchased the bistro in 2002 after working as a waiter and then as a general manager for more than a decade, says that even in the early ’90s, Motor Supply was working with local farmers for meat, produce and other ingredients. “Long before people started talking about farm-to-table, we were doing it,” he says. “We’ve had relationships with some of our farm partners for years.” Provisions aren’t the only thing the restaurant procures regionally: all of the artwork that lines the brick walls of the dining room were painted by Columbia-area artists.

The wine list is filled with bottles from all over the world; by-the-glass options are well priced and interesting. But don’t skip one of the bar’s “farm-to-shaker” cocktails, which utilize local herbs, berries and fruits, including a fall cocktail made with pawpaw.

Motor Supply Company Bistro is open every day but Monday for lunch and dinner, and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are essential, especially for the leafy courtyard out back.

AAA Inspector Notes:

“Historic. The Bohemian-style restaurant preoccupies itself with serving excellent food and not so much with its decor. A vast list of varied wines and cocktails accompanies the daily changing menu. Creations emanating from the kitchen are original and extremely well prepared. Although the menu is constantly changing, beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian plates typically make appearances. Dessert is a must, so save room!”

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