New Zoe's now open

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, September 30, 2009 0 comments

If you work on Main Street near the capital, you've probably seen the signs, banners, and balloons. If you don't, then here is some long-awaited news - Zoe's Restaurant has finally opened its Uptown location at 1320 Main Street in the space previously occupied by Birds on a Wire. Rabbit loves Zoe's so much that it hurts him to be away from it, so he ran to lunch yesterday with his pop to enjoy the grand opening. Who could blame him? Since opening up on Forest Drive, Zoe's has garnered the affection of many Columbia residents. If you don't live out that way, you might not have tried Zoe's yet. If not, head over to Zoe's for lunch and give it a shot!

Gotham Bagel is an improvement over Rising High, the previous tenant at 1508 Main, but not much of one.

Let's face it. Rising High was bad. Really bad. First and foremost, the service was deplorable, almost abusive. Second, they ran out of most food that you would want to order every morning, so if you tried to get a bagel at lunch, you were just out of luck. Third, aside from the baked breads, I never had an appetizing meal at Rising High. So when it shut its doors, we were excited to see what restaurant would take its place.

Gotham has been up and running on Main Street for months now. Gone is the deplorable service of Rising High; the awkward service of Gotham has taken its place. Placing customers in a line to order food is expected at an Uptown lunch spot, but Gotham confuses patrons right away with its ordering system by failing to provide even a line. Rather, there is just...space. You stand in space with other patrons vying for position until you find a warm body behind the counter to scribble down your order. Then you mosey over to the register and get in a line to pay for the order you just placed. It seems to the Lunchmen that this process could be streamlined by simply having orders placed at the registers....

As for the menu, Gotham offers up a good number of sandwich options, some of which even are intriguing (on paper). No matter which combination I've tried, however, each time I've found myself somewhat dissatisfied with the result. Sometimes the bread is too dry; other times the roast beef too brown or the grilled chicken over-cooked, or the ingredients on the sandwich just don't pair well. Whatever it may be, something always seems to stand in the way of Gotham giving me a good sandwich. I'm not just being picky, either. Rabbit, Captain Understatement, Pizza the Hut, Fabio - they all agree. Gotham consistently is putting out below-average cuisine for us at lunch.

Look, if you are needing a morning bite in Uptown, go grab a muffin or bagel at Gotham. These alone are almost good enough to keep Gotham off of our "Boo List." Gotham even has all sorts of flavored cream cheese for your bagel if you are seeking a day's worth of calories before 9:00 a.m. However, for lunch, there are too many other good sandwich options Uptown, even within a block of Gotham, to warrant many trips to 1508 Main Street.

- Tank

gotham Bagel Cafe on Urbanspoon

Al Amir - 629 Main Street

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, September 23, 2009 1 comments

Once upon a time, Al Amir graced the Shandon area as the go-to place for fine Mediterranean cuisine. For whatever reason, a couple of years back the restaurant packed up and moved to the suburbs, opening a new place in the dreaded “Harbison” area. Townies lamented the loss of this landmark, and had to turn elsewhere for dining options from the Middle Sea. So, you can imagine our excitement when we learned that Al Amir had opened a new restaurant on South Main Street, close to campus, the government buildings, and most importantly, our office. We quickly gathered a group and headed on over.

What we hoped would be a strong satellite of the mother-ship restaurant, however, turned out to be more of an ugly stepchild. First, the downtown Al Amir doesn’t offer their famous pizzas or Damascus bread. This is the equivalent of having a strip club where the customers wear blindfolds. When we found out that pizza was not on the menu, we contemplated leaving altogether. However, we stayed to give the place a fair shake, and we resolved to find other delicious items to make up for it. Sadly, we failed to do so.

I opted for Veggie Kabobs with yellow rice and a side salad. At least I think that is what I ordered. My meal was so bland, so forgettable, that I’m having trouble remembering exactly what was served. That’s not to say that it was bad, but it just wasn’t really great either. I’m accustomed to leaving Al Amir stuffed and impressed, not hungry and under-whelmed. Two of my dining companions shared this sentiment.

However, there is some hope, courtesy of Kali. Kali opted for the student special – a Gyro and Fries for 5 bucks (available on Tuesdays) – and he was relatively pleased with his choice, especially for the price. If this option catches on with the Carolina kids, then Al Amir just might draw in the crowds it needs to make it on Campus. Rumor also has it that there is a brick oven in the works at the new location. If so, then we will be heading back down to give them another try. However, they won't be seeing any more of us with the current menu.

- Rabbit

Al Amir on Urbanspoon

Bombay Grill - 245 Bush River Road

Posted by The LunchMen Monday, September 21, 2009 3 comments

It may still look like a Chinese restaurant on the outside, but inside the pagoda-style building located on the edge of the Boozer Shopping Center that used to house the Peking Palace is some of the best creations from the sub-continent you will find in Columbia.

Rabbit and I cannot disagree more about Indian food. He hates it, and I love it. He thinks it all tastes and smells like curry. I think that no cuisine in the world uses more variety and spice to ignite a full-blown party in your mouth. So, since Rabbit was out of the office on Thursday, we took two carloads of workers over to the Bombay Grill to face their fare for the first time. Most of us are experienced Indian eaters; Captain Understatement and I used to put it down weekly in Five Points, and Tex took a long vacation to India about a year ago and explored its culinary goodness. However, kudos to Frodo, who was so bold as to trust this motley crew with his first Indian food experience; boy, was he rewarded for his faith.

Bombay Grill offers up a wide variety of vegetarian options, as well as a few chicken dishes on its appetizing and well-kept buffet. The chutney selection was great; the mint chutney saved my mouth when I enthusiastically ate a whole pepper that was a part of the smorgasbord of pakoras. The Publican tried to act like those peppers weren't hot. He is a liar who cannot be trusted (unless he posting on this blog, of course - we edit him).

The star dish this day was the chicken tikka masala. This curry dish contained the perfect mixture of tomato sauce and cream, producing that rich, orange color that would make even Rabbit's mouth water. Although I would have enjoyed a more intense "heat," the level was just right for an Indian buffet meant to please all comers. The chicken was cut generously and remained succulent, never succumbing to the continued heat that a buffet necessarily applies. Served atop an airy basmati rice, the chicken tikka masala is reason alone for me to make another trip out to the Bombay Grill soon.

However, I believe that the true test of success was how Frodo, our Indian-first-timer, enjoyed his introduction the spicy, savory delights of India. The little guy seemed genuinely impressed by the range of options and flavors that the dishes offered. He was enamored by the fried goodness of the pakora-style peppers, and he claimed that every thing he ate was tasty. He enjoyed the meal so much that, at one point, he leaped onto his chair and began singing its praises in an elvish tongue while rubbing his belly - it was an embarrassing moment for us and served as a reminder why he doesn't get invited to lunch very often.

Frodo claims that the Bombay Grill has made him a believer in Indian food. I would call that the definition of a successful lunch.

- Tank

Bombay Grill on Urbanspoon

POLL RESULTS: Five Guys has the Best Burger

Posted by The LunchMen Friday, September 18, 2009 0 comments

Thanks to all of you who voted in our inaugural poll on one of the most important topics facing Columbia today - where we can find the best hamburger. Garnering 40% of the total votes, you have indicated that I was right all along - Five Guys Burger and Fries puts out the tastiest burger in Columbia. Although I'm slow to endorse any chain, when food is this good you can't knock it just because it is produced in multiple cities. Five Guys have elevated the chain hamburger with the use of never-frozen beef, freshly sliced produced, custom-ordered buns, and all the fixings a burger-lover could desire for the same low price. My burger is usually a 1000-calorie creation consisting of two beef patties, bacon, cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, mustard, mayo, and A-1 sauce, and it is so unwieldy by the time the speedy staff of Five Guys is done building it that it ends up looking like a train wreck. If only all train wrecks were so delicious....

In our estimation, famous Columbia establishment Rockaway's and flashy new-comer Pauley's Front Porch put out the second-best burgers in Columbia. You agreed, giving both establishments 23% percent each of the remaining vote. The Rockaway burger, which comes topped with the best pimento cheese in town, is so good that former President George W. Bush could not resist its lure during his last trip to Columbia. As for Pauley's, well, we have already dedicated an entry of this blog to rave about the nifty burger creations they are cranking out, but these burgers are so good that they deserve another shout-out here. If you want to ride the next wave of burger innovation, saddle up to the bar at Pauley's and experience a burger that you could not have dreamed up on your own.

Apparently, we have overlooked some favorites. It was inevitable, considering how many tasty burgers our restaurants serve up. 11% of you thought that Columbia's burger was simply not on our ballot. Please post a comment and let us know which ones we missed, because I'd hate to think that somewhere here in town is a hidden jewel of a burger that the Lunchmen have yet to tackle!

Hunter-Gatherer - 900 Main St.

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, September 17, 2009 0 comments

Alright, pop quiz. Where is my #1 spot for a delicious beer in Columbia? Hunter-Gatherer. Who serves my favorite appetizers and bar food in town? Hunter-Gatherer - that black bean dip rocks. Where is my favorite pizza in town? Well, its still at Dano's, but the Nance at Hunter-Gatherer (named for the proprietor's mom) is right up there, too.

If you don't love the Hunter-Gatherer, then you are a bad American. Full disclosure here, Kevin Varner, the Hunter-Gatherer's owner, is a cousin of Mrs. Tank. But even before I met Mrs. Tank and her family, I heralded Hunter-Gatherer as the best dinner spot in town for under-$20 entrees and as one of the coolest bars in South Carolina. As you know from our "Breaking News" post last week, H-G is now serving lunch. To say the Lunchmen were thrilled to hear this development is a massive understatement.

The Hunter-Gatherer continues to set itself apart with its use of ultra fresh, local fare and amazing, hand-crafted beers. As for proteins, Caw Caw Creek, a humane livestock farm near St. Matthews, produces H-G's outstanding sausage - eat it on a bun and you'll be thrilled. And for those seeking lighter fare, you will find simply the freshest and tasty fruits and veggies selected from our regional produce.

Kevin and his staff have rolled out some of the traditional menu favorites for lunch. The pizzas are all up for grabs, and the always-delicious steak sandwich is a strong call for bold lunchers. However, to bring things well within your lunch budget, Hunter-Gatherer has made additions to the menu that are sure to please anyone who makes the trip for lunch. We went with a group of six for the opening lunch, and four of us grabbed a new sandwich off the menu. H-G received only positive feedback and accolades for the tasty additions from all. Rabbit, of course, grabbed one of the four fresh salad options. I think he actually had to call in back-up to finish the salad, but he was quite pleased with his choice.

I'd be remiss if I did not discuss my beer - insert Homer Simpson drooling clip here - because these brews are reason alone to go to H-G. For lunch, I tried one of the high gravity beers (only one, of course) which was brewed in-house. The brew was a dark, delicious porter with mocha goodness and a dessert-like quality to it. It made my day.

I could go on with this meandering prose about H-G all day, but eventually it would bore everyone but me. Just go down there and grab some lunch, have a beer, and enjoy it for yourself.

- Tank

P.S. No surprise here, H-G is absolutely the Lunchmen's new Lunch Spot of the Week.

Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Ale on Urbanspoon

Salty Nut Café – 2000 Greene Street

Posted by The LunchMen Monday, September 14, 2009 0 comments

The Salty Nut Café is a Five Points Institution. It’s large wrap-around deck, free roasted peanuts, and plentiful TV’s make “the Nut” a popular place to relax for happy hour during the warm weather months (February to November in Columbia). Later in the night and on the weekends the crowd becomes noticeably younger and rowdier, but if you can grab a table on the back porch of the restaurant then you have an unparalleled spot to enjoy some draft beer and serious people watching. The Nut also boasts an extensive food menu, though most people order dinner only after a few after-work drinks stretch into dinner time. The kitchen stays open late and offers standard bar fare in addition to wraps, salads, and newly arrived seafood po’ boys (shrimp, oysters, flounder).

I’ve been steadily pouring my money into this place since the fall of 2001. In fact, I’ll never forget the bartender’s reaction when I came in for my 21st birthday: “Are you serious? You’ve been drinking here for three years!!” I think its safe to say I’ve tried just about all the entrees on the menu - usually with an appetizer of two or three bourbon drinks.

This past Friday was a typical early football season day in the Capital City – warm, sunny, and unproductive. Hoping to get the weekend started off early, a large group of us headed to the Nut to try lunch out on the patio. The outing started off strong as we found a large table that could accommodate us all and helped ourselves to a few baskets of the complimentary peanuts. However, things soon took a turn for the worse.

When our food finally arrived – we didn’t get to eat until about an hour after sitting down – it was clear that, without the benefit of a little liquid pleasure to whet our appetite, the Nut’s menu simply does not stand up. While there were several different reasons people did not enjoy their food there was one common word used to describe the meal by all: DRY. Tank and Caveman both ordered Chicken Phillies, which had way too much bread and no juicy goodness of any kind (Caveman was smart enough to wash his down with a beer). A large number of the group went for jalapeño burgers, a house specialty, only to find themselves in dire need of condiments to take some of the heat off. In fact, despite his towering physical presence and striking good looks, Fabio was unable to get our waitress to bring any ketchup to the table. Luckily Tex took matters into is own hands and snagged a bottle off of a table inside. Also, the raw fries, which when served greasy and soggy have no rival, were on this day overcooked and brittle. The Queen of Frozen Cuisine may not leave the office for months after the poor tuna melt the Nut served her, and we doubt her sister will ever come to lunch with us again.

To make matters worse, the sun began to beat down on the patio, and the group waited over half an hour to get their checks. Pizza the Hut and Fabio simply left cash and the rest of the group behind. The end result was a two hour lunch that did little for our working goal for the week and even less for our appetites. Word to the wise – Salty Nut is a can’t-miss for a night out in Five Points, but I wouldn’t try heading over there until happy hour.

- Rabbit

Salty Nut Cafe on Urbanspoon

H-G expands into the lunch game

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, September 8, 2009 0 comments

A big development in Columbia's lunch scene today, folks. The Hunter-Gatherer, rated the #4 restaurant in Columbia by voters on Urbanspoon.com, is now serving lunch. This is a great move by the best brew pub in South Carolina, which proudly serves inventive recipes comprised of local meats and vegetables, delicious personal pizzas, and a brewed-on-site beer selection that will blow you away. Get over to the Hunter-Gather for lunch as soon as possible to support their expanded hours!

I don't say it very often, but there is only one word to describe our experience at Hong Kong last week - Booooooooo.

Here's what happened. Captain Understatement suggested that the Lunchmen call an audible and try a Chinese buffet he heard was good and affordable. Since we have not reviewed any Chinese restaurants on this blog, I hastily, perhaps too hastily, agreed. The Publican and Tex decided to make the trip, despite having some GI concerns about the fare that awaited us.

The air conditioning must have been down at Hong Kong, because it was hot enough to fry a wonton when we entered the restaurant. An industrial fan blowing across the dining area did little to alleviate the discomfort. The buffet itself was affordable - $5.25 is cheap for any uptown location. The good news ends there, however. For instance, I opted for bottled water after scoping out the suspect container with a hand-written sign that read "Water" on it. Those who were less prudent agreed that the water tasted as though it was from a garden hose - not a refreshing reprieve from the restaurant's temperature, to be sure.

The menu items had familiar names, such as "General Tso Chicken," "Sweet and Sour Chicken," "Fried Rice," etc. However, each dish proved to be below the already low bar set for Chinese buffet food. The grub was greasy to the point of being an environmental hazard if thrown out. The safest bet on the buffet was the fried dough with sugar - coincidentally the most difficult dish to mess up.

The service was equally disappointing. Tex could only swallow down one thing on the menu - the eggrolls. After taking a trip or two back to the buffet for a second eggroll and returning to his seat empty-handed, an employee asked whether he wanted anything else. Tex kindly requested that the eggrolls be replenished. Ten minutes later - no eggroll - even though the restaurant had nine people in it. As an aside, one of those nine appeared to be a wild-eyed maniac who was more intent on staring the Lunchmen down with a look that conveyed a blood-lust we rarely encounter at lunch. Spooky.

Tex left Hong Kong completely unsatisfied. He was not the only one.

The Publican decided wanted to wait it out for an eggroll, so I agreed to stay behind with him while Captain Understatement and Tex sauntered back to the office to recover from an overdose of grease and salt. In retrospect, it was a bad decision. Sometimes when a lunch goes this bad, its best just to cut your losses and walk away. Lessen learned.

- Tank

Hampton Place - 1230 Hampton St.

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, September 3, 2009 2 comments

Everyone that goes to lunch with us carries a pink "Credit Card" in their wallet. Why? The reason is the Hampton Place Cafe. This little spot on Hampton Street between Main and Sumter is our go-to restaurant for a sandwich in Uptown, and after you buy seven of their delicious sandwiches or salads, that little pink card ensures that your next meal at Hampton Place is free.

Hampton place is known for their classics - the TSHM (turkey, swiss, and honey mustard), the RBHM (roast beef and honey mustard), and the Chicken Salad Club (think BLT w/ chicken salad). The sandwiches come standard with corn chips, potato salad, and a pickle spear. Experienced diners know that it is better to pass on the potato salad and either 1) grab some extra chips and salsa or a side of their own feta ranch, or 2) pitch in an extra buck and get a side Greek salad. Since the sandwiches are all priced under $7, a salad doesn't push lunch over $10. Whenever we head over to Hampton Place, I can be sure that many in the pack, if not all, will be ordering one these popular options. Well, except Rabbit. More often than not, he is pulled in by one of Hampton Place's massive salads. The best one in my humble opinion is the "new" Santa Fe salad. It is a taco salad on steroids.

Every now and then I stray from my usual order, "RBHM, no potato salad, just corn chips and a side of feta ranch," and I try something new. This week, I ordered the Hali Cali. Its a turkey sandwich w/ lettuce, tomato, sprouts, avocado, and sunflower seeds. This light fare was perfect for a temperate summer day, and the sunflowers seeds added a little something special. Rabbit went truly bold and ordered the skyscraper - the biggest sandwich on Hampton Place's menu. It looked so good, Pizza the Hut had to take a photo of it.

Hampton Place also serves some warm dishes for those who seek comfort in the cool winter months. Particularly popular, at least with Mrs. Tank, is the lasagna. Rumor has it that it is simply a popular store-bought brand, but she remains undeterred by that possibility. They also have a daily soup selection, but I have yet to be impressed by one. One other note of caution, steer very clear of the krab salad. It is a dark stain on the face of an otherwise delightful menu.

As usual, we all left Hampton Place pleasantly full and sporting a new hole punched into our pink cards. I'm only one punch away from my free meal, so you better believe that we'll be heading back to Hampton Place in the next week so that I can grab another RBHM.

- Tank

Hampton Place Cafe on Urbanspoon

As a college student at Carolina, I spent literally hundreds of nights and countless dollars at Columbia’s premier dive bar on Greene Street, Pavlov’s. Free pool on Mondays and Wednesdays, $2 Tuesdays, and the normal female contingent that comes with a Thursday, Friday or Saturday in Five Points meant that every night of the week was an opportunity to make a series of bad decisions. Sufficed to say, I hated missing opportunities. Oh, and one more thing, I met Mrs. Rabbit there my senior year, and we’ve been together ever since. What a special place.

It was only fitting then, that when I went to lunch this week with a dear old college buddy, “Eastbound and Down,” that we would find ourselves unexplainably drawn to site of our greatest conquests and most epic failures. Just a stone’s throw away from the Pavlov’s/Salty Nut Compound across Greene Street is Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café. Friendly’s is a longtime staple for low-country cuisine at dinner time, and since they don’t take reservations diners often gladly wait, cocktail in hand, over an hour for a chance to try the mustard pork or famous shrimp and grits. But what of the other meal of the day – lunch? Could Friendly’s duplicate their excellence during the daylight, or are they like Dracula and the Sorority girls that frequent Pavlov’s, doing their best work in the dark?

The atmosphere, while never stuffy at night to begin with, is noticeably more casual at lunch, and most of the crowded restaurant appeared to be women whose children were grown and now occupied themselves on boards of various charities and social clubs. There was also a good sprinkling of professionals throughout.

The menu was creative, but not overly expansive. There were several items that looked intriguing and bold, but neither Eastbound nor I had the guts to risk an unproductive afternoon back in the office. Both of us ordered one of Friendly’s “big salads” – I opted for the Southwest Caesar with Blackened Shrimp, while Eastbound took on a curried chicken with mangos over a bed of lettuce. The salads were indeed fresh and truly a meal in themselves. We were both satisfied, and agreed that the ingredients were of the caliber you would expect when eating at Friendly’s (and paying well over $10). As we reminisced about our collegiate exploits, both of us agreed that, had we done this while in school, it would have by far been the nicest meal either of us bought during those four years.

At the end of the meal, we decided that Friendly’s is worthy of another trip soon, with a bigger crowd, perhaps on a Friday, when the full extent of the menu can be explored. Just a few items that warrant consideration are the “Low Country Grilled Chicken Stack,” which basically is a tower of grilled chicken, fried green tomatoes, bacon pimento cheese, bbq sauce, and mashed potatoes. The Fried Oyster Po’ Boy is also famously good, and was actually suggested to me by a fellow diner. Perhaps most intriguing to this blogger is that all of the entrees come with your choice of Creole slaw or succotash, both of which are personal favorites.

All in all, a good call if you’re prepared to pay a little extra – but when you get a chance to travel down memory lane, it’s worth it, right?

- Rabbit

Mr Friendly's New Southern on Urbanspoon

Tony's Pizza Downtown - 1120 Washington St.

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, September 2, 2009 0 comments

Tony’s Pizza Downtown, a fixture in the Columbia lunch scene, is tucked below street level on the 1100 block of Washington Street. Set underneath a dreary parking garage, amidst a string of loan sharks and other small businesses, a clean, new “Tony’s Downtown” awning invites Columbia business people underground.

Once inside the door, you’ll typically be met immediately by the line of nurses, bankers, office staffers, bureaucrats and lawyers silently struggling over whether to get the usual or take a chance on the simple little restaurant’s expansive menu. The atmosphere feels just dated enough to make you feel at home – like your great aunt who keeps everything nice and clean, but complains about how they don’t make TV’s in wood panel boxes like they used to (to be fair, it should be noted that, in a wildly ironic display of modernism, Caveman finds it a bit dark).

Even when extending out the door, the line moves quickly; probably because most folks I know say “Lasagna, Italian Dressing and a Tea” or “Baked Spaghetti, Thousand Island and a Water,” and pick up their plastic number to head for a booth. A few brave souls call out for The Special or The Cock and Fire Sandwich, and their courage is also richly rewarded. Ristorante Divino it is not – or so I’m told – I’ve never actually had the coin to visit the vaunted Gervais street eatery. The Italian fare at Tony’s is simple and homespun.

Speaking of simple, I always get the lasagna. To see why, check out the picture - compliments of our very own Pizza the Hut. With that dish, Tony’s starts you out with a small bowl of salad. Unless you are in tip-top cardiac shape, I suggest requesting the dressing on the side. Maybe it is to mask the less-than-perfect iceberg lettuce or maybe they just like it that way – but the ratio of dressing to salad is nearly 1:1. The salad is followed shortly by a basket of buttered garlic toast. Buttered with an enthusiasm rarely seen outside high school cafeterias, the hearty toast is a great way to dispense with all that left over salad dressing. On the heels of dipping your butter sponge in the dressing comes the real deal – everything happens fast here – Tony’s lasagna comes out steaming hot in an oval shaped dish. It seriously tastes just like Mom’s. No weird spices. No fancy presentation. No funny Italian sausage. Just pure deliciousness. Even the Queen of Frozen Cuisine agreed that the lasagna made her rare trip out of the office an excellent experience.

By the way – you’ve cheated yourself if that butter sponge didn’t get a go at the bottom of your lasagna dish.

I would be content to end the story there, but Tank and Rabbit insist we explore more of the menu, so here goes. Rabbit, true to form, had the Greek salad with grilled chicken. I dare say Rabbit aka “Salad the Greek” is an expert on all things salad – particularly Greek salad. Adequately portioned in a medium sized black bowl, the presentation was simple and appetizing with a healthy portion of right-sized chicken morsels atop a classic Greek salad. Rabbit’s report: “baller.” I guess that means he liked it. Tank and Caveman both opted for The Special: Greek pasta with grilled chicken. As Rabbit later remarked: “equally baller.” Both Tank and the hard to please Caveman remarked about how good the chicken and pasta were, as well as how the flavors were appropriately paired.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that many in my office enjoy Tony’s without falling all over themselves to gush about it. Objectivity be damned; in the words of our Governor, “this is a love story.”

A more balanced reviewer would probably conclude the following: Tony’s isn’t exactly reinventing lunch here – they’re a lot like a Bobby Knight team running the Motion – lots of options, solid execution and plenty of hustle.

- The Publican, guest columnist

Herodotus’ History Corner
: Tony’s Pizza used to be a chain – thus the various restaurants by the same name around these parts. However, the franchise went out of business years ago and the individual operators who stayed in business ran their restaurants as they pleased, resulting in diverse menus and atmospheres.

Tony's Pizza Downtown on Urbanspoon

Dano's Pizza - 2800 Rosewood Drive

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, September 1, 2009 0 comments

There is no better way to put this - I've got a new favorite pizza in Columbia. Sorry, Village Idiot, I hate to say goodbye, but for now, I've got a new destination for pizza. Pizza Man, I hope there is no hard feelings. Al Amir, although your white pizza will always have my recommendation, Dano's is now my #1.

Last Friday, Rabbit and I ventured over to Dano's for lunch on the enthusiastic recommendation of a not-so-anonymous poster to the Diner, Drive-ins, and Dives entry (good call, Lady Capulet). We have both enjoyed Dano's fare before, including their excellent delivery pizza, but I had not been to the storefront since the recent expansion. We sat on the bar side of the restaurant, where we had prime seats facing two large, high-def televisions that were set on ESPN and ESPN2. Glorious. We resisted the urge to grab a pitcher of Bass Ale to make the experience complete, but just barely.

Dano's has a good menu consisting of pizza, calzones, strombolis, subs, salads, and wings. I couldn't remember the last time I had a calzone, so I ordered the special meatball calzone. Rabbit went after the Turkey sub, decked out with all of the usual fixings and some extra touches like roasted red peppers and banana peppers. While Rabbit was enthusiastic about his sub, I was smitten by my calzone. It consisted of the perfect blend of thinly sliced meatball, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. The marinara on the side was thick and warm. In short, it was the perfection of the calzone.

The only regret that we shared when leaving Dano's for lunch was that we didn't jump on that cool pitcher of ale. To correct this cosmic error, Mrs. Tank and I had an informal date night on Friday that consisted of Dano's white pizza - meatballs added, of course - and a nice refreshing pitcher of Bass Ale. I could definitely get used to doing two-a-days at Dano's.

- Tank

p.s. Because Dano's is so incredibly baller, we have named it the Lunch Spot of the Week. Click the link up top for a full menu!

Dano's Pizza on Urbanspoon

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About Us

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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.