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Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits / Aloha / El Valle / Eric's San Jose / Best China Buffet / Panda Inn / Albert Tzul / Los Alazanes / etc, 2630 Decker Boulevard: 1980s - 2008   20 comments

Posted at 12:30 am in closing

You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don't open a restaurant at 2630 Decker Boulevard.

The list in the post title is by no means complete, Aloha is the first restaurant I specifically remember being here, but that was in the 1980s, and the building was not new then.

Aloha had the optimistic slogan America's Favorite Restaurant on its sign, which raised all sorts of questions. How likely was America's Favorite Restaurant to be located in Columbia South Carolina? Not too likely. OK, it must be a chain then. In that case, why haven't I ever seen another one? And Aloha? Is there an Hawaiian theme supposed be be playing out here?

In the event, we only ate there once (it was OK), and the only Hawaiian element I can recall is that you could get a pineapple slice on your hamburger.

Aside from all of the Mexican & Chinese operations, I also recall a Russian restaurant being in the space for a brief period, and perhaps a middle eastern one, though that is way beyond hazy at this point.

You'll note one feature this place's latest closing shares with Key West Grill -- apparently the end came so rapidly that nobody was left for Coke to coordinate taking the fountain equipment back with.

And you can't help but notice the "rocky" exterior of this place. This seems to have been a brief lived trend, and I'm aware of two other restaurants in Columbia in with similar facades. There's the Chinese place on Two Notch in between Fontaine Road and Pinestraw Road, and another Chinese place at the intersection of Beltline and Farrow. The "rocks" at the Two Notch place are only similar, but I think the Farrow place has identical rocks (I'll have to go look). If so, perhaps it and this building were once part of the same chain.

What's next for this building? I have no idea, but I have two predictions: 1) It will be a restaurant and 2) You will read about it here shortly afterwards.

UPDATE 12 June 2009: Added Popeyes Chicken to the post title.

UPDATE 2 November 2009: Well, apparently someone has decided to go ahead and take that tug on Superman's cape -- a new Mexican restaurant / butcher / baker looks to be setting up at 2630. (And they've ditched both the rocky facade on the building and the murals from the last operation).

It seems the place will be quite attractive when they're done with it, and clearly, it will be a sister operation to La Estrella at 1921 Airport Boulevard:

UPDATE 28 Jan 2010: The new La Estrella bakery, butcher shop, restaurant is very near to opening. The colors are very nice:

UPDATE 23 March 2010 -- Well, this doesn't look good. The doors are boarded up, and no work was going on:

UPDATE 22 January 2022: Updating tags and adding map icon. Changing "Popeye's" to "Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits" in the title.

20 Responses to 'Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits / Aloha / El Valle / Eric's San Jose / Best China Buffet / Panda Inn / Albert Tzul / Los Alazanes / etc, 2630 Decker Boulevard: 1980s - 2008'

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  1. I think it was originally a Popeye's in the 1970s and at one time an Arby's.


    9 Apr 09 at 7:35 am

  2. The Santa Fe that was around the corner on Two Notch merged with another mexican restaurant at this location when they closed that location in 2007. I don't think it was open more than a month before it closed for good.

    The bad luck is contagious because it is next door to the old Zorba's (ignoring the old skating rink that is setback from the street). Another restaurant had a sign up at Zorba's that said "Coming Soon" but it is gone now.


    9 Apr 09 at 12:40 pm

  3. Yes and no. See my latest Zorba's update.


    9 Apr 09 at 1:07 pm

  4. The "Middle Eastern" you're thinking of was probably the "Ararat," which was a purportedly a Turkish/Armenian styled restaurant in this location ('99-'00). Never made it there, so I don't know what the fare was like. I think this might have been an Arby's back in the early 80s.


    9 Apr 09 at 2:11 pm

  5. It was a Popeyes originally and then Arbys for a short time. I remember a friend had his car break down at that Popeyes one night and when we went back the next morning. It was stripped totally. Tires, wheels, console, radio. Unbelievable!


    9 Apr 09 at 2:18 pm

  6. Sorry, I have been by there a few times in the last week and didn't notice the new sign.


    9 Apr 09 at 10:32 pm

  7. I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't stopped to take pictures here. Makes you wonder what the backstory is.


    10 Apr 09 at 12:49 am

  8. Yes, I can confirm that all of the original Popeye's locations (everywhere) had the blackish stone exterior walls with red roofs. Isn't there another place on Knox Abbott near the river with that same rocky exterior? A fan or A/C store, maybe?


    3 Jun 09 at 3:00 pm

  9. Yeah, it is just below Silver City comics.


    3 Jun 09 at 4:37 pm

  10. This is now open again as a combo Mexican grocery store/restaurant.


    20 Dec 09 at 9:48 am

  11. E.J.

    20 Dec 09 at 8:07 pm

  12. I always wondered what this building used to be. Now i'm really wondering what the old restaurant used to be that sits on the corner of Decker and Trenholm.


    7 Jul 10 at 5:34 am

  13. That was Grandy's


    7 Jul 10 at 8:32 am

  14. The restaurant that I remember at that intersection was in order of names "Western Steer," "Ed's Stake Barn," "Black Forest." I think the Steer might have been owned by the same person who owned the Garners Ferry location, but I'm not sure. I think "Ed's Stake Barn" was owned by Ed Bruce, who at one time owned some "Brake Kings" around town. "Black Forest" was owned by Max Egloff, who had a very storied career, apparently cooking for not only Erwin Rommel, but Gov. Campbell. Black Forest had a sister restaurant in Arden, NC. Black Forest closed shortly after Egloff died, and then the building became some kind of restaurant supply building. The Arden location was still open as of last year, but I don't know if it's still owned by the same people. Then, obviously this building was later razed when they redirected Trenholm to go straight across to the Trenholm Extension.


    7 Jul 10 at 8:53 am

  15. I remember this being a popeye's and then an Arby's. I can also recall a chinese buffet before Aloha. After that I lost track.

    Mr. Bill

    26 Jan 12 at 1:29 pm

  16. I worked at the aloha restaurant as a waitress when I was in high school in the late 1980's. I remember it appealed to cheap people because you could get a prime rib for $6.95 including the side items. I still remember the chinese people who ran it too. The husband's name was Tom. He was friends with the guy who owned the chinese restaurant next to Columbia mall near the radio store that actually looked like a car stereo on the outside. As for the hawaiian influence, I think the salad had pineapple. They also had some stir fries with Polynesian spices. Other than that no Hawaiian stuff that I recall - and definitely no poi. Yuck


    30 May 12 at 10:41 pm

  17. My husband and I both agree that must be a haunted or cursed spot! I remember when it was a Hawaiian Place or a Chinese place and I had a salad with rib-eye steak on it and it was delicious! And we ate there when it was Eric's San Jose and the prices were cheaper than Monterrey's and the food was far better also!

    Pat Lewis

    22 Sep 14 at 11:30 am

  18. My parents owned the Hawaiian grill. I still have the fake wooden parrot and the ceramic pineapples. I remember like it was yesterday with the little liquor bottles and glass salad bowls. I still have those too; they apparently were made in France. I believe we still use the mixer to make drinks at home. Its really cool that people still remember my parents from that long ago. And who doesn't remember the pineapple burger, lol. I always that it was really strange my parents opened a non-asian restaurant though.


    6 Dec 14 at 3:36 pm

  19. I remember when Popeye’s opened 3 locations in Columbia area almost simultaneously. My wife & I went to Knox Abbott Rd location first because it was the closest but we eventually went to all 3 Columbia locations. It seems like all 3 locations closed at the same time & we had to drive to Augusta GA to get our Popeye’s fix. Believe that location is still open.
    Loved that feeling of grease that stuck to the roof of your mouth when you ordered the onion rings!
    I was happy to see a Popeye’s open in Orangeburg several years ago & even more happy when Popeye’s returned to the Columbia area. Love that chicken at Popeye’s!
    Buildings must’ve been well constructed as all 3 former Popeye’s locations are still in use.

    Herb Matthews

    30 Dec 17 at 9:35 am

  20. By the way (and I'm surprised no one pointed this out yet), the mural with the horses is a direct copy of one of the box arts for the 2002 film "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron", with the horses in different colors and humans removed from the scene.

    Aaron J.

    9 Aug 20 at 1:55 am

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