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Garden Bistro - 923 Gervias Street

Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back in our younger days as undergrads, the Publican and I would wake up some (read: all) mornings (read: afternoons) feeling a bit delicate (read: hung-over). After canceling class for the second or third time that week, we’d invariably drag ourselves out of bed and wander over to the then burgeoning Greek Village to our beloved frat-cave. Why? Why else? Free food. Back in the glorious first half of the last decade, the KA house at USC was lucky to serve as the platform upon which Culinary Magician and self-proclaimed hockey fanatic Mike Smith (known commonly as “Chef Mike”) would work his dietary magic – transforming somewhat humble ingredients into meals that college men would devour in a quick minute and return asking for more.

The Publican and I have long since graduated, and so to has Chef Mike, so to speak. He can now be found preparing fresh wraps, sandwiches and salads at one of the staples of Vista dining: Garden Bistro. Having lived off Chef Mike’s food for multiple semesters, we went to this popular lunch locale with high expectations. Thankfully we were not disappointed.

Located on Park Street behind the Art Bar (which even if you’ve been to you probably won’t admit it), Garden Bistro is tucked away in a space that seems more fitting for an art gallery. In fact, there is plenty of art on the walls to enjoy while you dine. However, the best thing about the Bistro’s location is the large parking lot located on site. Usually trips to the Vista involve Tank making U-turns into spaces that would make Mario Andretti squeamish, followed by knock-down arguments over whose turn it is to pay the meter. Not so at the Bistro, where Kali was able to easily park his luxury sedan within spitting distance of the front door. We walked right in, ordered, and waited for Chef Mike to do his thing.

Overall, everyone was pleased, both with the price and quality of the fare. Tank, feeling the last bite of winter on the way in, opted for a smashed three cheese sandwich and cup of chicken tortilla soup. The perfect comfort meal on a chilly day. Kali went with the “Athena” which is a Greek style sandwich wrap, along with a cup of New England Clam Chowder. Sufficed to say, there were no leftovers. Feeling homesick, the Publican ordered the “Upstate,” which he was pleased but not overwhelmed with. Of particular note was his side choice not seen anywhere else in the Lunchmen universe: the bagel chips. The only thing the Publican guarded more closely than these delicious slices was the homemade heath-bar cookie he ordered as an appetizer. I would tell you how good it was, but I never got a bite offered to me.

Feeling particularly bold for a Thursday, I eschewed my normal salad choice on the menu and went with the Garden Bounty wrap. While this may sound somewhat weak, let me assure you that it was a hefty entrĂ©e, and I didn’t miss the meat. My side choice was, of course, the garden salad, which was also topped with bagel chips. The most notable aspect of our lunch today was that this was a co-ed trip, as the Queen of Frozen Cuisine forsake her waiting microwave meal in the break-room to accompany the Lunchmen (or Lunchpeople, I should say). The best thing about her meal would undoubtedly be the Greek pasta salad (ordered at my suggestion) which is among the best, and underrated, in town.

Overall, Garden Bistro is a great dining option in the Vista. It’s not going to knock your socks off or put you into a food coma, but it consistently provides solid choices in a relaxed atmosphere. To be honest, we should probably go there more often than we do, but for whatever reason it gets lost in the shuffle. Of course, with so many other places for the lunchmen to review in the Capital city, one wonders how we make repeat trips anywhere! Stay tuned, more reviews to come…

-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.

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