Few things make me want to dance, and pimento cheese is one of them. Luckily, cheeseheads like myself can find and enjoy many variations of the savory, sometimes-chunky southern delicacy in our backyard: Columbia, S.C. 

There’s even a passport for it.

The Pimento Cheese Passport, created by Experience Columbia SC, South Carolina’s premier tourism resource, allows passport holders to commemorate some of the best pimento cheese encounters. 

Designed to encourage Columbia residents and visitors to dine in the heart of South Carolina, the digital passport is a fun way for pimento cheese lovers to chase adventure at 16 local bars and restaurants. In addition to trying creative, tasty, and unique variations of one of the South’s most popular delicacies, there are also chances to win rewards and prizes along the way. 

Ready to embark on this unique culinary excursion? Signing up is quick, easy, and free. Sign up here.

I recently took my Pimento Cheese Passport on the road, and here’s a recap of some of my favorite stops:

1. Bourbon – Creole Pimento Cheese

Bourbon is a great spot for date night or a group happy hour after work; the atmosphere is unique. From the twinkling lights on the patio to the ambient glow of the lounge and dining room, this cute Main Street staple is buzzing – and it has a fully stocked bar.

I tried the creole pimento cheese dip, which is served with sweet peppadews, fried saltines, cajun pork skins and bacon jam. And it was a winner in my book; I recommend pairing it with a whiskey smash cocktail.

2. The Root Cellar – Southern Egg Rolls

The Root Cellar, located in nearby Lexington, S.C., is a no-frills, family-style eatery that feels a lot like home. Serving up country classics like fried okra and fried chicken livers, I imagine this restaurant is popular for lunch on Sundays after church or on weekdays. 

I recommend dipping the southern egg rolls – stuffed with housemade pimento cheese and pulled pork – in the Root Cellar’s signature barbecue sauce for an added zing. 

The pulled pork is seasoned well, and the pimento cheese is easy on the palate. It’s comfort food that felt like it reached deep into my soul and hugged me from the inside out. I also ordered fried green tomatoes. 

3. Cafe Strudel (West Columbia) – Lowcountry Hash Browns/Fried Green Tomatoes

This place has soul! From the moment I walked in the door, I was captivated by Cafe Strudel’s eclectic vibe and the variety of jams playing on the radio – from Whitney Houston and Eddie Murphy to bluesy, folk and funk numbers – and the local artwork for sale along the walls. 

This family-style joint is an ideal place to enjoy coffee, cocktails, draft beer, wine and more with brunch.

The Lowcountry hash browns were among my favorite eats of the trip! Picture hash browns topped with grilled shrimp, fried green tomatoes, green onions, bacon and pimento cheese. You’ll definitely need to walk around the block or hit the West Columbia Riverwalk after feasting here.

The fried green tomatoes are also a solid choice and are available during weekdays as an appetizer. Of course, they’re served with horseradish, pimento cheese, and bacon because it’s in the South!

4. DiPrato’s Delicatessen – Signature Pimento Cheese with Seasoned Pita Chips

This one is a classic. When you walk into DiPrato’s Delicatessen, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time – the songs playing in the dining room are golden oldies and the plastic tablecloths make you long for the 90s. But the pimento cheese? It’s fresh!

Here, I opted to try two flavors: smoked gouda and bacon, and jalapeno. To tell you they both were winners would be the understatement of the century. That and the seasoned pita chips arrived to the table warm, buttery and difficult to put down. Run, don’t walk to DiPrato’s – this was the most unforgettable stamp in my passport.

5. Rockaway Athletic Club – Pimento Cheeseburger with Pimento Cheese Fries

The Rockaway Athletic Club is a hidden gem that features old-school arcade games. You’ll find everything from air hockey to skee ball, billiards and boxing – bring plenty of quarters. This is the type of place where you could lose track of time; it’s dark, laid back, and there’s a full bar to enjoy.

Before you get your reading from the classic Zoltar fortune teller, order a pimento cheeseburger with pimento cheese fries – a community favorite. Pro tip: get the burger cooked medium well and “all the way” with lettuce, tomato, mayo, raw onions and pickles on the side. This burger – and this place – is a game changer.

Are you ready to eat? Get your Pimento Cheese Passport and start exploring today. Don’t forget to visit Experience Columbia SC to discover more things to do in Columbia.

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Asha Ellison is a freelance writer who covers food culture, community, and lifestyle stories. She is passionate about art, live music, whiskey, immersing herself in nature, laughing until cries, and her...

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