Real Mexico - 2421 Bush River Rd.

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, September 3, 2015 2 comments

The Yelp 100 Challenge officially kicked off Tuesday, 9/1/15, at Real Mexico.  Real comes up #1 in the Mexican Category on Yelp in Columbia, so it seemed a fitting spot to start the Yelp 100 challenge.  Full disclosure, many of us frequent Real Mexico a lot, probably second only to Taquiera Jalisco.  As has been written on this blog, we love TJ's for its street tacos, even more than Real's tacos.  However, Real has the best tortas in town, without exception.  Three of the six that attended lunch - Tank, Motherboard, and Frodo, ordered tortas, with Tank's Chori Pollo torta being the standout. 

There is one reason to come to Real for lunch - it is delicious. Many of the other aspects of the restaurant, as noted below, are objectionable.  But with food this good, it doesn't really matter that much.  Noodles went with the combo #3, a risky play going generic at a place that does some special dishes. Even he was pleased, as Real can cook up the standards, too. The only person who was not thrilled with their order was Publican, who had chipotle chicken tacos.

Real has a nice, friendly staff.  However, when you are seated in the back corner of the back room, like we were, drinks can run empty for quite a while.  We sat back there due to the lack of decent large group seating.  Try to avoid the back room (although it does have some exceptional art back there...).

At lunch, Real gets packed.  When it is at full capacity, food does not fly out. Similarly, while there is on-sight parking, it is rarely enough at lunch, and the lot overflows into nearby businesses.  

You should keep an eye out for daily specials, which are often posted on the door.  Frodo found his go-to torta that way, and he orders it even when it is not on the menu.  The torta is substantially bigger than his face.  And, if you are feeling like spending top lunch dollasr, try the steaming hot fajitas.

As a final note, the line to pay at the register is often awkwardly long.  Don't take a seat at a table next to where the line forms if you can avoid it.  You will likely eat lunch with some dude's pants in your face. While you are in line, you should check out the large selection of sweet Mexican candy.  We can only recommend the Carlos the V.  The other options have been too sweet, and have often been thrown away after one bite.

This statement is obviously subject to change as the Challenge proceeds but, the consensus at lunch was that while we love Real, Taquiera Jalisco is still the #1 Mexican spot in Columbia in our book - and it is not even in the top ten on Yelp.  That is a travesty, Columbia.  #BumpTJs

The Yelp 100 Lunch Challenge

Posted by The LunchMen Monday, August 31, 2015 0 comments

Tank here.  Publican and I found ourselves eating lunch in the Vista and asking this question - how do you reinvigorate your lunch life?  We concluded that the solution was to set an overly-ambitious goal and recruit some expert lunch companions that are outside of our regular lunch crowd to join us in the pursuit of that dream. So began the Lunchmen began the Yelp 100 Lunch Challenge.  The idea is so glorious that Rabbit is increasing his day trips from Charleston to his Columbia office so he can hit some Challenge lunches. Frodo, who has written some of this blog's most-trafficked articles,  has stepped up to the plate to help fill in Rabbit's absence.

I must be honest, I have doubts about Yelp and its rankings, despite Yelp's ascension to the top of the restaurant ranking world since our blog entered hibernation. The Challenge will give us a methodical way to test Yelp's credibility and reliability. We will evaluate each restaurant based on the factors that matter most at lunch:

  • Food - delicious, average, or disappointing
  • Service - engaging, acceptable, or lacking
  • Timeliness - prompt, average, or slow
  • Parking - on location, nearby, or difficult
  • Pricing - bargain (under $8 with a drink); reasonable (under $10); pricey (over $10)
  • Daily Specials - available?
  • Ambiance - acceptable?
  • Bathrooms - usable, not usable, or not available
  • Intangibles - some restaurants just have that extra something going for them

We will be weighing in with our thoughts collectively on Yelp under the name "Lunch Challenge."

To compose the Challenge, we searched the categories on Yelp to see which had the most restaurants open at lunch. We identified 100 of the highest Yelp-rated restaurants in Columbia (including W. Cola, Cayce, Lexington, and Irmo) in those categories. Then, we built a calendar that forces us to go through the 100 restaurants in 1 year.  To help judge the restaurants, we recruited Porkchop, an ironically slender member of the clergy who can eat like the devil; Noodles, a local attorney whose years living abroad gave him taste for the exotic; and Motherboard, an IT executive and writer who has yet to meet a dish too spicy to handle.

Here is where we are eating over the next 52 weeks.  Our goal is to have each person committed to the Challenge attend at least 50% of the scheduled lunches, and to have at least 3 people at each lunch.  Of course, we will be bringing along others to enjoy some of these restaurants, because lunch remains the core of our sense of community.

Top Reviewer-Rated Restaurants in Columbia’s most significant Categories

American (New/Trad'l)
Motor Supply
Thirsty Fellow
The Backyard Café
Publick House
Café Strudel
Henry’s (Devine)
J Peters Grill (Beltline)
Bernie’s Chicken
Flying Saucer
Afro/Caribbean & Indian
Spice Junction
Harambe Ethiopian
Skyaa’s Caribbean
Delhi Palace
Mama J’s Carribean
Village of India
Lamb’s Bread
La Isla Bonita
Taste of Jamaica
Shalimar Curry House
Southern Belly
True BBQ 
Little Pigs BBQ
Maurice’s Piggy Park
Palmetto Pig 
Big Boys
Doc’s BBQ
Texas Roadhouse
Hite’s BBQ 
Five Guys (Vista)
Pawley’s Front Porch
Hwy 55 Burgers
Red Robin
Smashburger (Devine)
Zesto’s (Forest Dr.)
Rockaway Athletic Club
Rosewood Dairy Bar
Edna’s Drive-in
Lucky’s Burgers Shack
East Asian
Sun Ming Chinese
Chen’s Chinese
Inakaya (O’Neil Ct.)
M Grille
Korea Garden
Menkoi Ramen House
Blue Cactus
Mai Thai
Pho Viet (Decker)
New Bangkok
Zoe’s (Forest Dr.)
Gervais and Vine
Med. Tea Room
Olive Grill
Greek Boys
Zorba’s Greek (St. Andrews.)
Grecian Gardens
Ariana’s Greek
Real Mexico
Cantina 76 (Main St.)
La Estrella
El Burrito
Hola Mexico
Tacos El Puebla
Tacqueria Guadalajara
Gina’s Pizza & Italian
Nicky’s Pizzeria
Il Giorgione
Dano’s Pizza
Tonella’s Pizza
Pizza Joint
Bellacino’s Pizza
Old Chicago Pizza
Pizza Palace
Villa Tronco
The Other Store
Drakes Duck In
Groucho’s (Harden St.)
DL McLaughlin’s
Immac. Consumption
Nick’s Gyros and Subs
Very’s Great Philly
Chicken Salad Chick
Di Prato’s
Mr. Friendly’s
Andy’s Deli
The Gourmet Shop
Jason’s Deli
Cali’s Cafe
Just Us Café
Michael’s Café
No Name Deli

1. Restaurants in italics have been left off of the top ten list on another, less appropriate Yelp category.
2. The American, Greek, Sandwiches, and Delis lists are blended from the top 10 of the two identified Yelp categories.
3. Afro/Carribean & Indian list is the top options from African, Carribean, Indian, Puerto Rican, and Vegan Yelp categories
4. East Asian list is the top options from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and Sushi Bars Yelp categories.

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5th Avenue Deli - 2910 Rosewood Drive, #A

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, January 26, 2012 3 comments

Greetings Lunch Friends! Despite rumors to the Contrary, Rabbit and the Publican did not burn to death in the Salty Nut Fire earlier this month. No, all of the Lunchmen are alive and well, if not actively blogging. However, 2012 is now here and with it the promise of fresh, new entries on some of the Capital City’s new establishments. While we’ve been somewhat dormant these past few months, several new places have come on our radar, and reports on a few other established joints that have yet to be reviewed also are being prepared. Stay tuned for more postings in the near future.

Today’s review is of a relatively new place (less than 5 years old) that has quickly become an anchor of the Rosewood Drive eating scene – I’m talking about 5th Avenue Deli. This place is, if nothing else, a local establishment. The walls are adorned with Gamecock memorabilia, the sandwiches are all named for neighborhood streets, and even the employees are recognizable from their time as servers at other local jaunts. Since this place has been around a while, you may be asking yourself: “Self, why are the Lunchmen just now getting around to a review?” Well, I’ll be perfectly blunt – two of the Lunchmen want to put this place on the permanent Boo List without even an official review. As you know, you only get one chance to make a first impression with Tank and the Publican, and if you screw that up, well good luck ever falling into their good graces. I however, had never even darkened the doors 5th Avenue, so we settled on a compromise. I would gather up Lunchmen friend Captain Charley and newcomer "The Gipper," and we’d all give it a go.

I arrived a little early on a rainy Tuesday, but quickly recognized a colleague who worked in the area waiting on his food. He claimed to eat there “at least twice a week” – definitely a good sign. I also spotted several USC baseball players at a small table in the back – another positive indicator as college athletes tend to go places where the portions are large. Encouraged, I perused the menu and was a little taken aback by the volume of options. There are at least twenty different sandwiches to try, so picking just one can be daunting. They also had two different types of pasta salad, coleslaw, and potato salad. It was going to be hard to get a full taste of the entire menu in one trip, even with three diners. In an effort to cast a wide net, I went with the “choose 3” option and got a helping of chicken salad, pasta salad, and potato salad. All were homemade and delicious. Now I understand that Chicken Salad is a very personal thing, so what I may enjoy (in this case shredded chicken, light on the mayo, heavy on sliced almonds) you may despise. However, no one can doubt the time and care put into the recipe. As for the pasta and potato salad, they were both on par with any other Columbia area deli, and the added bacon in the potato salad probably pushed it into the top 2 or 3 in town.

One complaint – since I didn’t get a sandwich, I didn’t get a pickle. Personally, I think that if you ask someone for ANYTHING at a deli, it should come with a pickle, be it a sandwich, cup of soup, or just an extra fork. It’s a scientific fact that consuming a pickle at the end of the meal helps significantly with digestion, and as the Hobbit likes to say – “if you don’t take care of your body, who will?”

Captain Charley went with "The Duncan," a Roast Beef Sandwich with horseradish, provolone and au jus on the side, which the server claims is one of the most popular items on the menu. It was large, but does not come with a side (none of the sandwiches do). To complete his meal required an additional purchase of a side item. I haven’t asked, but I’m 99.99% sure that this is the reason Tank and Publican are against 5th Avenue. You can’t skimp on the sides and expect those two connoisseurs not to penalize you heavily for it. The meal looked good, but with a drink, I’m pretty sure it cracked the sacred $10 threshold that no self-respecting deli wants to violate. Nevertheless, it looked and smelled like a good sandwich:

As for The Gipper, he took a walk on the wild side and, at the suggestion of our server, opted for the Tuesday Special – the BBQ plate. Maybe he was excited about being featured on the blog for a first time and as a result sort of blew his load early with the order. Would this “back-seat-on-prom-night” rookie move result in culinary delight or disaster??

Normally I’m skeptical of and non-BBQ place trying to serve swine, but as the picture shows this place knows what it’s doing. I think it’s encouraging that the special is every Tuesday, which means they have had many chances to hone their craft. The Gipper devoured the sandwich, which did come with coleslaw included. Overall, this place is definitely solid in terms of variety and execution. However, its just too damn expensive (expect to pay around $10) for this site’s taste. Couple that with the distance from downtown, and 5th Avenue is more of a rainy Saturday lunch play with the wife than a legitimate work week option. That said, if you do make the trip, your stomach won’t be disappointed.


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DL McLaughlin's - 10400 Broad River Road

Posted by The LunchMen Monday, August 15, 2011 1 comments

Good afternoon sports fans.  This week we’re stretching the bounds of this “Columbia” lunch review and heading up to Philadelphia (figuratively speaking of course) for the best Cheese Steak in the state of South Carolina.  I’m of course referring to DL McLaughlin's.  

First off, while DL’s is a solid twenty minute drive from downtown Columbia, in this honorary Lunchman’s mind, it’s well worth it.  The place itself is nothing to write home about, but it does have its charm.  The main room is quite small and probably seats less than 15, but there is a side room/ bar with additional seating.  A word of caution is in order though.  If you have some childhood fear of clowns, you may want to get there early and secure your seat in the main room.  Whoever “decorated” (and please recognize that this word is being used extremely loosely in this context) DL’s must have had some creepy fascination with clown portraits, because there is no shortage of them in the bar room.  However, other than that little quirkiness, DL’s has that quaint charm that tends to come with dive bars; it’s definitely one of those “it-you’re-wearing-anything-other-than-a-jean-jacket-you-may-be-overdressed” kind of places. 

Now, enough of the aesthetics–the Cheese Steak.  This, my friends, is the only thing you need to be worried about on the menu.  Granted, there are some other bar food options, but you cannot make the trip to DL’s and not get the Cheese Steak, at least not on your first trip.  The Cheese Steak is served on a fresh hoagie bun, piled high with steak and your choice of sweet or spicy peppers, topped with a somewhat less that expected portion of cheddar cheese.  But, the proportions work.  After a few bites of this Cheese Steak, nothing short of an actual Philadelphia Cheese Steak will suffice.  The Cheese Steak is also served with a side of fries that are nothing to shake a stick at either.  The portions are pretty good as well; you can polish of the Cheese Steak and fries with relative ease, avoiding the “BBQ-buffet-full” feeling.

A few other miscellaneous points should also be addressed.  This is a cash only establishment; they do not take credit or debit cards.  However, you only need about eight or nine bucks to get the deliciousness discussed above.  Also, while it is a 20 minute drive, it’s doable to be there and back within a liberally measured lunch hour (about an hour and a half).

IN SUM: The best Cheese Steak, with a side of fries and creepy clown portraits all for around eight or nine bucks, cash.  What else can you ask for.

Yee haw,
Honky Tonk.

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JASON'S DELI - 823 Gervais Street

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, August 3, 2011 2 comments

Columbia is one of those places where something “new” happens only once in a blue moon. For that reason, and probably that reason alone, Jason’s Deli has been the talk of the town since it opened only a few months ago. That’s probably also the reason why if you plan on eating at Jason’s Deli anywhere around lunchtime, I would highly suggest arriving at least thirty minutes before you plan to eat. Not only is parking in the middle of the Vista during the weekday lunch hour hectic and impossible, but what starts off as what I can only imagine to be a handful of people around 11:00am turns into a feeding frenzy and a line all the way out the door somewhere around 11:45. Nevertheless, despite the recent opening of this restaurant, I would say that Jason’s Deli has the goods to back up all the talk.

The menu is probably incredibly diverse and likely offers a nice assortment of options, but to be honest with you, I had no choice but to order the first thing I noticed on the menu. I have to admit that when I see the word “club” on a restaurant’s menu, I am almost paralyzed. Once I see the club sandwich, nothing else sounds good anymore. I’m sure you’ve all had delicious club sandwiches. Who couldn’t love a club sandwich? Three slices of toasted bread stacked between layers of ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato, all held together by that perfect toothpick with the colored plastic on the top.

But this wasn’t just any club sandwich that Jason’s Deli was offering, no this was a Club Royale. The word just rolls of the tongue… Royyyallleee. When I first saw the it listed on the menu, Club Royale, I immediately thought to myself, if I order this sandwich, a Club Royale, are Bond girls going to serve it to me? As my mind raced through all the possibilities of what scenario I might find myself in: spying on the international enemy and drinking an extra dry martini on the shores of the Italian coast, it was time to order. I had no choice: the Club Royale.

The restaurant is somewhat confusing. You order your sandwich, and then you walk along what appears to be one of those make-the-sandwich-in-front-of-your-very-eyes kind of lines… except that no one is actually making sandwiches in front of your eyes. Rather, the design of the production line tricks you into believing that your sandwich will be made in a mere matter of seconds, but no. In fact, it took a rather long time for our sandwiches to reach the table. Enough of a period of time had passed that the Lunchmen who were dining with us on this particular occasion had already had time to make it all the way up and down the salad bar with a bowl overflowing with fresh produce.

Let me add in a little tidbit of information here. I probably rank the restaurants I’ve eaten at based solely on one factor: the quality of the sweet tea. If the tea is bad, I probably won’t come back to the restaurant. I know that seems silly, but it’s just the way it is. For those of you who are more curious about the tea than the food, Jason’s Deli had an assortment of sweet teas, flavored and unflavored. Obviously I went for the regular sweet tea, no fruit flavorings for me please. I will just give you a head’s up on the tea, it’s great. I would highly recommend trying their sweet tea, and if you really feel daring, go for the flavored stuff. Don’t let me stop you.

Now, back to what you’re probably more interested in, the food. When the sandwich did in fact come out to the table I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I know I shouldn’t have been disappointed because I knew what I had ordered: a club on a croissant. But at the time I had placed my order I hadn’t really thought about the result. Where was the toasted slices of bread? Where was the double-decker stack that I have come to love? Sad. Nevertheless, if you are anywhere near as big of a fan of the croissant as I am, your disappointment will quickly subside when you pick up that buttery, flakey, bread and it soaks up all that delicious honey mustard. Let’s just say this sandwich isn’t for those dieting type.

The Club Royale was delectable. Not only was the sandwich wider than my mouth, but the portions were perfectly divided. I mean, it’s a club sandwich for goodness sake, it better not have more ham than turkey or vice versa. I would say the sandwich was equal parts turkey and ham with enough bacon to have that crispy crunch in each bite. (I know I can’t be the only one who hates those restaurants that claim to put bacon on a sandwich, but only actually put one measley piece or a couple of crumbles. Somebody should do something about that.) The lettuce and tomato were perfectly fresh. The honey mustard was smathered on there so that when you put the sandwich back down or got to your last bite there was some of that mustard still left on your fingers. Yum.

Needless to say, the eating experience, as far as this food critic is concerned, won’t let you down. If you’re looking for good service, that’s another story altogether though. I would suggest that if you like to talk a lot, this is the perfect place for you because I will personally guarantee you that you will have someone stop and check on your meal just about every 8 and a half minutes. In fact, our table was checked by one busboy twice, a second busboy once, and what I assume to be the manager twice all in a matter of 30 to 35 minutes of actual sitting time. Not to mention about every employee in the entire restaurant purposely caught our eyes each time they passed our table, so as to say “if you need me to stop and ask you how your meal is going, just blink once”. This is all to say that if you are the kind of person who prefers to be left alone during your meal, I would suggest trying a different restaurant. All-in-all however, I would recommend Jason’s Deli if you are looking for a good club sandwich and an abundance of service.

I guess I shouldn’t end my critique without also mentioning the free ice cream. Who doesn’t love something free? Especially soft serve. ESPECIALLY in the summertime. It’s not like I actually think a stand-alone soft-serve store would necessarily be profitable, but I do believe that softserve has a way to bring back childhood memories. Plus, Jason’s Deli has those little Styrofoam cones that seem like a good idea until you start crunching into them and realize they have no flavor whatsoever. If those cones don’t bring back childhood memories then I don’t know what will! Despite the fact that I’ve just given away the mystery of the ice cream cones—that no one remembers that they taste like pure sawdust until they bite into them—I would nevertheless suggest that if you want something free, and refreshing, go to Jason’s Deli, order just about whatever you want, and partake in the free, all-you-can-eat ice cream.

-[Dirty] Myrtle

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ROAD TRIP!!! THE RED BAR – Grayton Beach, Florida

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, June 2, 2011 2 comments

What, you may ask, is the greatest invention of the last century? Sliced Bread? Penicillin? HBO’s The Wire? Hardly. I’m talking, loyal readers, about Bachelor Parties. Now, Bachelor Parties are obviously baller on several levels, but since this is a lunch blog, from a lunch-men’s perspective Bachelor parties are great because, in addition to the expected debauchery and careless decisions, these weekends allow you to travel to different locations and indulge in some of the local cuisine. Plus, usually by the time you eat anything you are knee deep in alcohol, so your conscience is dulled and you order the most expensive and fattening (READ: delicious) items on the menu. Even I’ll admit, there just isn’t really a place for a salad at the typical Bachelor Party meal.

This most recent BP led yours truly to the Emerald Coast in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico to Santa Rosa Beach to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my law school classmate, “The Governor,” who practices in Birmingham. You may be asking yourself, “Santa Rosa Beach – not exactly La Varenne, is it?” Well be that as it may, this off-the-radar area boasts a dining experience that, despite its distance from the Capital City, deserves a review. If you are ever near the area, I think it’s a must, even if you are as far west as Destin or as far east as Panama City. I’m talking, of course about The Red Bar.

The Red Bar is nestled right near the ocean in an old village whose storefronts have all been updated and converted into fashionable shops and restaurants. The Red Bar, however, doesn’t look like its changed so much as a door screw since it opened over twenty years ago. To give you an idea, you can expect to wait over an hour for a table, and you’d better bring cash for the bar while you mill about outside drinking and waiting to be seated. Since the weather was perfect and we had a good group of guys catching up, no one minded waiting while we enjoyed some drinks out front.*** Once seated, a waiter quickly approached our large table with a giant chalkboard that featured the night’s menu. Basically, The Red Bar has 5-6 items you can choose from, and that it. Its cash or check only, and when they come to take your order, you’d better damn sure be ready. The experience was, in a word, intense.

I little intimidated, I just did my normal lunchmen move of ordering the special, which this night was sautéed grouper. We also had some orders of tuna dip appetizers for the table to hold us over. Let me first say that I have never before traveling to this part of the country had tuna dip. Crab dip, yes. Shrimp dip, sure. But never tuna. However, after trying this local delight, I give it my full endorsement. Its light, cool, and always comes with a good pita/bread type option for dipping. We had it at every meal we ate out this weekend, and always enjoyed it.

As for the entrée, I’m not one for hyperbole, but this plate is currently challenging to crack my top five best meals of all time. Maybe it was the Red Bar’s shabby charm, maybe it was the good company and conversation, or maybe it was the scores of co-eds from Alabama, Auburn, and LSU that gradually flooded the restaurant as the evening progressed (more on that later), but the dinner was just about damn near perfect. Other diners with the group tried the shrimp and crawfish over penne, the baked eggplant stuffed with shrimp, and, it being a Saturday night, the Crab Cakes. There wasn’t a plate that didn’t get cleaned.

To top it all off, a couple of the attendees kicked things up another notch when they ordered a few desserts for the group. I took down about a 1/3 of an order of Bread Pudding, which I had admittedly never tried before but found absolutely delicious. This brings up another lesson learned on the trip. Whenever you are at a restaurant in this type of situation, ALWAYS leave the dessert ordering up to people who don’t drink. They invariably are experts when it comes to dessert. Perhaps they savor this final part of the meal more than others since they aren’t rushing to get to the bar or have another round. Whatever it is, I have found without fail that a teetotaler is usually well versed in the proper way to end a meal. The Governor’s pals that did not drink alcohol once again proved this to be true.

When it was all said and done, we gathered our stuffed stomachs and headed for the door. As we were leaving, however, we couldn’t help but notice that the crowd had, as the night wore on, gotten progressively younger (READ: hotter) and more female. Suddenly surrounded by sorostitutes from the finest schools the SEC has to offer, we very nearly reversed course to enjoy the new “scenery.” However, we were quickly reminded that all of us were past our mid-twenties, and attempting to navigate this particular ocean of flesh would be akin to Shaq bringing it back for another season next year. He might have enjoyed himself on the court, but it would have been painful to watch.


*** I do want to get something off my chest, a practice that I’ve noticed has become more and more prevalent the further away I get from college. First a little background: In college, everyone is basically poor, so its just understood that a man pays for his own drinks. No questions asked. However, once all your buddies start working and making a little coin, people get the crazy, f-ed idea that we should buy “rounds” of drinks for each other. The lunchmen are going on record as wholly opposed to this. Inevitably this leads to inequity, as the person getting the first couple of rounds ends up shouldering the drinks and getting none bought for him in return. Either (1) the tab only lasts a couple of rounds, so most people pay nothing, or (2) since people drink at different paces people just start ordering their own drinks and paying their own way, conveniently forgetting about the rounds that were just bought for them. Our advice – always say you’ll “get one of the next rounds,” you are sure to come out ahead. But I digress.

Recently, Mrs. Frodo and I invited some fellow Anglicans to join us in a festive German dinner in Prosperity, South Carolina. If you have ever been to Prosperity, you know that prosperity is not something that Prosperity has ever experienced. That notwithstanding, Prosperity (SC) does house one of the jewels of an eatery in GastHaus zur Elli (translated into Ellie’s Guesthouse in German).


We were joined by fellow Anglicans Mr. and Mrs. War Eagle. We invited Conan the Republican and his wife to join us in an attempt to entertain political diversity, but they could not join us because their child came down with the flu. Conan lamented the fact that he couldn’t attend and just continued to blame his child’s sickness on Obama-care. In any event, scrambling to find another couple to join us in the festive birthday celebration, Former Fatboy and his wife joined us. While not Anglican, they are our Scottish religious neighbors to the north and we figured a little geographic and religious difference shouldn’t keep us from enjoying a fine meal and abundant libations together.

Although I had previously dined at the GastHaus, two things immediately struck me as I entered. One was the picture of Ellie some 40 years ago hanging on the wall. Man, talk about a fox:

The irony of her looks 40+ years ago compared to current was not lost on our gracious host. She immediately began discussing with us how nature and gravity had taken its toll on her woman-features. She mentioned to no less then 2/3rds of the restaurant patrons that her breasts used to be considered “search lights,” but unfortunately, now they could only be considered “fog lights.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for a festive atmosphere. However, a discussion of circular protuberances of a 65+ German cook is not necessarily what I had in mind to get my appetite going. In any event, as Veronica said in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy: "Oh, well, when in Rome." (Ron: "Yes? Please go on." Veronica: "Uh, do as the Romans do? It's an old expression." Ron: "Oh! I've never heard of it. It's wonderful, though.")

The second thing that struck me was Mrs. War Eagle’s lack of partaking in the spirits. She was so conspicuous about it, and her excuse so weak, I immediately knew she had one in the oven. Not that I was offended or anything—not in the least. I was simply worried that the intense aromas of Ellie’s cooking and Mrs. War Eagle’s sobriety would minimize her enjoyment of the experience. Seriously, my clothes still carry the aroma from the trip. The restaurant smells like a food stand at a David Hasselhoff concert and the smell lingers on you like the tune to Hasselhoff’s 1989 hit, “I’ve Been Looking for Freedom."

It appeared that Ellie and her food have become quite popular since my last visit a few years ago. When our party arrived at 7:45, our table was not ready. I had always understood that GastHaus policy was one seating a night. That is, if you make a reservation for 5pm, you can have your table for the night as there will not be another party seated at that table—you are not rushed so you can enjoy the dining experience. There isn’t a bar area, and the size of the entire restaurant is pretty small, so the six of us had to stand and wait as the party finished up at our table and the table was prepared. However, Ellie and the staff were gracious hosts and allowed us to pick out our own beers from the fridge (literally, there was a white Kenmore sitting there filled with beer that we walked up to and from which we took beers. I felt like I was at a Thursday night poker game at Tank’s house).

After a short ten minute wait, we were seated at about 8 p.m. The waitress, dressed in festive German apparel, brought us another round of authentic German beers. When in Rome . . .

The bread was brought with our 2nd round about 8:10. And then the real wait began. Former Fatboy began telling yarns about how cool and popular he was in high school and how life insurance is a great investment and I need to buy some more. Mr. War Eagle talked about the reemergence of Auburn football and how if he has a son he will name him Cameron Bo.

At about 9:10, having dined on nothing but bread and butter, we asked the waitress if she could take our order. The restaurant was slammed with every table filled. Our waitress informed us that she would be happy to take our order, but table seven had not received their meal yet and Ellie would not begin preparing our order until table seven’s was served. By this time I was half-drunk and was giving Former Fatboy my medical history so he could write me some super-premium universal life.

At approximately 9:45, our order was taken. Ms. Frodo and I went with the small sized portion of the veal schnitzel and the pork schnitzel, as did Mr. and Mrs. War Eagle and Former Fatboy’s wife. Former Fatboy, following my encouragement, ordered the large- sized ribeye.

The waitress took our order for a 5th round and we waited until our food arrived at 10:15 pm (our salads arrived around 10 pm). The food didn’t disappoint, but I ain’t gonna lie, you could have fed me poodle tartare at that point and I would have thought it was delicious. The wait is made up by the portion sizes. There is a reason that the Germans lost to the good old US of A in WWII, and it might have had something to do with the obesity of the citizens of the Vaterland from eating food like this:

The schnitzel was served with red cabbage, potato salad, and green beans. In my opinion, the schnitzel is better at Julia’s German Stammtisch on Fort Jackson Blvd in Columbia (http://julias.vpweb.com) as Julia’s schnitzel is a little more moist, tender, and doesn’t come with capers. Ellie’s was quite good, though, even if a little overcooked. I wouldn’t say this to Ellie’s face, though, as hell has no fury like a German woman’s cooking scorned and she very well would kick my ass if I said anything negative about her food.

The highlight of the evening, however, was when Former Fatboy’s ribeye was served. It was covered in thick gravy and served with mashed potatoes, red cabbage, and green beans. It was so thick and rich, I gained 2 pounds just smelling it.

Former Fatboy lived up to his name (Former Fatboy), and despite my encouragement for him to clean his plate, he only finished about 70%. In talking with him the this weekend, he informed me that he just recently recovered from this gastronomic delight. He claimed he was lightheaded for 2 days as the blood was re-routed from his brain to his stomach to assist in digestion.

After dinner, dessert arrived, which consisted of a cake, though honestly, by that point, I was so tipsy and full I can’t remember if it was coconut or some other type cream cake. I would ask Mrs. Frodo but I want to get this up on the blog so bad I am just going to make it up that it was a coconut cake.

We finished our meal at 11 pm or so. Once Ellie found out it was my birthday, a fact I was desperately trying to keep quiet, she gave me a free beer to chug upon my exit from the restaurant. Good thing the next day was a Saturday.

I can wholeheartedly suggest a trip to the GastHaus. It is a dining experience unlike anywhere else in the Midlands. However, before you go, keep in mind a few simple rules:
(1) It is not a quick experience. Ellie does not like to be rushed and will prepare one table’s meal at a time, before starting on the next table. It is not uncommon for the dining experience to last 2 or 3 hours.
(2) The portion sizes are huge and are not for the light eater. I am not sure if Ellie allows you to share dishes (I think she would think it is a sign of disrespect), so plan on eating a lot and taking home leftovers.
(3) If you are so inclined to indulge in the spirits, have a designated driver. In the true German experience, the beers have a way to adding up and before you know it, you’ve downed a six pack. And please, please, if she asks you to try a beer in the special mug, partake.

At last count, my dining experience contained: 5 ¼ hours (including travel to and from Prosperity - Columbia), 2500 calories, six beers, and one well compensated babysitter.


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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.