Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, December 28, 2010 0 comments

Sure, everyone is familiar with the Fuller Building, the triangular skyscraper located in Manhattan and featured in countless movies and TV shows. But what about Columbia’s own flat-ironed shaped icon? I’m talking of course about Yesterday’s Restaurant and Tavern, located between Santee and Devine Streets in the heart of 5 points.

For over 30 years, Yesterday’s has been serving a wide variety of food to an even wider variety of patrons, catering to anyone from the poor college student to the power-lunching senator or congressman. You don’t stay in business this long unless you do a few things really well, and Yesterday’s is no exception. The lunchmen are all relatively familiar with the offerings at Yesterday’s, but decided this holiday season was the perfect time to give the old place a proper review. Armed with quarters in our pockets for the meters and with visions of chicken n’ grits dancing through our heads, the Publican, Tank and I made a bold lunch trip over the week of Christmas, when things slow down considerably and allow for such leisurely lunch trips. (Really, the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s are the absolute best times for the Lunchmen. The relatively genteel pace at the office, coupled with gift cards burning holes in our wallets, leads us to throw caution into the wind more often than not, foregoing a quick sandwich for a truly baller culinary adventure.)

I had some other errands to run (READ: last minute gift buying for Mrs. Rabbit), so I arrived at the restaurant a little early but was quickly seated in a booth that looks like it was made up of one of the church pews from the Crucible. Looking around, I noticed that pretty much all of the decor was at least as old as the faded photographs of past patrons and revelers posted throughout the place. Don’t get the wrong idea – the place is charming, but it is certainly not “up to date.” This is not meant as a slight – in fact I would wager that the Publican finds the furnishings to be one of the most admirable traits of Yesterday’s, aside from the collards (more on that below).

I had the waitress bring around three waters for the table (standard Lunchmen protocol – never order a tea/soft drink unless it comes with the meal free of charge. Do that everyday day at lunch, and you save 8-10 bucks in a week – an extra lunch basically on the house! It’s like your own personal punch card!). She offered to let me look over the menu until my now late companions arrived, but I assured her there was no need to wait, stating: “The Publican will have the Salmon and Grits with Collards, Tank would like Chicken and Grits with Squash Casserole, and I’ll have the Chef Salad, of course.” At first she stared at me, probably wondering who “Tank” and “The Publican” were, and whether or not she should go outside and fetch one of those 5-Points cops on horseback to take me away to the funny farm. But, seeing I was by no means joking, she wrote the order down and sent it back to the kitchen. Obviously our waitress has yet to discover the blog. Hopefully that will not be the case for long.

Luckily, my partners in crime soon arrived, providing me with some vindication in the waitress’ eyes, and the food was not far behind. Everything came out looking fresh, and we were all impressed by the quantity and presentation. The Publican’s salmon and grits were perfect – the thing I love about good salmon filets is when they are so tender that you could take a plastic spoon and slice them it up like Lorena Bobbit with a Ginzu. This plate was no different, the salmon looked like it was melting into the grits. The collards are probably the best thing on Yesterday’s menu, and after the Publican dressed his properly (READ: literally drowned them in pepper vinegar) I was able to try a bite, much to my delight.

Tank was giddy on two levels. First, with the sheer mass of juicy chicken breast tenders that floated atop his bowl of grits. Second, with the cheese and chives that compliments the dish, creating an interesting, if not overwhelming flavor scenario. Intrigued by the squash casserole, which I admittedly ordered for Tank without his authority and more out of my own curiosity, we all tried some. It was, in a word, different. Not saying bad, but definitely unexpected. I’d be interested to see the recipe, that’s for sure.

Finally, my chef salad was just as you want it – big, with the meat finely chopped but the vegetable sliced whole, and heavy on the toppings. Of particular note is Yesterday’s bread offering. Rather than a plain roll or a couple of crackers, Yesterday’s hits salad lovers with a freshly made muffin to go with their meal. An unexpected but welcome surprise, and one that actually complimented the meal perfectly. The muffin was not large, but it was loaded with banana flavored goodness, and could have quickly eaten a half dozen if allowed to. We all shuffled out of the booth pleased, both with amount of food and its quality.

The story does not end here, however. Yesterday’s has so much going on that I feel duty bound to mention the following items. First, the bar area is large, eclectic, and usually fairly crowded. Happy hour is a good place for a cold draft beer at cheap prices and can lead to conversations with a professor, a construction worker, and maybe even a stock broker or doctor. Also, the bar food is second to none – I’d put the cheese fries here (served with extra little cups of bacon bits to add in at your leisure) up against any in town.

Perhaps most important though, is the comfort food. In addition to the grits plates, they also are famous for their fried chicken, Confederate Fried Steak, and the signature “Arkansas Traveler” (Roast Beef served over cornbread with black eyed peas and gravy – about as healthy as Arkansas Razorbacks fans are classy). All of these are undoubtedly delicious, but also undoubtedly lethal to a productive afternoon at the office. Consume at your own risk.

Really, there is something for everyone here, making it a great spot for a large group with lots of different tastes. If you are ever in the 5 points area and have the time, this is a must stop.


ROAD TRIP: Harry & Harry 2 – 719 Sumter Highway, Bishopville, SC

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, November 23, 2010 3 comments

Burgers Prepared 88 Ways.

This week I found myself passing through Bishopville, South Carolina, about 50 miles east of Columbia. Unfortunately, the purpose of my trip was not to capture the infamous “Lizard Man” on film or to visit South Carolina’s premier alpaca farm. Work, as usual, was the basis of my trip to Lee County . As always, I intentionally scheduled my meeting for 11:00 am, thereby ensuring I would need to stop and sample some of the local flavor for lunch before heading back to the office. As anyone from the area knows, the best place to do that is right off Interstate 20 at “Harry & Harry Two.”

H&H2 sits on Sumter Hwy in a building that looks more like a Duck Camp than a restaurant. However, the welcoming sign boasted that they can prepare hamburgers no less than 88 different ways, so I knew I was dealing with some folks who take their food seriously. Encouraged, I walked in and looked for a spot. 

Like many small town locales, most of the people inside looked to be regulars who knew the way things were supposed to run. There was no need for a hostess or a sign directing me to sit down or any other wasteful formality. A little intimidated and feeling the glances of the native diners, I quickly found a seat in the non-smoking section and ordered some iced-tea. The drink only confirmed my long held theory: There is an inversely proportional relationship between a town’s size and the amount of sugar in their sweet tea. The smaller the population, the greater the amount of sugar. As you can surmise from Bishopville’s size, the H&H2 tea was extremely sweet and extremely delicious.

As for the menu itself, in addition to the aforementioned burgers, H&H2 also serves a large variety of sandwiches, wraps and salads. Most of you faithful readers know that I go with salads most every time, but road trips are different. Once outside Richland or Lexington County, I allow myself the small indulgence of ordering whatever I damn well please. Thanks to some local insight a few friends let me in on, that meant on this trip I was going with Mrs. B’s famous chicken salad on texas toast. From the looks of things this is their signature item, and they do it very well.

The sandwich itself is massive, and if I had Mrs. Rabbit with me we probably could have split it and both been full. Unfortunately on this day I dined alone, so I had the daunting task of finishing it off by myself. A tough job, but someone had to do it. Accompanying the sandwich were some of my favorite type of French fries. I’ll call them steak fries for lack of a better term, but to give you a point of reference, they tasted like the ones you can get at those “Great Steak & Fry” places in the mall, but with less grease. These crisper versions were a perfect compliment to the entrée, and there were none left behind at the end of my meal.

As for the place itself, it stayed busy the whole time I was there, but a few staff members who had obviously been doing this for a while seamlessly kept the place running and everyone’s drinks filled. There were a few tables where folks who had long finished their meals were staying around just to chat, enjoying the slower pace of life in a small town. As I learned on my way out, one of those tables is known simply as “ The County Council,” and apparently features pillars of the Bishopville community who make H&H2 their lunch destination on a pretty consistent basis.

H&H2 saved the perhaps best for last, presenting me with a bill for $6.00 for my entire lunch, drink included. I don’t think you’d get half of this meal in Columbia for that price. I happily paid my bill and was walking out when the matriarch of H&H2 said “Wait, that’s a Columbia boy, hurry up and add some more to his bill!” as she blew a puff of smoke from her freshly lit Salem Light. I smiled and thanked her again, thinking geez – is it that obvious I’m not a local? Apparently so.

- Rabbit

ROAD TRIP: Park Row Market No. 1, 108 Courthouse Sq., Edgefield, SC

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, November 16, 2010 4 comments

"Explore the past while enjoying the present."

This week I found myself visiting the Federal Correctional Facility in Edgefield, SC. For those of you who have interacted with people that are dealing with unfortunate incarceration, you know that life behind bars can leave prisoners lonely and in need of human interaction. Such was the case with the prisoner I visited today, who decided to take this opportunity to talk about anything and everything under the sun. Therefore, I had four long days to search Edgefield, SC for a suitable dining option. At first I thought I was going to be limited to a couple of old fast food chains and suspect Chinese options. However, once I drove into downtown Edgefield, my eyes spotted the Park Row Market No. 1, and I knew I was in business. Any place that puts the huge, ten foot sign on its outside wall to greet customers is sure to be a awe-inspiring establishment worth visiting:

As you can imagine, after reading this I had high expectations for the Market. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. The first day I was in a bit of a hurry, so I asked the counter person what could be made quickly. She said it all could, but she recommended I try the chicken salad. I agreed and sat at the bar without even looking at the menu. Within 90 seconds she brought out a thick Chicken Salad sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato. It was, in a word, huge. No exaggeration, it was at least 50% bigger than anything available in downtown Columbia. Further, it came with kettle chips and a pickle for 6 bucks. A meal like this would cost you upwards to $8.00 in the Capital City. Speaking of the Capital, did you know that Edgefield has given birth to TEN governors of the State? Well, they know it, and tell you every chance they get. I’m sure there are richer, more quaint towns in South Carolina, but I guarantee you there are none as proud as Edgefield (see above photo).

Anyway, the chicken salad sandwich, while not a normal go-to for the Rabbit, was so good that I decided to return to the Market the next day to further explore the menu when I had a little more time.

On day two, I looked over the menu and was ready to go with the Clemson Bleu Cheese Salad when something caught my eye. MUFFULETTA. Those of you that know the Rabbit know that, while I eat salads 99% of the time, there is one vice that I cannot resist – a proper New Orleans Muffuletta. If you are unfamiliar with this culinary triumph, Wikipedia describes it as follows: “one muffuletta loaf, split horizontally. The loaf is then covered with a marinated olive salad, layers of capicola, salami, mortadella, and provolone.” It is without a doubt the best sandwich on the planet. The Market’s version was just perfect, with soft, warm bread encompassing salty meats and olive salad, along with some sort of vinaigrette that really finished the product off nicely. I probably should have left some on the plate, but I couldn’t not finish something this good.

As for the Market itself, it was originally opened as a general store in 1932 and is located on the downtown square of Edgefield in a picturesque setting. 

The inside has a variety of mismatched tables and chairs, and a lot of stuff on the walls like you would see in Cracker Barrel. However, unlike Cracker Barrel, I think this stuff is actually antique and was not made in some novelty factory in Taiwan. The place is, as you would expect, full of locals and regulars, and everyone knows everyone. Obviously, I stuck out pretty bad in my suit and tie, and because I was eating alone and in a hurry – both of which appear to be rare occurrences for the market. As a result, I confess I was not brave enough to take pictures of the food inside the restaurant for fear of being run out of town, so you’ll have to use your imagination. My apologies.

In summary, if life ever finds you in the land of ten governors, whether it’s to visit an inmate or tour the National Wild Turkey Federation Headquarters, no trip to Edgefield is complete without a stop in at the Park Row Market No. 1. You won’t be disappointed.


Editors Note: The views expressed in this blog entry are those of Frodo and do not reflect that of the Lunchmen or this blog. This applies to both the quality of the restaurant, and its appropriateness for "Date Night." 

After a long and restless Halloween weekend chasing around 17 month-old baby Frodo, Mrs. Frodo and I decided that we owed it to ourselves to give each other a little quality alone time.  Therefore, we decided that we would make Monday night . . . DATE NIGHT!

Where would an acceptable date night destination be for Mr. and Mrs. Frodo?   We tried to consider an eatery that would clean from our systems the copious amounts of Halloween candy ingested the night before.

Would it be somewhere romantic, like a Garibaldi’s or Restaurante Divino? 
What about a little out-of-the-way place, like Mr. Friendly’s? 
Or, somewhere in the ‘burbs we haven’t tried like Travinia’s?

Mrs. Frodo and I struggled with this decision all day, emailing, phoning, and Facebooking each other with one idea after the next. 

We went to Mr. Friendly’s on our last date night, and while delicious, we were ready for a change.
We wanted to avoid the suburbs like the plague.  We had heard that the ‘burbs were like trying meth for the first time, and we worried that if we went to the ‘burbs and tried it, we might never make it back.

The romantic idea didn’t fit well with a Monday night date night—we wanted to go somewhere a little something more, shall we say, “blue collar.”  A place where it is totally acceptable to show up wearing a Dickies shirt with your named patched on the breast. 

So what would fit the bill?  On the way home from another day slaving for the man and counting my day in six minute increments, I saw a Light that provided my answer. I capitalize “Light” because it was so bright and vibrant it was like the Star of David leading the Three Wise Men to Baby Jesus, only this Light led me to culinary delight:

Mrs. Frodo, ever the proud soul, had her reservations about my choice.   With its octogenerian clientele, cafeteria line service, and florescent lighting that is only rivaled by an operating room, this place is not known for its ambiance.  I have seen pictures of North Korean gulags that have more of a welcoming interior than the S&S Cafeteria.

But, once I explained that the Light guiding me was nothing short of divine inspiration, Mrs. Frodo, ever the faithful one, agreed to make S&S Cafeteria our date night choice.

All I can say is that Mrs. Frodo was not disappointed.  She went with the fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and iron-skillet baked cornbread.  I went with the freshly carved roast beef, turnip greens, steamed cabbage, and jalapeno cornbread. 

The roast beef normally comes (literally) floating in gravy, but I had the courteous S&S server just drizzle my roast beef with the au jus.  It was roasted perfectly—medium rare, and cut thinly for easy eating.  The turnips are the best you can get west of Florence, and the cabbage did such a number on my taste buds that they are still dancing.  Mrs. Frodo raved about the fried chicken, with its crispy exterior and moist, tender interior.  She informed me that the macaroni and green beans were above average. 

But, the highlight of the meal was the bread.  Folks, simply put, you will not have better cornbread that what is offered at the S&S Cafeteria.  My Me-Maw cooked cornbread growing up, but I would laugh in her face and hide her denture cleaner if she made me choose between her cornbread and S&S’s cornbread.  S&S cooks their cornbread in an cast iron baking pan greased with bacon drippings or lard, resulting in a crispy, crunchy exterior.  The interior is loaded with corn kernels and jalapeno peppers, resulting in a sweet and spicy bread that simply makes you want to make out with your wife right there in the middle of the restaurant.  Most of the patrons in the S&S wouldn’t notice anyway because they have to take off their glasses during the meal as their bifocals fog up from the steam of their food. 

If you want a place that has a romantic ambiance, you may want to look elsewhere.  However, if you take your eating seriously, and want the best home cooking short of your grandmother’s house (with many more options that your grandmother could ever offer), I suggest you swallow your pride and follow the Light to the corner of Beltine and Forest Drive to the S&S Cafeteria.


Andy's Deli - 2005 Greene Street, Columbia

Posted by The LunchMen Friday, November 5, 2010 0 comments

My Friend, My Dear.

There is only one thing that upsets my man Tank more than poor food quality and service – lack of parking. On numerous occasions, the Publican and I have witnessed Tank react to a lack of spaces with what can only be described as a mild coronary. The guy just does not like circling around looking for places to park. It is such a problem that he has vetoed lunch options solely on the premise that parking would be too hard to come by. However, rather than merely gripe about this, I decided to use Tank’s strange condition to my advantage. Following a morning long Sudoku session (more commonly known as continuing education seminar), I threw out the idea of an old favorite from my childhood in the capital city – Andy’s Deli. Tank was somewhat apprehensive, but as soon as I regaled him with tales of a large and spacious lot to park in, he was on the suggestion like a fat girl on a BB.

First, a little history – I’ve probably eaten at Andy’s Deli more than any other place featured on the blog (including No Name Deli). Back in High School, I probably went at least twice a week for over three years, and many times more often than that. This continued while I was at Carolina. I know Mr. Andy. His younger son was in High School with me, and his older son was my First Week chaperone. (If you don’t know what First Week is, then you were not cool in High School and should find another blog to follow). In other words, I am well versed with the menu and its highlights. Why then, you may ask, are we just now getting a review on this Columbia landmark? Well, since I work downtown and live in the sticks, I don’t get to 5-points as much as I’d like, and just haven’t had the occasion to stop by in a while. All that changed today, however, as the three original lunchmen went in for another bold Friday call.

If you know Andy’s then you know what it’s famous for – the sauce. Much like it’s rival Groucho’s, the sandwiches at Andy’s are, while serviceable on their own, merely the stage upon which Mr. Andy displays his true culinary triumph – a delicious mixture of 1000 island, dill, and other undisclosed ingredients. The sauce is thicker, and in my opinion superior to Groucho’s 45 sauce, but I mention it to provide others with a point of reference and comparison.

For this day’s lunch, Tank went with the R2D2 – a grinder style sandwich with roast beef, pastrami and swiss – heated and served with the aforementioned sauce – plus a bowl of chili (Editor’s note – many people find that Andy’s while undeniably delicious, is somewhat lacking in the portion department, and therefore order additional menu items such as chili, an extra bag of chips, or a hot dog. Rabbit is too restrained (read: cheap) for such indulgences, but it is a common occurrence amongst others). The Publican, always a traditionalist, went with the Andy’s Special – another grinder featuring Roast Beef, Turkey, Bacon and Swiss, and added an extra bag of chips to complete his meal. Speaking of chips, a big draw of Andy’s is their variety of Wise brand chips you can choose from. All sandwiches automatically come with chips, and you can choose any one of several delicious flavors at your fingertips when you stand in line. Both patrons made quick work of their entrees. Tank summed it up when he said “the only word that can accurately describe an R2D2 is ‘delicious.’”

As for this guy, I went with my favorite – the My Dear’s Salad Bowl (as previously featured in my list of top 25 Columbia Salads post last month). This salad is covered in ham, turkey, bacon and cheese, and you can get the sauce as your dressing, either on it or on the side. As you can see by the picture, if you order this, there is no need for a second item to fill you up – you are lucky to get through this in one sitting. Though it had been a while since I had been in, Andy hadn’t lost his touch, and I soon found myself stuffed and satisfied. Add in a tall diet coke or tea with some of Columbia’s best crushed ice (and now featuring – finally – free refills) and you’ve got the makings of a great Friday lunch.

I encourage everyone, whether an Andy’s veteran or a first timer, to remember this place and all its history and deliciousness the next time you are near campus looking for a solid lunch call. You won’t be disappointed.


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Posted by The LunchMen Friday, October 22, 2010 4 comments

The rumors, sadly, are all too true. Nice n’ Natural, a Columbia tradition for over 28 years, is closing its doors. Long an oasis of nutritional lunch options for the health conscious living and working around the USC campus, Nice n’ Natural appears to have fallen victim to the stagnant economy and will be shutting its doors for good Friday, October 29, 2010. We learned of this sad news earlier today while enjoying a Friday Lunch on a perfect autumn day in the capital city. All of the Lunchmen (including frequent guest blogger Frodo) encourage all of you to head out to Nice n’ Natural next week for your last chance at their chicken salad, a fruit, nut and yogurt plate, or my personal favorite meatless Rueben. No word yet on the fate of Cool Beans Coffee, located directly above Nice n’ Natural (and home to totally legit lunch options in its own right). Thanks for 28 years guys, you’ll be missed.


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Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, October 14, 2010 0 comments

From time to time, people (including Mrs. Tank) question 1) whether beer and lunch really go together and 2) whether I should order a beer at lunch on a random Tuesday.  My answer: 1) of course they do, and 2) of course I should.  I’m not suggesting that you should drink three beers at lunch - unless you are about to go play 18 holes instead of going back to the office.  However, one beer should not throw you off your game unless you have the fortitude of Frodo (i.e. a 15-year-old girl).  In Frodo’s case, beer for lunch is a game changer, and he should avoid it at all cost to prevent professional humiliation.

Most people don’t scoff at wine and food pairings, and beer should be no different.  Rather, I’d bet that most things you eat at lunch in our fair city would pair better with beer than any wine.  Turkey sandwich with Pinot Gris?  Blah.  Turkey Sandwich with Shiner Bock?  Delicious.  Try having your beer brought out at the same time as your food at lunch, not before, so that you don’t chug it prematurely and so that the temperature stays right.  If you’ve got a lunch including of a lot of cheese or bread, you’ll be glad to have a beer that brightens it up instead than a sugary soda or a sweet tea, I promise.   Below you will see my top 25 beer for lunch pairings, in reverse order (unlike my companions, I can commit to a meaningful order).  This list focuses on pairings that are available at lunch, and I admit my list would look pretty different if we were talking Columbia dinners.  If you know of any good beer for lunch pairings I have not tried, shoot us a line so I can give it a go.

25.       The Kingsman: Grilled Beef Tips paired with Killian’s Irish Red Ale is a fine order when the pork chop special is not available at the Kingsman.

24.       Liberty Tap Room: Try the Dixie Chicken Sandwich paired with Liberty’s Unfiltered Wheat if you want to experience one of Liberty’s house beers.

23.       Mr. Friendly’s: Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits paired with Thomas Creek River Falls Red Ale is an excellent business lunch option with a local focus.

22.       M-Cafe: Sizzling Flank Steak paired with Sapporo lager is the best non-sushi beer for lunch pairing at M-Cafe.

21.       Casa Linda: I go for Soft Chicken Tacos paired with Dos Equis Amber – and I like lots of both.  Dos Equis is an easy session beer, and it makes you more interesting.

20.       Blue Marlin: Try the Southern Crispy Chicken Salad paired with Stella Artios lager, right after you enjoy a cup of the best she-crab soup in town.

19.       The Pizza Joint: Carnivore Pizza paired with Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale is a delicious duo, but it will ruin your diet and put you in a post-lunch coma.

18.       Carolina Ale House: Ordering the Greek Chicken Pita Wrap paired with Hoegaarden Belgium White Ale is a nice meal to enjoy on the outdoor top deck.

17.       Vella’s Restaurant and Tavern: Vella’s Beef Patty Melt sandwich paired with Sam Adam’s Boston Lager is the perfect play at an unpretentious spot like Vella’s.

16.       Panjabi Dhaba: Lamb Korma paired with Kingfisher lager is my favorite Indian meal – don’t be scared to turn the heat up on the korma and order an extra Kingfisher to douse the flames.

15.       The Mouse Trap: The Boneless Chicken Breast lunch special with Yuengling Lager is great.  However, you’ve got to stay on top of the lunch special calendar to know when to go.

14.       Cock-N-Bull: Tavern Wings paired with Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale is the top wing pairing you can make for lunch in Columbia (until the Publick House decides to do lunch).

13.       Solstice: Having a side of the Skillet Baked Smoked Gouda-Applewood Bacon Mac & Cheese paired with Chimay Blue is an indulgent experience – you’ve got to have it once.

12.       Delaney’s: Fish and Chips paired with Warsteiner Verum is a masterful play if you want to take advantage of the BOGO lunch at Delaney’s.

11.       Thirsty Fellow: Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich paired with Franziskaner Hefe Weiss is a refreshing pairing, and its much quicker than waiting on the pizza at the Fellow.

10.       Pawley’s Front Porch: Going for the Fripp Island Burger paired with a Shipyard IPA combines the best of South Carolina’s and Maine’s coasts.

9.         Dano’s: The White Calzone w/ meatballs paired with Bass Ale is the only lunch order I have made at Dano’s in a long time.  They are slow in the prep, but the 'zone is worth it.

8.         Golden Chopstix: To my knowledge, the excellent pairing of Green Curry paired with Laotian Beerlao can only be found in town at this West Columbia institution.

7.         Tio’s Cafe: Tio’s Wet Burrito paired with Modelo Especial is delicious and sure to give you hours of heartburn.

6.         Sly Fox: The Smothered Steak Sandwich paired with Highland Gaelic Ale will be best enjoyed on a cold winter lunch, so wait for it to cool off some more.

5.         TakoSushi: Try the Unforgettable Roll paired with Kirin Ichiban – the Kirin cuts nicely through the cream cheese in the roll making for a balanced experience.

4.         Mojito’s: The Chimichurri French Dip paired with La Tropical Cuban pilsner is a perfect fit in the relaxed, island atmosphere of Mojito’s.  I like to face the “ocean” while it enjoy it.

3.         Flying Saucer: The sinfully excessive Saucer Bratzel paired with Ayinger Brau-Weisse is only for the truly bold at a lazy Friday lunch or while watching a late night football game.

2.         Hunter Gatherer: H-G’s Burger topped with Beer Cheese and paired with H-G’s house ESB is about as good as beer pairing gets in Columbia.  

1.         Julia’s German Stammtisch: Julia’s killer Reuben Sandwich paired with Spaten Optimator Dopplebock transports you straight to Munich, saving you lots of $$$ on airfare.

- Tank

Rabbit's Top 25 Lunch Salads in Columbia

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, October 12, 2010 9 comments

This, as you would expect from the Rabbit, is a list of 25 of my favorite lunch salads in Columbia. The list is in no particular order, and I have had to reluctantly leave off a few good ones out there (The Consumption Salad at Immac comes to mind, but it is already on the Publican's list). A few more disclaimers – (1) some places have a couple of remarkable salads, but only one will make the list. (2) A few of the restaurants may be considered “chains,” but they are locally owned franchises so hopefully the Publican will let it slide. Finally, (3) a few salads may not appear on the current versions of their restaurant’s menus, but I bet Tank’s upcoming bonus that they’ll make you one if you ask the waiter nicely. If you have suggestions to add to this list, or a gripe about a current selection, leave a comment, we’d love to hear about it. As always, happy dining.

No Name Deli
House Salad with Grilled Chicken
Garden Bistro
Summer Salad with Grilled Chicken
Hampton Place Café
House Pasta Caesar Salad
Gourmet Shop
Tuna and Penne Salad
Cobb Salad with Chicken
Andy's Deli
My Dear's Salad Bowl
El Burrito
Salad with Chicken
Mediterranean Tea Room
Salad with 5oz Grilled Chicken
The Other Store
Tedder Salad
Hoolie's House Salad
Mr. Friendly's
Friendly Salad
Pawley's Front Porch
Fried Oyster Salad
Salty Nut
Caesar Salad with Mahi
Supreme Chef
Tony's Downtown
Super Greek Salad
Mathias Sandwich Shop
Chef Salad
Zoe's Kitchen
Tossed Greek
Hampton Street Vineyard
Seared Scallop Salad
Motor Supply Co.
Grilled Asparagus and Brie Salad
Blue Marlin
BBQ Salmon Salad
Tako Sushi
Cucumber Salad Appetizer
Black n' Blue Salad
Greek Boys
George's Pasta Salad with Chicken
Nice n' Natural
Tuna Salad Plate
Turkey Bean Salad

The Publican's Top 25 Lunch Rankings

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, October 6, 2010 0 comments

In a new series, The Lunchmen rank their top 25 favorite lunch meals in Columbia.  There is only one rule: 1) No chain restaurants unless they originate in Columbia. 

This assignment caused me considerable consternation, because I'm notoriously indecisive and particularly so when it comes to ranking my preferences.  As a result, the order is somewhat arbitrary and has just as much to do with my feelings about the restaurants as the quality of the dish.  Additionally, I'm sure I left out one or more lunches that would take the place of some in this list; so we would invite you to comment on your favorite lunches in Columbia, and we will post a comprehensive list of reader favorites at the end of the series.  Also, feel free to lambaste us for our choices or praise our exceptionally good taste as you see fit.

With that in mind, here are The Publican's Top 25 Lunches:

1)       End Zone Grill f/k/a Jerry Kellys: chicken Mojo sandwich, curly fries
2)       The Kingsman: pork chop special, green beans, macaroni, rice and gravy, roll
3)       El Burrito: beef burrito, hot and deluxe (sour cream, lettuce and tomato), add fresh peppers, onions and extra hot salsa
4)       Tonys Downtown: meat lasagna, garlic bread, salad w/ thousand island dressing on side
5)       Miyos: mu shu pork, white rice
6)       Grouchos:  STP, chips (oh, how I miss those Wise potato chips...), half and half tea with LOTS of crushed ice
7)       Café Millwood (weekend brunch): country fried steak, two eggs over medium, grits and biscuit
8)       Immaculate Consumption: immaculate salad with honey mustard, side of pita bread
9)       Nice-n-Natural: chicken salad sandwich, gazpacho (summer), black bean soup with cheese (winter)
10)    Blue Cactus: bee bim bop, spicy pork, fried egg
11)    The Other Store:  greek turkey, chips, cookie
12)    Palmetto Pig:  buffet – pork, extra hot vinegar sauce, slaw (1-1 ratio to pork), green beans, hash and rice, hush puppies, pickles (dill and sweet), white bread
13)    Yesterdays:  salmon and grits, collard greens, corn bread
14)    Rockaways:  Rockaway burger, side salad with thousand island dressing
15)    Al Amir: Damascus hummus with chicken and vegetables
16)    Cock and Bull: shrimp burger, fries, beer
17)    Bangkok: green curry chicken
18)    Hunter-Gatherer: cheeseburger with horseradish cheddar, hashbrowns, ESB
19)    Hooligans: French dip, fries, sweet tea with LOTS of crushed ice (steal a chicken finger from an unsuspecting dining companion)
20)    Lizards Thicket (Sunday only):  turkey and dressing (extra cranberry), macaroni, green beans, sliced tomatoes, corn bread
21)    No Name Deli: chicken salad on toasted wheat with lettuce and tomato, fries or vinegar pasta
22)    Muchos Margaritas: sopes
23)    Danos:  1 slice Sicilian pizza, 1 slice pepperoni, house salad (comes with loads of mozzarella...)
24)    Carolina Café: Winston-Salem on toasted everything bagel, chips, pickle, orange slice
25)    Greek Boys:  chicken tips, rice, greek salad

As the great Charles Barkley would say, "suck on that, Anthony."


Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, September 23, 2010 1 comments

Tank and I were lined up in the Boneless Fried Chicken formation and ready to score some baby limas and buttered squash at The Trap, when Spoony called in an audible to the “Bite of the Week.”  For the uninitiated, the Bite of the Week is pretty self explanatory – it is a weekly column in the Free Times dedicated to some delicious dish or meal here in our fair city. This week our friends at the Free Times suggested the Banh Mi (pronounced bun me) at Tea on State Street in West Columbia; so when Spoony gave us the signal, we made like Marcus Lattimore and rushed on over.  Ah, sports... the great metaphor for life.    
When we arrived, Spoony was resting impatiently, but comfortably, in a white retro modern ball chair enjoying the sounds of house music played from a nearby Peavey.  The highlight of the stylishly modern, Asian inspired furniture and décor was a striking mural depicting a stormy Vietnam.  The menus set in gilded frames were also a nice touch – an interesting, if unoriginal, contrast of modern and classic.  Overall, the clean lines and uncluttered space with exposed brick and blacked out ceiling beams made for a refreshingly different atmosphere.  One practical note: Tea is a no go for parties larger than 4, but with 40 varieties of tea and free wi-fi, the inviting space is ideal for a solo trip.      

The Lunchmen aren’t into reinventing the wheel (but we are into clichés), so we’ll set the table by shamelessly quoting our Free-Times inspiration penned by Jonathan Sharpe:

Tea’s house banh mi sandwich is a baguette stuffed with “BBQ pork”, a marinated and seasoned, thick-cut slice of pork resembling ham that is cooked on a griddle, along with cold cuts of steamed pork and head cheese — which is not a cheese but rather a cold cut made from slow-simmered pork head meat suspended in aspic. The well-sourced bread is crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, and spread on one side with paté, the other with butter. Completing the sandwich: slices of cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro and shredded daikon radish and carrot pickled in a light Asian dressing. If you’d rather choose your own adventure, there’s a build-your-own option on the menu. As for the bubble tea, owner Thuy Thach suggests choosing flavors that complement, such as honeydew jelly bubbles with coconut-flavored milk or coffee bubbles with almond-flavored milk.

We were greeted at the counter by Tea’s friendly proprietor.  She was patient with our rookie questions, and helped us navigate the menu.  Tank aptly noted that she seemed comfortable and at ease, unlike new restaurateurs we have encountered that are awkwardly eager to please.  We concluded that this ain’t her first rodeo.  In the grand tradition of the Lunchmen – and with a lot of help from our new friend – we diversified our order.  Tank opted for the House Adventurer described above – mostly because he thinks it is cool to eat headcheese.  To be honest, Anthony Bourdain convinced me headcheese was cool a long time ago... I’m just not cool enough yet to incorporate an amalgamation of swine dome and ear jelly into my regular diet.  I’ll get it next time, though, promise.  This time, I opted for the Chicken banh mi seasoned half and half with lemongrass and 5 spice, while Spoony chose the Chili Lime Shrimp banh mi. 

To round things out, we sprung for the Milk Tea: Tank went Almond and I went Mango with lychee jelly.  As they say, when in West Columbia...   A curious Tank also couldn’t resist the Shrimp Chips.  Undeterred, perhaps emboldened, by the proprietor’s warning that they were “an acquired taste,” Tank enthusiastically ordered the treat after taking one look at the package.  

We started in on the shrimp chips before we even made it to the table.  I’ll be the first to admit that my palate has its limits, but I enjoyed the shrimp chips.  I would definitely rank it above other Asian treats that are decidedly less palatable, among them: beef tendon, corn flavored and shaped ice cream bars, stinky tofu, and other “treats” I’ve encountered in my travels.  The crispy fry shaped chips were light and salty, with a satisfying, shrimpy aftertaste. 

As for the milk teas, we weren’t fans.  I’m sure they are expertly made and delicious for those accustomed to such beverages – but the Lunchmen prefer a robust coffee or tea to the super-sweet milk teas.  We were also a little unselttled by the jellys traveling up the extra wide straw. 

The sandwiches, on the other hand, were just plain delicious.  The marriage of pickled vegetables, spice, and meat on outstanding bread was a harmonious one.  The spice was assertive without being overpowering, complemented the clilantro and vegatables, and even made the sweet milk tea much better.  The lemongrass half of my sandwich stood out for its bright flavors, though the Chinese style 5 spice was also excellent.  

Tank seemed pleased with his sandwich as well – remarking at the heat from the jalapeno and relishing in his decision to hold off on the Sriracha.  The flavors simply work too well to be bastardized with Sriracha.  Tank noted that the headcheese worked into the other meat flavors, and didn’t stand out against the barbecue pork.  Next time, the Lunchmen may deconstruct the sandwich and sample the parts individually to get a full appreciation for how well the ingredients come together.  Spoony’s chili lime shrimp, while good, took third to the House Adventurer and half and half chicken. 

All in all, Tea gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the Lunchmen – there are three new Banh Mi fans in the Metro.  We can’t wait to make it back to try more of the menu like the spring rolls and the numerous varieties of loose leaf tea.

- The Publican

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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.