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The Basil Pot, 2721 Rosewood Drive / 928 Main Street: 2004-ish   28 comments

Posted at 4:45 am in closing

The original location on Rosewood Drive:

The final location on Main Street:

I've already done one post on this storefront which was the former home of Tio's Mexican Restaurant before its move to Sumter street.

Before Tio's, however, 928 Main Street was the home of The Basil Pot vegetarian restaurant. There may have been other vegetarian places in Columbia, but The Basil Pot was the most prominent. The place was founded in 1973 by Basil Garzia and was originally on Rosewood Drive before moving to Main Street. I don't know the exact year it closed, but one 2007 Free Times article mentions that it was "more than 3 years ago".

I could easily be a vegetarian if I didn't like meat. However, while I enjoy many meatless dishes, going to an actual vegetarian restaurant is something I've never done. I guess that's because I've always had the feeling that while I might go there (if I actually went) to enjoy a meal, the rest of the patrons might be there for deep philosophical reasons which it would annoy me to hear them discuss. Yep, I'm shallow.

I really can't think of a vegetarian restaurant in Columbia after the passing of The Basil Pot, though the new tenant Which Wich can make a decent veggie sandwich..

UPDATE 17 Nov 08: Thanks to commenter Dennis for the black and white picture of the original Basil Pot (and staff) on Rosewood!

UPDATE 21 December 2023: Fixed bad linke for Basil Garzia article, update tags, add the Rosewood street address & add map icon for the Main Street location.

Written by ted on November 15th, 2008

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28 Responses to 'The Basil Pot, 2721 Rosewood Drive / 928 Main Street: 2004-ish'

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  1. I think you'll be able to use the picture to also show when Which Wich closed as well. There are 4 sandwich shops within 5 blocks of each other on S. Main.


    15 Nov 08 at 6:30 am

  2. "I could easily be a vegetarian if I didn’t like meat."?

    ted, seriously, wth?

    (Just kidding - I wouldn't kid if I didn't like you.)

    Anyway, I ate at the Basil Pot many times back when it was on Rosewood. Always good stuff and it expanded my palate. I liked that they always had a one dollar item on the menu for their starving broke hippie friends and students. I think they called it the Beggar's Bowl. Usually rice and beans or yesterday's leftovers, but always good food. When they moved the original Rockaway's expanded into their old space and I alwys thought of that small back dining room as the Basil Pot room.

    Anyone else remember Columbia's other vegetarian hangout, 221 Pickens? Those guys were the genuine article as far as counter-culture, and operated like a commune. Well, they operated it any other way than a business. I think some of the staff unofficially lived there. Rick Beatty (aka Rajeswa) was one of the main forces behind it, and Michael Craig who later became a big success with his handmade fine furniture. I spent some unforgettable weekends with that whole crew on the Isle of Palms in the early 70s. Sadly both guys are gone now.


    16 Nov 08 at 4:15 pm

  3. Hey, that line knocked 'em dead in Peoria..

    221 sounds a little before my dining out days.


    17 Nov 08 at 12:45 am

  4. My wife and I enjoyed the food as it was one of two vegetarian places at the time of our arrival in Columbia to get a prepared meal without tweaking ("just leave out the chicken" or "no bacon please"). However I was active duty Navy at the time so the employees and other patrons never let us feel at home because wearing a uniform meant you were inflexible in opinion. Yeah they were real open minded! Tio's treated us much better later.

    Dennis B

    18 Nov 08 at 9:25 am

  5. I can't comment on how good it is, but there is a vegetarian joint on North Main. I saw the sign the other day snaking around traffic. It's a couple of blocks down from the corner of Elmwood and Main.


    20 Nov 08 at 6:43 pm

  6. during my freshman year of college, i once "lost" a bet and had to take a ridiculously hot girl to breakfast at the basil pot.


    26 Dec 08 at 6:59 pm

  7. I remember this location also as "The Pizza Factory" in the mid 1980s. Maybe something else before that. . . "Blimpie Base," maybe? Don't recall exactly where that was located, but it was a sub seller.


    26 Dec 08 at 9:20 pm

  8. Man, I never lost bets like that..

    Don't know about "base", but there is or was a chain in town called "Sub Station"


    27 Dec 08 at 12:33 am

  9. Wow Dennis, I bet you and I have met if you've spent time with Michael Craig and that crew at his place on the Isle of Palms. I worked for Michael three different times over the years, the first gig being at the old Red Potato Work Collective off of Forest Drive near the Providence Hospital and the last time at the shop on Senate Street circa 1982. At the Senate Street shop, we would often walk to the Cedars of Lebanon middle eastern restaurant, which was where the Which Wich is in the photograph of the Main Street Basil Pot location, and get the falafel special for lunch. I worked at the 221 Pickens Co-op to lower the price on my grocery bill circa 1975. Actually, mostly to be around all those hippy chicks. Also spent many hours at the G.R.O.W. Cafe on Bluff Road.

    So let's see, the Red Potato Work Collective, the 221 Pickens Food Cooperative, and the Grassroots Organizing Workshop (G.R.O.W.) Cafe. Does it follow that I was a communist? It surely would seem so by hanging out and working at places with names straight from the Communist Manifesto. But nope, I was the token capitalist (read: normal person) tagging along for, well, the hippy chicks, what can I say. I may not have been a communist but the Republican-type girls at that time were SO square and clueless. The neo-marxists didn't hate me because I was a free market advocate and try to discourage me or anything like that, they just never fully trusted my politics, or lack of politics. Michael Craig didn't give a rip because he was a closet capitalist and knew where I was coming from. Actually in retrospect, I think many of those kids were free market folks, however they would never admit it for the record. And what is it that Churchill said, "if you're not a radical when you're 19, you don't have a heart; if you're a radical when you're 40, you don't have a brain," or something to that effect.

    Sorry this post doesn't have much to do with the Basil Pot, didn't mean to make it into a chat room about the old Columbia hippy days. I will say this Ted, you would have enjoyed eating there. During the many times that I ate at the 'Pot over the years (both locations) I never once heard a single heated philosophical diatribe about the evils of meat eating directed at the meat-eaters in the house. Many regulars were meat-eaters who simply enjoyed something different from time to time. And the wait staff didn't come to the table and make you feel guilty for not being a vegetarian. I would say that most vegetarian restaurants are like that, FYI. It's hilarious how non-vegetarians can be so intimidated by a vegetarian restaurant. It is true that individual vegetarians can be so self-righteous, but the restaurants not so much. Now the 221 Pickens Co-op restaurant was a different story altogether, definitely lots of political and philosophical rants going on there. All that said, sadly I might have to agree with commenter Dennis B. about the attitude he may have gotten because he was wearing a uniform. Those folks had (and still seem to have) the hardest time understanding the role of the military in assuring us every freedom we have. But hey man, what can I say, I loved them all and really miss that period in my life.

    Michael Taylor

    22 Oct 09 at 12:37 pm

  10. The one on Main Street closed in 2003. I remember walking over there that summer because I heard how great the food was and there was a sign on a dry erase board in the window indicating they had gone out of business. I don't know the exact month it closed but it was either late spring or summer.


    16 Nov 09 at 10:55 am

  11. Michael Taylor - just saw your post from 10/22. I bet we did know some folk in common. Did you ever hang out at Michael Craig's place on Confederate Street? I was introduced to that whole crowd by way of a couple of girls I went to school with; Katherine Humphries and Susan James. We were the closest thing to hippies you could be in Columbia as a young teenager. Have no idea where they are these days, although I believe Lou Kaplan of Trustus fame is/was Susan's stepdad or something like that.

    Who was that guy who simply called himself Bird? And I'm sorry I spelled it wrong -- it's Rick Baty.


    17 Nov 09 at 8:48 am

  12. Dennis - Susan James was hooked up with Michael Craig when I first met him in his shop in the 221 Pickens Street building circa 1973. Not sure if they were ever married but they did have a beautiful daughter who now lives on the West Coast, or at least did at the time of Michael's death. Of all the hippy chicks during that time, I would have to say that Susan was always the sweetest to me, never treated me like an outsider. The last time I worked for Michael, he was hooked up with a gal by the name of Rosy who pretty much ran the shop in terms of sales, not sure if they ever married. And yes, somehow Susan was related to Lou Kaplan, probably as you mention by being a step-daughter. I remember once fixing some piece of furniture for Kaplan at Michael's shop on Senate Street and having to deliver it when it was ready. Michael wanted to deliver it with me because he was very fond of Lou and I'm pretty sure he mentioned that Lou was Susan's step-dad . Wish I could remember that better, but I haven't thought about this stuff in years. I remember delivering that piece of furniture like it was yesterday and even the location of the house and even the fact that Michael stuck around for a good half-hour just hanging out with Lou, but all the other stuff, like how Lou Kaplan and Susan were related, I don't remember very well. I do know that Lou Kaplan runs the Chez Fabrique House of Fabrics on Main Street and in addition to selling bolts and bolts of all kinds of fabrics he also carries theatrical make-up.

    I knew Bird, but I never really knew him, if you know what I mean. He was just one of the cast of characters who was always around (kind of like I was). He was always friendly with me, but that's about all I know. I think at one time I was told his full name but wouldn't pretend to know it now. Speaking of 221 Pickens Street and someone I at first used to confuse with Bird, I saw Frank Lee, the head chef at 221 Pickens Street, in some compilation show on ETV a couple of weeks ago featuring several chefs from Charleston at their respective fancy restaurants. Frank was one of the chefs and his restaurant is S.N.O.B. (or Slightly North Of Broad). I would have never recognized him, but I'm sure he would have said the same about me.

    Not only do you and I know the same people from the old Columbia hippy days, which means we probably tangentially know each other, but we evidently lived parallel lives based on all your posts and especially the one on the old Richland County Public Library. Your description of a typical summer day of riding the bus alone downtown at such a young age is my experience to a tee, even the part of going to McGregor's Drugstore, except I was there for the theatrical make-up for my monster make-up hobby; Lon Chaney was an early hero. I did eat there on several occasions, though, and remember the old black man in the white paper hat as well. I used to have a photograph of one of the old guys selling Cromer's peanuts on the State House grounds, but it got water damaged and I tossed it thinking no big loss. I would be willing to bet you that we at least saw each other once on one of those hot summer afternoons, probably more than that. We could very well have been sitting a few seats apart watching some movie in one of those much missed movie houses on Main Street.

    I really hate to say this, but ah man ... those were the days weren't they.

    [It seems the more I try to condense my posts the longer they get. I really admire the people who can say it all in three sentences. It doesn't help that I learned to type in junior high and type at about the speed I think to myself. A lethal combination for forum boards. Sorry 'bout dat.]

    Michael Taylor

    17 Nov 09 at 9:41 pm

  13. Speaking of Columbia's small community of 1960s & 70s hippies, actual and wannabe, anyone remember De Scene? It was on Taylor Street about where Blue Sky's giant fire hydrant is now.

    I was too young to go in before it closed for good, but it was notorious as a drug market and hang out even though I believe it was not even a bar -- just a coffee shop by day and "discotheque" by night.

    The parade of freaks (I say that fondly) on the sidewalk outside was definitely a sign of the times.


    18 Nov 09 at 6:07 am

  14. Oh, man. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! I was among the ETV crowd that sometimes frequented such places as da Scene, 221 and the Basil Pot. The UFO was a little ahead of my time, but it was legendary. Any pics of that place? it was located directly across the street from City Hall and gave the local politicos a fit with all the loitering hippies, incense and the Grateful Dead. They eventually shut it down as a public nuisance.

    Always a meat eater, I loved the Basil Pot for, as one post said, the great atmosphere and the fabulous food! My favorite was always homemade pimento cheese and bean sprouts on whole wheat bread. And some apple cider! Man I miss that place. Basil, however, is still in business at the Rosewood Market.


    14 Jun 10 at 11:54 pm

  15. Three things: The Basil Pot was my introduction to vegetarian food. They had the best blue cheese dressing ever...still can't find anything as good. Finally, on one side of the menu they had a list of things you could do to get discounts...ride your bike, carpool, bring a friend who'd never eaten there. If you could beat the owner in ping pong, your meal was on the house. The ping pong table was folded up in a corner, and I always hoped to see someone come in and try to win. But it never happened :(

    On another note, you can find a picture of UFO in the 1970 (or possibly 1969) edition of The Garnet and Black (the old USC yearbook.) My mom had a copy, and as a teen I was fascinated by the hippies who filled its pages.


    9 Nov 10 at 1:42 am

  16. Have any of you vegans tried this place? It's in West Columbia.


    18 May 12 at 6:23 pm

  17. Eva at the Free Times reviewed it positively a while ago


    19 May 12 at 1:21 am

  18. does anyone know what happened to Richard Schwartz, the owner of the Pasil Pot when it was on Main St.? ..'Bird' was from Spartanburg ..that's about all I recall ..

    Ron Ammons

    4 Nov 13 at 12:39 pm

  19. OK, I have confirmed that this location was indeed called the 'Blimpie Base' in 78-79.


    3 Aug 14 at 6:26 pm

  20. Zipped over here, checking the last location on the Basil Pot, 928 Main Street: yes, this was part of the foosball place, Dzik's. The one time I went into Dzik's we went into the side that is, in the photo above, Which Wich (so, 926 Main Street, maybe? or 930?). The crew that went into Dzik's that night was all underage, and that may be why we stayed in the north side of the building, but I'm pretty sure Dzik's encompassed both Which Wich *and* the Basil Pot, using the above photo as reference. And I think the bar or someone checking ID was on the other side, which is why we did not cross over. I was just there to play foosball. As I said elsewhere, there were 20-30 foosball tables as I recall, I mean there were so many. Seem like 3 rows and about ten deep. All Rene Pierre, regardless.


    16 Jun 16 at 1:27 am

  21. I was there (at the redwood location)on many occasions, mainly to listen to the music on Saturday nights. I was maybe 15 or so, but I could go when my sister Shelley was working. She's not in the old photo above, but I think I recognize Basil.

    Brian Gilbert

    31 Mar 20 at 9:06 pm

  22. Went to the Basil Pot a bunch when they were on rosewood. I think you could get a plate with 4 veggies really cheap. . . . and, of course, some red zinger tea. There were cute hippie girls working there. Once, when the band Yes was playing the coliseum, they came there to eat.


    24 Jul 23 at 4:45 pm

  23. Funny the memories that come up when someone mentions a place you used to drink a beer or twelve in. I used to be a member of the Grass Roots Organizing Workshop, GROW cafe and frequented 221 Pickens St. I took my mom there and she ate raw okra for the first time. She also walked with us in a protest against VC Sumner. I was a bad influence on her. But you could get a bad reputation for doing something like being seen coming out of the Burger King if you lived the veggie life back then. morals are so relative. I got called into the office for a discussion one time cause I parked my father's car outside of GROW. It had a Reagan for President bumper sticker on it. hot seat!

    Betty T King

    20 Dec 23 at 8:28 pm

  24. The Basil Garzia link leads to porn. Might want to fix it. I think the .net should be .com


    21 Dec 23 at 9:02 pm

  25. @Kenneth -- don't know what happened there, the actual url seems to have changed. I think I found the right one from google and it is now fixed.


    21 Dec 23 at 10:55 pm

  26. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Brown ate at the Rosewood location when he performed in Columbia in the late 1970s. The Basil Pot took advantage of that to mention it in their advertising for a while.


    24 Dec 23 at 10:29 am

  27. Good memories. I did some carpentry work for Richard and Basil when the Basil Pot moved to Rosewood. I also was a volunteer at Red Potato and 221 Pickens St. The way I came across this thread is trying to remember the name of the bar that was in the same set of building at the top of Pickens St hill, seems like they had an outdoor stage in the back. Any one remember the name of that bar? I remember seeing a lot of great bands there.


    24 Jun 24 at 4:27 pm

  28. Place on Pickens? Sylvesters?


    25 Jun 24 at 10:23 am

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