Appetizers -- Columbia, Missouri
In keeping with my "small plates as dinner" theme, here are a few words on my recent experience in Columbia, Missouri:
(I apologize for the lack of detail, but the trip was over a month ago, so my memory is a bit vague.)
We tried three dinner places & had appetizers-only at all three:
Village Wine & Cheese
Sophia's is doubtless the most traditionally-upscale of the three, & probably resembles most-closely our former favorite spot in town (now closed, so sad!), Dali's. It's a young crowd, young staff, modern decor & menu, not-cheap prices, impressive (& mid-priced) wine list. Sophia's strikes me as the closest to a hip big-city restaurant experience offered in Columbia.
Chris McD's was the hidden gem of the three -- based on its unassuming location in a VERY unassuming suburban strip mall, as well as its unassuming interior, I probably wouldn't have stayed if my dining companion hadn't already been there & promised me good things. He was right, Chris McD's was indeed a pleasant little surprise. True to their "wine bar" name, there is a features wine list each night (all under a certain price), & the menu was wide-ranging & interesting. I recall we had excellent crab cakes, a fabulous French batard (fancy name for a loaf of bread), & good crème brulee.
Village Wine & Cheese is a neat little downtown spot, more like a European sidewalk cafe, also offering a retail wine selection which you can buy & then drink in the restaurant for a small corkage fee. My dining companion has gotten to know the lovely European woman who owns VW&C whom you'll typically see running around the restaurant, chatting with customers, checking on her waitstaff, etc. -- although she has made the unfortunate decision to turn her cheese market into a bar/lounge area! (Not sure downtown Columbia needs another bar/lounge spot, but alas...) The menu is limited but all excellent -- & includes what my friend refers to as "the cheese plate that ate Columbia." It is ENORMOUS, & GOOD.
Oh, & before I forget, probably our best "find" was a downtown coffeehouse whose name I cannot remember -- something basic, like, Coffee Works or 4th Street Coffee Shop? Anyway, it offers traditional coffee but also Mediterranean/Greek/Turkish varieties, & breakfast food along the same lines. I would've loved to try their Mediterranean omelet. And although I am a Starbucks girl by heart (franchise be d*mned), the coffee I ordered was unbelievable, so rich as to almost be sweet without sugar. We did return for gyros at lunch, which were also excellent, & I suspect their side dishes (including hummus & spinach pie) would be as well. They did a brisk lunch business & so are obviously not as "unknown" as they were to us, but I'd love to return for either meal.
k_d, are you pretty familiar with Columbia? Chris McD's is in the Forum Shopping Center that Schnucks is located in. It is at the other end from Schnucks. If you need better directions than that, let me know where you are coming from and I will try and help you locate it. I'm not sure what the other coffee place is. We had one close this past summer on 9th St. so I hope it was not that one.
Yeah, I think it might've been Coffee Zone -- my trip was in August, so hopefully it would not have closed since then. It was right across the street from this breakfast place whose name I *also* can't remember which is operated by the same people who run an Italian restaurant downtown.
Hope that helps... yikes...
I would add three other restaurants to your "must" list in Columbia: Sycamore and Teller's (both downtown on Broadway on opposite ends of the same block), and Cherry Hill Brasserie on the SW side of Columbia in the Village of Cherry Hill business development (corner of Scott Blvd and Chapel Hill).
Village Wine and Cheese is owned by Kathy Fluesmeier and she's from Louisiana. Not European exactly, but as close as you can get in the USA. HA!
RE Dali's: Have you tried Gaucho's Brazilian Churrascaria Steakhouse that went in the same location? Same Spanish owners as Dali's, I understand, but Brazilian father-in-law is now the manager. Great food and atmosphere!
Also, if you liked Sophia's, Addison's downtown on Cherry Street is owned by the same two guys.
Interesting to hear you mention Sycamore -- online, I thought it looked interesting, but a friend of ours (a native Columbian whose culinary tastes are still out for debate) mentioned she had heard "bad things" about it. I didn't want to avoid them forever based on her anti-recommendation, so that's good to hear.
(And no, I didn't mean to imply "native" when I said European, just "first generation" -- she & my dinner companion spent much of dinner comparing notes on what part of Europe all of their relatives are from! Primarily Italy, if I remember right.)
We did try the Brazilian steakhouse but are not big red meat eaters, & therefore something was likely lost in the translation.
Have never heard of Teller's, what do they most-closely resemble?
Sycamore is a jewel of a restaurant. Try it and post back. It's especially good (and a good deal) at lunch.
Teller's is down the block and not in the same class as Sycamore either with the food or service. Teller's has the feel of an upscale college bar that serves food as an after thought. The waitstaff calls you "you guys" and then forgets what you ordered. "Sorry, you guys". For the best appetizers in town, go to Murrys. Any disagreement out there?
Steveb, I can't believe you're the first in this thread to mention Murry's. Come on, this is small plate heaven! Wings (not hot wings, just the best tasting wings you'll come across), sauteed shrooms, fantastic fried oysters, green pepper rings, and the end all be all blue chips cheese bread. The only thing they don't have is something a place in Alexandria, VA has, which is frickles (fried pickle chips).
And Sycamore is owned by someone who made Trat a great place when it was a great place.