Savalis Restaurant and Lounge is a soul food restaurant on Main Street in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. While I cannot speak on the food there, a lot of us who were panelists from the Vocalis Music Industry Conference in Columbia met up there after the conference and dinner for the great live soul music from a band called Terry and the Flames. Although their repertoire consisted primarily of cover tunes, they were an immensely talented band whose grooves kept the dance floor filled most of the night.
On the way from my hotel to downtown Columbia, South Carolina, I had noticed an intriguing burger bar called Burger Tavern 77, and after the final session of the Vocalis Music Industry Conference on Saturday June 28, I decided to try it. As the name suggests, Burger Tavern 77 has the atmosphere of a bar, but seems to welcome guests of all ages, and the centerpiece of the menu is burgers, particularly the ones you design yourself with all the various choices of meats, cheeses, toppings and sauces. The menu points out that all sandwiches are made with fresh ingredients and cooked to order. I chose my all-time favorite burger, one with bacon and cheese added, and I was pleased with the result. The fries, which were crispy and golden brown, came in a metal cup, which is becoming more common these days at gourmet burger places. If a burger is not your thing, Burger Tavern 77 also has salads and chicken, and the prices for everything are fairly reasonable. There is also an extensive amount of outdoor seating, but on the evening I was there, it was just too hot to enjoy it.
Burger Tavern 77
2631 Devine Street
Columbia SC 29205
When I left out of Pearlz Oyster Bar, I was thinking of how nice it would be if Columbia had a dessert cafe that was open late at night. Looking across Gervais Street, I saw a small cafe with an outdoor sign that was flashing pictures of different kinds of desserts. It proved to be a place called Nonnah’s, which is actually a full-service restaurant in its own right, but the desserts are made in-house and truly amazing. Although they had coffee, with it being so hot, I chose a cold drink instead, and tried the Key Lime Pie, which was very unusual, but very good. Rather than the yellow-green custard type of pie that one usually sees with key Lime, this one was a light, airy whipped pie made from cool whip, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice in a homemade graham cracker crust. A number of other tempting desserts were visible in the glass case. Nonnah’s is open until 11 PM on weeknights, and until 12:30 AM on weekends.
923 Gervais Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Ironically, when I made it back to the Vista district in Columbia, I found the live jazz I had been looking for in the upstairs of Pearlz Oyster Bar at a place called Pearlz Upstairs Lounge, where the Robert Gardiner Quartet was playing mainstream jazz standards. Although the extremely young crowd didn’t seem to be paying a whole lot of attention to the music, the place was still packed with people, and the music was great.
After dinner, I wanted to enjoy some live music, and set off in search of jazz. On my phone, I had seen a place called Le Cafe Jazz, and it didn’t seem to be too far away, so I decided to walk to it, which proved to be a mistake. For one thing, the neighborhood it was in is called Assembly Hill, and I soon learned that it really is a hill. The entire walk from Gervais Street was uphill all the way, and by the time I finally arrived at the cafe, which was in a city park called Finley Park, I was thoroughly hot and sweaty. And although the cafe appeared to be open, I was told at the door that it was closed for a private event, and that I wasn’t dressed appropriately in any case. I was quite disappointed, since there was a piano inside, and the place looked interesting and attractive. Still, I didn’t see any musicians there, and I probably didn’t miss much. At least the walk back to the Vista area was all downhill.
On Friday June 27, I flew into Columbia, South Carolina to be a panelist at the Vocalis Music Industry Conference which was being held over the weekend. With no conference activities scheduled for the the Friday night, I headed downtown to the city’s entertainment district called the Vista. Unlike Memphis’ Beale Street, the Vista District is a large neighborhood, about three blocks wide and perhaps six blocks long along the Broad River, and differs from other entertainment districts in that it has an equal number of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. While there are certainly plenty of live music venues, and liquor is available, there are also plenty of ordinary, family-friendly restaurants, frozen yogurt and dessert shops and boutiques. The place is also extremely attractive, and has little of the rowdy, drunken behavior that other cities often have in their entertainment districts. I decided to eat dinner at the Liberty Tap House, as I remember enjoying it in Myrtle Beach some years ago, and I have to say that I was quite pleased.
I made a brief stop at the Jury Room Coffee House across from City Hall, but, as they didn’t have any espresso drinks, I had only a gelato there, and then headed over to the Aroma Coffee and Wine Bar for a latte before I hit the road toward Columbia. There were several record stores in Columbia, and they were scattered across the city, and, as it was late in the day, it was getting dark, but I managed to visit all three of them, and then I continued on to Sumter.
There I left posters at the Music Gator, but I found the other store closed for the evening, and now I headed southwards toward I-95. Thoroughly hungry, but wanting to eat in Charleston, I made my way into the city, and having called to make sure that restaurants would still be open, I headed across the massive Septima Clark Bridge into Mount Pleasant, where there were several waterfront restaurants along Shem Creek.
I chose a seafood restaurant called JB’s, which was built with a view of the water, and I ate dinner there, although it was extremely cold both inside the restaurant and outdoors. After dinner, I resisted an impulse to go to Red’s next door where a band was playing, and instead, I drove down King Street to Market Square and a dessert cafe called Kaminsky’s, which I knew was open until 2 AM. I had a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie and a cup of coffee there, and then, with no information about any jazz clubs, I drove into West Ashley and checked into the hotel there. It was quite cold, but I managed to get my room warm and comfortable.
Then from there, I headed out to Tobacco Road, where I stopped at a couple of clothing stores, including Millenium Urban Wear and Titanium Music and More, and then I drove up to an urban wear store on Peach Orchard Road, but the Music Connection store next door wasn’t open yet. Jamming my “Crunk in Augusta” CDs of local rap that I had made from artists on Myspace, I headed past the abandoned Regency Mall to Pyramid Music and More, and then down Deans Bridge Road to Four Corners, also known as Augusta Music World. This local landmark featured a counter where people had signed their names and neighborhoods, and as I was purchasing a DVD, a boy came inside talking about some fight that had broken out in the parking lot.
My final destination was the other Pyramid Music and More downtown where there were old vinyl records, but my journey there led down James Brown Boulevard, through neighborhoods that were basically eviscerated. Seeing the decrepit, tumble-down buildings and houses, along with vacant lots and nodding junkies walking down the street, I couldn’t help but think of this street as an insult to the famous singer rather than a tribute to him.
Downtown Augusta had free parking, and there was some sort of music festival getting underway near the riverfront, as I saw a stage and heard a drummer warming up on a drumset, but I walked into the record store, and found a number of 45s that I wanted, but the prices proved to be way too expensive for me to purchase any of the records. I had thought that V-Tec and Mr. Hill would meet me downtown before I headed out to South Carolina, but they told me to head over on the Washington Road side of town, so I drove west on Broad Street past a number of project buildings in Harrisburg and Lake Olmstead, stopping at a Starbucks to meet them there, and Mr. Hill came to bring me a copy of the Millionairz-N-Playaz album.
It was later than I had intended when I left Augusta, and with so many gas stations out of gas in the area, I decided to head on into South Carolina before filling up, which proved to be a mistake, as no stations in North Augusta or Aiken had any gasoline at all. I finally found an Exxon in Batesburg/Leesville which had gasoline, and I filled up there, but the weather was now taking a turn for the worse, with grey clouds everywhere and wind picking up significantly.
Finally, at Florence, I-20 ended, and I made my way through the rain into town and to a Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner. Afterwards, I continued on Highway 501, stopping at a convenience store and noticing a newspaper headline about the bankruptcy of the Hard Rock Park amusement park in Myrtle Beach. An exit off the main road led me into Surfside Beach, and from there, I made my way to the Holiday Inn with no trouble. However, while running from the hotel lobby to my car, I slipped down on the wet pavement. The hotel called the EMTs out, and they concluded that I probably hadn’t broken anything, so I declined to go to the hospital, and went upstairs to bed instead.