The only time I ever ate at a Steak & Ale was in Tampa Florida in the late 1980s. We were setting up a new office in Tampa at the time, and I had been seconded from the Fayetteville office to work on the software infrastructure down there. In the event, I ended up spending quite a bit of time in Tampa, but never really got to see much of the city because we were working such late hours.
At any rate, most of the team working on the office startup would eat together every night, and one night I was dead tired and just wanted something simple and to go to bed. I recalled seeing what I took to be a Western Sizzling type steakhouse down the road, so during the usual "where do you want to go/I dunno, where do *you* want to go" scrimmage, I just piped up and said: "Steak and Ale". I figured there would be burgers and a salad bar and apparently beer so the guys who wanted a drink could get one. Well, it turned out to be a little fancier than a Western Sizzling. In fact it turned out to be a lot fancier, and I found to my regret that I couldn't get a burger at all. (In those rare situations, I can usually get a baked potato & French Onion soup -- my "too fancy" fallbacks).
I never went back to that Steak & Ale, and it fostered no desire in me to go to the one in Columbia. Nonetheless, it had always seemed something of an institution to me, and I was quite surprised when they closed up shop a few years ago. After they left, there was a very short-lived operation called Buster's Bistro (which I also never visited) in the building, and now the place is split between some kind of furniture shop and some sort of athletic shop.
It looks like the chain is still around, but the closest one is in Greenville.
UPDATE 25 June 2010: Added full street address to post title.
UPDATE 13 Oct 2010: Added yellow pages ad from the 1975-1976 Southern Bell phonebook.