South Carolina Has a Pimento Cheese Passport, and It's Glorious
The booklet includes 15 Columbia restaurants, which serve everything from pimento cheese hot dogs to pimento cheeseburger pizza.
Out of all the iconic foods in the South, pimento cheese is one of the most famous. While the origin of the cheesy, mayonnaise-packed spread is contested, Columbia, South Carolina claims to have one of the oldest recorded recipes, found in a 1912 fundraising cookbook. You can enjoy pimento cheese "in almost any restuarant you stop in," according to Experience Columbia, SC, so it was only a logical progression, then, for Columbia to develop its very own pimento cheese passport.
Yes, you read that correctly—a pimento cheese passport. You can download it on Experience Columbia SC’s website, and use it as a roadmap to create your own pimento cheese crawl, of sorts. It includes 15 restaurants: Di Prato’s, Bourbon, Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café, Rockaway Athletic Club, The Whig, Midwood Smokehouse, Solstice Kitchen, Cellar on Greene, Terra, The War Mouth, Spotted Salamander, Good Life Café, Café Strudel–West Columbia, Café Strudel–Lexington, and Jake’s. Some serve pimento cheese on fries; others pile it on hash browns for breakfast. There's even a vegan version available, if you make it to Good Life Café.
Beyond the obviously delicious incentive of eating pimento cheese, if you fill out the passport, you have the chance to win prizes. Whenever you spend $10 at a participating restaurant and order a pimento cheese dish, ask your server to stamp your passport—once you reach ten, email it to Experience Columbia SC at email@example.com. Each quarter, you’ll automatically be entered to win a $50 prize. Locals will win a gift card to one of the pimento cheese passport restaurants, while visitors can get a $50 Visa gift card. Either way, getting paid to enjoy pimento cheese is a pretty sweet deal.
If you can’t make it to Columbia, pimento cheese is pretty easy to make at home. Carla Hall and Food & Wine's Justin Chapple both have staple recipes, and once you’ve mastered them, you can experiment by adding the spread to different dishes. We love it slathered on burgers with sweet bacon jam and crunchy pickle slices—Pimento cheese quesadillas are also the ultimate melty snack.