Nice-N-Natural - 1217 College Street

Posted by The LunchMen Friday, June 11, 2010

From time to time, a little healthy eating needs to be explored by the lunch crowd. Tired of seeing my compatriots eat copious amounts of meat and grease each day, and disgusted with Monday night’s transgressions of 41 tacos and tequila shots by Pig Pen, Cupcake, Hot Pockets, and Jules Winnfield, I suggested that we venture down to Nice N’ Natural near the USC Horseshoe. As I told my fellow lunchers as we made the trek, I treat my body like the temple it is, and if you can’t respect your body, what can you respect?

Generally patronized by the likes of menopausal state employees, aerobics instructors, college girls on a “trying to get ready for Spring Break in Cancun so Ricardo can take tequila shots out of my bellybutton” diet, and a certain dainty middle-aged male who likes to discuss at length his tennis game and his transition from a two hand to one hand backhand, Nice N’ Natural occupies the first floor of a building that also houses Columbia’s favorite hippie hangout and George W. Bush opposition center, Cool Beans Coffee Shop. I consider Nice N’ Natural one of Columbia’s treasures, but be forewarned; this place is NOT a Brazilian Steakhouse.

The menu includes one of Columbia’s finest chicken salad, a meatless Rueben sandwich known as the “Ruebenless”, and a fruit, nut, and yogurt plate that I think is the gem of the Columbia lunch scene. The fruit, nut, and yogurt plate is so tasty it is worth ordering even in the company of Tank, who will heckle you for eating such a cowardly dish while he tries to kill, skin, and eat the feral cat outside in the hopes of fulfilling his daily meat intake requirement.

As always, I went with the large fruit nut and yogurt plate with peach frozen yogurt. The fruit nut and yogurt plate comes with a bottom layer of diced apple, pineapple, cantaloupe, banana, strawberry, and raisins mixed with unsalted cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds and shaved coconut. The yogurt rests on top of the mixed fruit and nuts, and the yogurt itself is topped with a kiwi slice. It comes with a few packs of Pepperidge Farm crackers to eat and dry the palate before delving into its juicy sweet deliciousness. One of my wife’s (Mrs. Frodo’s) and my favorite things to do is to cover the entire plate with honey, which is available in a fun bear-shaped container beside the pickup window.

Publican, feeling hungry, (and I might add the biggest proponent of the Nice N’ Natural lunch call when it was made via email at 9:43 a.m.) went with a chicken salad sandwich with a side spinach salad, and a scoop of peach frozen yogurt as dessert. Publican considers the chicken salad as the best in town, with its consistent texture, abundant chicken, and not too mayonnaise-y flavor. I actually prefer Mother Frodo’s Waldorf-style chicken salad, with its grapes and resulting sweet flavor. However, Nice N’ Natural’s chicken salad is a fine example of excellent chicken salad, and I agree with Publican that it is the best chicken salad in town not made by Mother Frodo.

Publican’s side salad looked divine, with fresh strawberries, walnuts and feta cheese covering a bed of leafy spinach greens. I have always known Publican as a man’s man who was not afraid to show an effeminate side, a sort of John Rambo who enjoys the Nutcracker at Christmas-type guy. Seeing him munch on the chicken salad sandwich with a side salad, all the while discussing his hometown Kevin Garnett’s play in game 3 versus Kobe and the Lakers, only affirmed my perception of Publican.

Hot Pockets also went with the chicken salad, but exactly 97/100ths of the way through his sandwich, he informed us that while he ordered chicken salad, he thinks he received tuna salad. Finding it perplexing that it took him this long for his taste buds to tell the difference, the group then proceeded to explain the difference between tuna and chicken to him, Nick Lachey to Jessica Simpson style, to make sure he understood that tuna and chicken are different beings, of a different animal family, and have different tastes. Hot Pockets remained steadfast that he did indeed receive tuna salad, and while he said that it was good, because he did not actually receive or taste the chicken salad, he was unable to comment on whether the chicken salad was the best in town. The only other thing he commented on was that his bagged Terra chips and canned diet soda were tasty. Obviously and as always, we appreciate Hot Pockets’s insightful comments.

Jules Winnfiled had certain (unknown) errands to run and was a late addition to our lunch crowd. When she arrived, she went with the small fruit, nut, and yogurt salad, obviously an intelligent choice. I couldn’t help but notice that Jules picked around and did not eat any of the raisins on her plate. Because each of the dishes at Nice N’ Natural are made by hand, I might suggest that next time she order her fruit nut and yogurt plate sans raisins.

After lunch, I had Hot Pockets accompany me to Cool Beans where I had him buy me a Peruvian Fair-Trade coffee, and then drive me back to the office.

Nice N’ Natural is not everyone’s type lunch place. I know some insecure males who would find its choices insufficient for their normal lunch desires. However, if you are looking for a lighter alternative with healthy choices, located within a unique and eclectic area near USC, I suggest you give it a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

- Frodo, guest blogger

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1 Responses to Nice-N-Natural - 1217 College Street

  1. north2south Says:
  2. I just discovered your blog and read a bunch of your posts. Your writing is great, even if your standards are a bit on the low side (in my opinion). As for Nice-n-Natural, I agree they have very good chicken salad.


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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.