Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe - 2001 Greene St.

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, September 3, 2009

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

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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.