Motor Supply Co. Bistro has been known for its "eclectic blend of contemporary American, French, Italian and Asian cuisine" since it opened its doors in 1989, according to its website.
Located in the Congaree Vista, the bistro takes its name from the historic Motor Supply Co., an engine supply business from the 1930s. The circa late-1800s brick building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The upscale restaurant has a rotating menu that changes daily and a bar with seasonal cocktails. The bistro has an extensive menu and takes pride in its sustainable practices and farm-to-table ideals. The original neon Motor Supply Co. sign, which was found in the basement by the current owners, hangs outside.
Motor Supply Co. Bistro is known for its warm atmosphere and unique menu concept, which owner Eddie Wales said he believes are two key reasons that the restaurant has thrived as long as it has.
Starting as a waiter in 1989, Wales worked his way up to general manager two years later. He left Motor Supply in 1994 to move to Athens, Georgia, for his now-wife to attend veterinary school. They returned in 1998, where Wales soon resumed his old position and bought the restaurant in 2000.
Wales said he attributes the "hands-on ownership" and long-term management team to a thriving business. In 2000, he made green business practices a priority, buying from local, sustainable farmers. The bistro even has "an organic herb plot at USC's Green Quad community garden."
Melissa Ligon, local calligrapher and artist, has been going to Motor Supply Co. Bistro since it opened in 1989. Ligon, who designs the chalkboards in the restaurant, said she goes for the atmosphere.
"The food itself is always amazing," Ligon said. "But I've always loved just sitting at the bar and talking to whoever's there and whoever's working behind the bar."
When the city shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wales said Motor Supply Co. Bistro began taking precautions.
"As far as the tables being spaced out, we spaced them out eight feet apart because the backs of the chairs are supposed to be 6 feet apart," Wales said.
However, social distancing measures and decreased capacity have posed a challenge, according to Wales, who said restaurants "make money on being a full restaurant, not a half-full restaurant."
Heather Miller Kamis, an senior product business analyst, has been a frequent visitor at Motor Supply Co. Bistro since 1994. Even with COVID-19 causing uncertainty about the health risk of visiting restaurants, Kamis said she felt "safe" due to the social distancing and other preventative measures being taken by staff.
Kamis said the meal variety and changing menu is what keeps her coming back, and though the daily changes prevent her from picking a favorite meal, the food is her favorite part of the bistro.
Whether for artisan cocktails or the mouth-watering food, the iconic Motor Supply Co. Bistro is a longstanding destination for upscale dining.