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The Elite Epicurean / LaVecchia's Seafood Grille / Aquagrille / Club Rio / Club Dreams, 1736 Main Street: 2000s   33 comments

Posted at 1:34 am in Uncategorized

According to this link the Boyne Building was designed in 1900 by local architect James Hagood Sams. I'm sure it has been a large number of things over the years, but the one which gets mentioned here more often than anything else is The Elite Epicurean. Unfortunately, I know almost nothing about it. I believe that for the majority of the time it was open, I was living out of town, and at any rate just the name would have put me off as being "too fancy" (not to mention the iffy-ness of Main Street at night).

All that aside, I can say it was listed in the 1998 phonebook (though with no Yellow Pages ad) and here's what some of you have said:

One of my favorite Columbia restaurants missing from your list was the Elite Epicurean. They had a dish called something like “Island of Scorpios Shrimp”. It was delicious. Also, the stuffed twice baked potato at the Elite Epicurean was very good -- commenter Sarah

Let’s see… Elite Epicurian first became a Northern Italian seafood-focused place called LaVecchia’s, full of fish tanks and aqua neon colors, until around 2002… Then it became Aquagrille, which didn’t last long. After that it has been dance clubs under 2-3 different names -- commenter Dave

I still miss the Elite Epicurian. Lamb Chops Bandit Style! -- commenter Dennis

Club Dreams would seem to be one of those short lived dance clubs commenter Dave mentions -- the night picture is from a Friday night, when one would expect a dance club to be open, so I think it is gone as well.

Written by ted on January 25th, 2011

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33 Responses to 'The Elite Epicurean / LaVecchia's Seafood Grille / Aquagrille / Club Rio / Club Dreams, 1736 Main Street: 2000s'

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  1. Weren't there some shootings at Club Dream?


    25 Jan 11 at 7:31 am

  2. I ate at the Elite a couple of times. I thought it was OK, but not "great" as a lot of others do. What I remember about their lunch menu was the descriptions of their sandwich selections. One was called "The City Hall," with the description reading something like, "conservatively roasted with a liberal dose of mayonnaise." And "The IBM," "logically stacked with onions and programmed to your specifications." The evening menu was more upscale.

    This place also housed something called "Club Rio" in the mid 2000s. I don't know whether that was just a club or a restaurant, too.


    25 Jan 11 at 9:42 am

  3. Club Dreams seemed to be the center of a lot of violence and disturbances. The neighbors, I am sure, are glad they are gone if they are closed.

    Before Dreams, Ted, it was Rio, another dance club, somewhere in the 1994-1996 range. Best place to get a beer or cocktail after hours on a Sunday morning.


    25 Jan 11 at 2:12 pm

  4. OK, adding Rio to the post title..


    25 Jan 11 at 2:21 pm

  5. If Mast does well and more retail comes in, I don't know what the sq footage of this place is but from the outside looks like a good spot for an Urban Outfitters.

    Mike D

    25 Jan 11 at 6:20 pm

  6. I don't know. I mean, I wish them well, but I'm not sure who all these people who are willing to drive to Main Street to shop are supposed to be..


    25 Jan 11 at 6:55 pm

  7. I like the idea of Mast gGneral Store, but I am unwilling to pay to park, and don't want to put up with the vagrants that pollute the CBD. Many folks share those sentiments. After an initial wave of curious visitors, I don't think it'll do all that well.


    26 Jan 11 at 7:37 am

  8. Yesm it was Club Rio


    26 Jan 11 at 1:40 pm

  9. Ok, fixed..


    26 Jan 11 at 2:25 pm

  10. Generally agree with u Ted

    re: I don’t know. I mean, I wish them well, but I’m not sure who all these people who are willing to drive to Main Street to shop are supposed to be..

    But if...and this I admit is overly optimistic, Mast and new Nickolodeon/ new sumpter & taylor parking garage are well received, and if the retail economy in general is doing well to point that many retailers are expanding domestically (we're talking 2012 so it is within realm of possibility) then Main's high vacancy rate may fill up.

    Mike D

    26 Jan 11 at 7:21 pm

  11. I can't think of any downtown where you don't pay for parking. The problem arises when you used to park for free, then are charged, ala Five Points. The best you can hope for is to get a free 20 minutes or so from a left over meter when you pull in!! I am glad Mast is coming in. They definitely fit an outdoor niche, but also carry other items. They are certainly friendly when you walk in the door, but I've never dealt with them for a "customer service" issue, after the sale. Hopefully it will help bring prices down at merchants like The Backpacker and Half-Moon, because competition is good, but I am and always will be a Backpacker shopper, because of the customer service after the sale.

    I am rarely downtown, but was on Saturday afternoon, and while there were more than a few things going on in the Vista, parking was extremely scarce. I don't know if it is on every Saturday nor not, but it was great.


    27 Jan 11 at 9:36 am

  12. I had to ask at work if Club Dreams was still open or not, nobody seemed for sure, mainly because I went a few months ago with my new BF and roommate to the club and I turned out to be like the only white person there. I had fun after seeing the initial shock of my crossing unspoken barriers(I do it at Tabu in the Vista all the time) too bad it closed if it did although it was a small and tight dance floor.


    30 Jan 11 at 10:27 pm

  13. I loved the Elite Epicurean. I would also love the recipe for the Epicurean Potato. I have searched but cannot find it.


    16 Sep 11 at 5:44 pm

  14. This location was originally a diner called just the Elite (pronounced EE-light) before it changed hands a couple of times, fancied up, and became the Elite Epicurean.


    16 Sep 11 at 7:50 pm

  15. I made an attempt years ago with mashed potatoes that I added cubed ham and cheese and then put them through the 3-stage flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs. I then deep fried them until the exterior had firmed up. I think it was close enough for me....


    16 Sep 11 at 10:02 pm

  16. I remember the Elite as an old Columbia tradition. From the sound of many of the posts, I now feel old. It closed shortly before I left Columbia. The Veal Grecque was my favorite. It was also a family tradition. When it closed suddenly, it was a sad occasion for the city, as it had always been a landmark.


    5 Dec 11 at 11:42 pm

  17. I visted the Elite Epicurean when I was stationed in Fort Jackson. I loved the place and the food was the best I have had. Loved the Shrimp dish, mushrooms in red wine sauce, the little finger foods they would serve with each meal, and yes the famous Epicurean potato. I can not think of a single restaurant I have remembered like this one. I would be interested in who the owners where and if they would publish their receipes. Hands down my favorite place ever.


    12 Apr 12 at 4:57 pm

  18. I worked here as a busboy for about a year while at USC when the location was LaVecchia's. The food was good I think but the place was depressing because business was so slow. There would be some nights that we'd have one table all night, seriously. I really liked the building; the upstairs had a dining hall they were renovating when I worked there but I never got to go up to check it out. I went by today and it appears that its being renovated again as lights were on upstairs.


    17 Jun 12 at 9:24 pm

  19. My uncles worked at this place for 32 years and they taught me how to make a lot of their dishes .Youtube relleno de papa and that should get u to the stuffed potatoes .

    Leti d

    19 Jul 12 at 2:48 pm

  20. Drove past here earlier this evening, and it appears there is some sort of restaurant/bar here now? I think the sign said "Chelsea's." There were not many people inside...all of the dark tint was removed from the windows. It must have JUST opened!


    20 Jul 12 at 9:51 pm

  21. tonkatoy

    25 Jul 12 at 10:19 am

  22. I ride my bike by here pretty regularly at night and Chelsea's rarely has many, if any, people inside. I hope business picks up for them.


    8 Aug 12 at 8:34 pm

  23. I posted this on Have Your Say as well but Chelsea's appears to be closed. It has not been open for business for at least a week.


    15 Jan 13 at 9:13 pm

  24. My uncles worked at this place for 32 years and I now have a cooking show and I will be making the stuffed ham and cheese potatoes tonight.They taught me how to make alot of their foods from Elite!!


    25 Mar 13 at 2:39 pm

  25. The Elite Epicurean was my favorite restaurant in Columbia in the 1980's. The dish that Sarah refers to above was called Shrimp Isle of Scorpios and it was my favorite as well. It was shrimp and pasta cooked with tomatoes, black olives and greek spices. I'm now in Charleston and there used to be a restaurant in West Ashley that served something very similar. Unfortunately they are now closed as well. Guess I'm gonna have to learn to cook it!


    24 May 13 at 12:18 pm

  26. Looks like someone else is making a go at this ill fated spot, there is construction work going on inside.


    2 Jun 13 at 6:49 pm

  27. Perhaps a play off the original restaurant's name in this location, a new place called The Epicurean By Al Amir is now here. It appears to be either open or soon to be open.


    2 Apr 14 at 8:54 pm

  28. Tried to eat here Friday evening before Indie Grits, and they were closed. Big sign out front that said "Now Open." They weren't. Tried to call Al Amir on Main Street via Bing app, but did not look at the address to see if it was that one or the one on South Main. The phone was busy. Oh well. That was pretty much their chance for me to eat there.


    21 Apr 14 at 8:08 am

  29. I lived in Columbia from 1966 to 1988. I was 'walking' MainSt now on Google maps and am saddened to see that the Capitol Newstand and the Elite are gone. I ate at the Elite many times. Great service and great Greek food. Their 'Shrimp Island Skorpios' signature dish is one of my favorites dishes of all time. The juicy red cut up tomatoes with shrimp and feta cheese, very yummy. Also their Lamb chop was a softball sized chunk of meat, charred on the outside and pink on the inside with mint jelly, another of my favorites. During my late twenties, a group of my friends, sometime 15 to 20, would meet at happy hour at the original Greene St bar, then we would invade the Elite for dinner. We were a young, loud and obnoxious bunch. The Elite very smartly would seat us in a separate room for dinner events away from the regular patrons, close the doors and what happened in there was the definition of complete rowdiness. Man those were good times!


    4 Jul 14 at 9:29 am

  30. I'll be making a trip to Columbia in a few days and I thought I'd look up the Epicurean to see if it was still in business. My wife and I ate their many times, but that was many years ago. Just FYI, Google Earth street view shows that as of July, 2015, the place was a restaurant by the name of "The Epicurean by Al-Amir. It serves Mediterranean cuisine. So sad to learn it's gone. I was hoping to enjoy a meal there with my wife once more.

    John Samaras

    19 Nov 15 at 9:29 pm

  31. In 1989, there was a big jazz festival in front of the Epicurean. I was visiting a friend who worked for ETV at the time, and they were covering the festival.
    Ten years later I moved to SC, but the Epicurean was already gone.


    25 Apr 17 at 8:07 am

  32. Does anyone remember their crab dish that was named after the owner's mother or wife (can't remember which!). The crab was already shelled, and it was my favorite item on the menu! I remember celebrating my 30th birthday there! Always one of our favorite restaurants for special events! thanks for any info about the crab recipe!

    Mary Ann

    12 Aug 18 at 1:41 pm

  33. While a student at USC in the late 1960s, my friends and I often made the trek up to the Elite Epicurean. It was a great place to get other than fast food and we enjoyed it immensely. Sorry it's gone, but such are the ways of business.

    Harold Ward

    28 Nov 19 at 10:04 am

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